Football: Lehmann was close to walking out on Arsenal

JENS LEHMANN said yesterday that he had been on the verge of leaving Arsenal after being dropped from the team. Having regained his place, however, the German goalkeeper said that he now planned to see out his contract and might even look to extend it, writes Paul Newman in Dusseldorf.

Lehmann, who plays for Germany here tonight in a friendly against Argentina, said that Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, had told him before Christmas that he would be dropped in favour of the club's Spanish goalkeeper, Manuel Almunia. "He told me that he didn't think I was looking as fresh as Almunia was in training," Lehmann said. "I think it's very difficult to compare training with matches, but that's the coach's decision and I had to accept it.

"During the winter I was very close to leaving London, but now I hope that I might not only see out my contract but extend my stay in England. I'm questioned every day at Arsenal. Every time I play and train I'm being scrutinised. The fact that I was in the team last weekend gives me hope that I'll be in the team to play Crystal Palace next Monday, but there are no guarantees in football. You have to work for yourself every day."

Lehmann plays for Germany, having been chosen ahead of Oliver Kahn. Jurgen Klinsmann, the German coach, said that he planned to continue rotating his two goalkeepers and had already told Kahn that he will be selected for the next match.

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