Arsene Wenger has confirmed that a deal taking Alexis Sanchez to Manchester United is “likely to happen” and that Henrikh Mkhitaryan will move to Arsenal in exchange.
Sanchez’s future has been in question for some time after it became clear he was not intending to extend his contract at the Emirates Stadium.
The 29-year-old can walk away for free in the summer and he came close to joining Manchester City last year before a deadline-day move failed to materialise.
Now he appears set to join Jose Mourinho’s United as Arsenal again look set to lose a key player to a Premier League rival.
Asked if Sanchez’s move to Old Trafford was close, Wenger replied: “I’ve worked on transfers for 30 years, so it is likely to happen. It is now in the next 24 to 48 hours that it will happen or not.
“But at any moment, at any minute, things can break down. That’s how the transfer market is. As long as it’s not over the line, you have to accept that it can as well not happen. These kind of things are never guaranteed.”
Sanchez: "It is a story that is well documented. I am not to add to that. It can happen, it can as well not happen - it is at that stage. If it doesn't happen he will play on Saturday. I work on transfers for 30 years, it is likely to happen but at any moment things can breakdown— Mark Mann-Bryans (@MarkyMBryans) January 18, 2018
Mkhitaryan, 28, only moved to United in 2016 but has struggled to win over Mourinho and has been limited to three league starts since October.
The Armenia international shone during his spell with former club Borussia Dortmund, where he also caught the eye of Wenger when his Arsenal side faced the Bundesliga outfit in the Champions League.
“If it’s a possibility, it’s because I like the player,” Wenger said after confirming Mkhitaryan would move the other way in exchange for Sanchez.
“We played many times against him when he was at Dortmund. He certainly appreciated the quality of our game and the way we play football. That’s why certainly he loves the club as well.
Wenger also insisted Mkhitaryan’s contract demands would not be an issue for the Gunners, even though they cannot compete with the Manchester clubs when it comes to the financial packages they can offer.
“Yes, financially yes,” he conceded when asked whether Arsenal could offer less than their rivals.
“That doesn’t mean that you cannot compete on the pitch. That will not be an excuse big enough to not compete on the pitch. Of course, there’s no mystery that United and City have bigger financial resources.
“We did the maximum we could afford to do (with a contract offer for Sanchez). One day maybe I will come out on that. Today’s not the moment.”
Wenger did add that, if the deal did not go through, he would have no qualms in playing Sanchez against Crystal Palace on Saturday.
The Chile international was left out of the matchday squad as Arsenal lost at Bournemouth last weekend but Wenger praised his ongoing professionalism.
“His attitude has been outstanding with us,” he said.
“He was in training yesterday, fully committed and prepared 100 per cent. One thing you cannot question about Alexis Sanchez is his professionalism and his commitment.”
Wenger would not be drawn on moves for Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Bordeaux’s Malcom or West Brom defender Jonny Evans but said the club would remain active in the market having already sold Francis Coquelin and Theo Walcott in this window.
Meanwhile, Wenger has been branded “disrespectful” by Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc for talking publicly about Aubameyang.
Zorc issued a statement, retweeted by his club’s official feed, which read: “We find it disrespectful to speak about players of other clubs.
“There is no contact with Arsenal. We assumed that Arsene Wenger would have enough to do to take care of the performances of his own players.”