Anything Keane can do, Kanu can do half as well

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The Independent Football

You could forgive Arsÿne Wenger if he felt slightly aggrieved. While Arsenal and Manchester United have long been accepted as the dominant forces of English football over the last decade, the truth is that whatever the Gunners do, the Devils always seem to do better.

You could forgive Arsÿne Wenger if he felt slightly aggrieved. While Arsenal and Manchester United have long been accepted as the dominant forces of English football over the last decade, the truth is that whatever the Gunners do, the Devils always seem to do better.

The reminders are incessant. "You win the Double, we'll do the Treble. You progress in the Uefa Cup, we keep our Champions' League hopes alive." Even as Arsenal prepare to confirm - probably today - that they have finally tied one of their most prized assets, Kanu, down to an improved long-term contract, their rivals go and steal their glory by announcing they have secured the services of their captain, Roy Keane, for £50,000 a week. This is one case of North-South divide which Tony Blair need not worry about.

"We can't afford those kind of wages," said Wenger at the Londoners' training ground on Friday. "Even if we wanted to pay a player that, we couldn't because we'd go bankrupt."

Wenger may be quietly envious of Sir Alex Ferguson's extra financial clout, but he insists the Keane case is exceptional. "We have to keep our feet on the ground. He is a special story. Not only was he at the end of his contract [and therefore in a strong bargaining position], he had also been playing on a lower contract and needed to be given a rise."

As for his own contract rebel - Kanu - the Arsenal manager is "sure that he will sign this weekend". The Nigerian international, who joined the Gunners 18 months ago from Internazionale, had been stalling over a new deal in recent weeks because he feared his family would not be allowed to move to England. "He's bought a big house," Wenger explained, "so you can imagine he doesn't want to live alone. That would be disastrous."

Wenger is not sure why Kanu's family have so far been refused long-term visas (vice-chairman David Dein has been doing the negotiating) although he is now confident the problem has been resolved and that the player will put pen to paper. "He wants to stay at the club, so I'm not worried. I'm confident he'll sign," said Wenger.

If, as expected, the deal is completed before tomorrow's FA Cup third-round match against Blackpool, Kanu will join the "international classification" - alongside the likes of Dennis Bergkamp, Marc Overmars, Emmanuel Petit and Tony Adams - and become one of the club's highest earners. He would then take home around half of Keane's weekly pay. Poor him.

But if Wenger has been prepared to review Kanu's contract, "because, when he signed, we promised that we would if he proved his worth", the Frenchman is not willing to break the Gunners' wage structure. "We're not a gambling club. If I have £5 in my pocket, I can only give you £5. If it's not enough, it's not enough. What else can we do?"

Wenger must feel the gods (or is it the FA?) are against him. While Arsenal now have to play two games in a week, United have 10 days off. That withdrawal is looking more and more like the move of the season. "It's not right," Wenger argued. "If winning the FA Cup guaranteed a Champions' League place, do you think they would have have withdrawn?"

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