Football: Anelka wants to leave for Real

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The Independent Online
REAL MADRID are reported to be ready to make an offer for Nicolas Anelka, who has confirmed that he wants to leave Arsenal.

"I'd be surprised if I stayed at Arsenal," the French striker said yesterday, speaking at his country's training camp in Clairefontaine. "Coming here I said to myself it could be the last time I left London. I think things are going to be settled in the coming days."

Real made contact with the player's representatives three weeks ago. Their president, Lorenzo Sanz, said: "It's true that we've started negotiations. We still haven't made an offer - so reports of Arsenal rejecting a bid are false. We continue working to bring him here."

Anelka blamed the English media for his desire to leave the country. "I can't stand the English newspapers any longer," he said. "I'd have to score 40 goals a season and that still wouldn't be enough."

If Anelka does leave Highbury, Robbie Fowler is unlikely to replace him, according to the Liverpool manager, Gerard Houllier. Reports that Arsenal are prepared to pay pounds 12m for the striker were dismissed as "a fabrication" by the Frenchman, who said: "Robbie has recently signed a new contract. We want to keep him and as far as I know he wants to stay."

A report that Liverpool are set to sign the Arsenal veteran Steve Bould on a two-year contract could also be wide of the mark. Houllier is an admirer of the 36-year-old central defender, but he has already signed the Blackburn's Stephane Henchoz for an undisclosed fee subject to a medical.

Arsenal are thought to be in the market for at least three new players to bolster their squad, and their manager, Arsene Wenger, has been searching Europe as well as South America, where the 24-year-old midfielder Silvinho, who plays for the Brazilian club Corinthians, is a possible target.

In Italy, Wenger has also been linked with the Juventus full-back Gianluca Pessotto and Cagliari's forward Roberto Muzzi, but an Arsenal spokesman said yesterday: "All these stories are just speculation at the moment. It is true, though, that we expect to welcome further additions to the squad before the start of the forthcoming season."

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