Football: Anelka's exit `delights' Wenger

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The Independent Online
ARSeNE WENGER was a happy man yesterday, but most of all a relieved one. His team had just won the Charity Shield, and - perhaps even better - Nicolas Anelka finally appeared to be on his way out of the club.

Arsenal fans at Wembley with replica shirts bearing his name had covered the name with black tape or ripped it off completely, and after the match Wenger confirmed: "Yes, all being well, he is going to Real Madrid and I hope everything will be finalised in the next couple of days. In any case, he is not coming back here, and although the contract is not signed yet, I hope it will be after his medical and that is the end of it. I am as delighted about this finishing as I am about winning today."

Wenger said the Gunners had done their best to prevent the saga from overshadowing their preparations for the new season.

"We had to concentrate on our season and forget that," he said. "What is important is the players who fight for us and we have to forget that story now. The performance showed that Arsenal do not depend on one player. We are a real team."

Anelka, who appeared on the verge of joining Lazio last week, now seems set for Real after the clubs agreed a pounds 23.5m deal on Saturday.

"If we can complete the signing of Anelka it would be one of the biggest acquisitions we have made in years," the Real president, Lorenzo Sanz, said. "It is worth it to pay 5,500 million pesetas [pounds 22.9m]. It will be a sensational signing."

Spanish television reported that Anelka was travelling to Madrid yesterday. Anelka's fellow French international and Real Madrid midfielder Christian Karembeu was quoted in Marca, the Spanish sports daily, yesterday as saying: "Anelka called me and told me that he was on the point of becoming a Real Madrid player."

On Friday, Wenger, frustrated by the long drawn-out transfer saga which has occupied him since May, said he had told Anelka not to bother coming back to Highbury from France.

Anelka ignored a demand earlier in the week to return to London for pre- season training following the collapse of his proposed move to Lazio. The move reportedly foundered because Lazio would not meet Anelka's salary demands.

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