Wenger tells Real to back off
ARSENE WENGER last night gave Arsenal an unreserved assurance that he would not leave for Real Madrid this summer.
Real have attempted to lure Wenger on several occasions, most recently last summer, when his flirtation was a pointer to his unhappiness with the boardroom struggles at Arsenal. Stan Kroenke and Alisher Usmanov, who owned a combined 53pc of the club at the time, were forced to reassure Wenger of their intentions.
The Frenchman has one year left on his contract and sent a blunt message to Madrid. "Leave me alone," he said. "I am always going to go to the end of my contract. It is the worst moment to come back on this subject. I want to focus on the match against Hull City on Saturday. Maybe it's less glamorous than Real Madrid, but they are much more important in my life."
Wenger is more settled, probably for three reasons. First, his team are challenging for two honours, unlike a year ago, when they were battling to finish fourth. Second, the club's ownership is clearer and largely in the hands of Kroenke, who is unlikely to launch a takeover bid until after May, when the minimum price that he must pay for shares will fall, thereby saving him about £87m on the remaining stock. And third, Wenger has significant transfer funds because the club have slashed the loan on the redevelopment of Highbury into flats.
Ivan Gazidis, the Arsenal chief executive, has predicted that Wenger will not resign. "He has enormous ambitions left for the club," he said, before adding that identifying a successor will be crucial. "I'm not so naive to think that you can replace a manager like Arsene with a snap of your fingers."
Wenger has said that more talks are planned with William Gallas' advisers today, but refused to confirm if he is willing to break the club's rule of giving players over 30 only a one-year contract. The 32-year-old defender, who is out of contract this summer, will miss at least two more weeks with a calf injury. Alexandre Song, meanwhile, is suspended for the Hull match. (© The Times, London)