Football: European Parliament called in over Arsenal

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The Independent Online
ARSENAL have been warned that their signing of a 15-year-old French schoolboy for their youth academy will be challenged in the European Parliament. The French Sports Ministry is supporting a protest by the French Football Federation which accuses the club of luring the boy away before French clubs could sign him.

Jeremie Aliadiere has signed a pounds 1.3m seven-year contract with Arsenal but will remain in France until he is 16. Only at that age would a French club be able to give him a contract.

Roger Lemerre, the French national team manager, says Arsenal are reaping the rewards of the French system: "We may not have had the results in the early Nineties, but we continued to fight for the French way. We knew we were doing the right thing forming our football academies." One of the founders of the system, the now Liverpool manager, Gerard Houllier, has also criticised Arsenal's raid on France.

Lemerre added: "We are fighting against Arsenal's purchase of Aliadiere. We will not give in. Arsenal came to buy an under-15 and we will go to the European Parliament. The edu-cational curriculum lasts until you are 16. Therefore, I don't see how a boy who we developed in a professional school can be bought until he has finished his schooling. We don't want to damage Arsenal or the boy, but this cannot happen. Otherwise I can go to the hospital and buy your new-born child."

Arsenal, who were involved in the equally controversial signing of 15- year-old Jermaine Pennant from Notts County earlier this month, deny they are legally or morally open to criticism. Their French manager, Arsene Wenger, said: "We have done nothing wrong. We are happy with what we have done. It's better than bringing someone all the way from Nigeria." He further insisted that the French would "do nothing" about the signing.

However, a French Sports Ministry spokesman, Serge Mesones, stressed the immediate need for a code of conduct. He added: "It is ironic that the country which is most pillaged is world champion."