Football: No quick fix likely for Kanu

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The Independent Online
NWANKWO KANU'S contract renegotiations at Arsenal are set to continue into the new year and may not be settled until he leaves Highbury next month for international duty with Nigeria in the African Nations' Cup.

The Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, had hoped that matters would be resolved before Monday night's FA Cup win over Blackpool, having said that the "best possible" terms within the club's wages structure are available for Kanu.

When the former Ajax and Internazionale striker joined Arsenal nearly a year ago his wages were low - but he joined the club with the proviso that his salary would be reviewed if he did well. There is no dispute about his level of performance and Wenger has already confirmed that an offer is on the table to raise Kanu's salary into the same category as Arsenal's top international players such as Dennis Bergkamp, Tony Adams and David Seaman - around pounds 28,000 a week.

Wenger, who himself took nearly six months to agree a lucrative new contract after it was first offered to him in the wake of the team's 1998 Premiership and FA Cup double triumph, said: "Kanu's situation is not a big concern for me.

"He already has a contract that keeps him here until 2003 and he says he wants to play for the club. I am convinced he is happy here. After all, he has just bought a huge house in London and we certainly want him to stay at Arsenal." But Wenger is also adamant that Arsenal will never allow their strict pay policy to be wrecked, as Manchester United did to keep their captain, Roy Keane. He said: "It is just a matter of whether Kanu agrees we have done the very best possible for him. We cannot, physically, do any more."

Kanu's British agents, First Artist Management, confirmed yesterday that there are as yet no fresh developments towards the player signing a new deal.

A major factor in negotiations, however, could be the success or failure of efforts - which have so far been officially refused - to secure long- term United Kingdom entry visas for some of Kanu's family to stay with him in London.

Kanu has admitted that he leads a lonely life outside football in England and Wenger said: "His agents and David Dein [Arsenal's vice-chairman] are working on that."

Dein yesterday travelled to Geneva to be present for today's draw of the fourth round of the Uefa Cup in which the only Premiership survivors, Arsenal and Leeds, are unseeded.

Arsenal will meet one of the seeded teams in Group Two - Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid, Deportivo La Coruna or Slavia Prague - in the next round in early March while Leeds will face one of the Group One seeds: Roma, Juventus, Parma or Monaco.

The groupings mean that no club will face a side from the same country in the fourth round, although there will be no seedings for the quarter- finals.

UEFA CUP Fourth round: Group One: Seeded: Parma (It), Juventus (It), Monaco (Fr), Roma (It). Unseeded: Real Mallorca (Sp), Celta Vigo (Sp), Werder Bremen (Ger), Leeds (Eng). Group Two: Seeded: Borussia Dortmund (Ger), Atletico Madrid (Sp), Deportivo La Coruna (Sp), Slavia Prague (Cz Rep). Unseeded: Arsenal (Eng), Lens (Fr), Udinese (It), Galatasaray (Tur).