Fulham hopeful Schwarzer will stay

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The Independent Football

Mark Hughes admits Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer is being distracted by interested from Arsenal but is determined to keep him at Craven Cottage.

The Gunners yesterday renewed the £2million offer they made for Schwarzer in May hoping the Australian's decision to hand in a transfer request would force Fulham to sell.

But Hughes remains firm in his desire to keep the 37-year-old, who is a doubt for Sunday's Barclays Premier League clash with Manchester United because of a back problem, and insists his departure is not a foregone conclusion.

"There wasn't an improved offer from Arsenal - it was exactly the same one that was put forward in May," said the Welshman.

"I don't know if Arsenal are trying to disrupt him. There are many things clubs, players and agents do to unsettle players.

"Mark is aware of the interest of Arsenal. That knowledge is distracting and disruptive.

"But the status quo is the same - we wouldn't encourage an improved bid. It's not at all inevitable he will leave."

Manchester City's Shay Given is viewed a possible replacement for Schwarzer should he depart, but his former boss at Eastlands refused to comment on the speculation.

"Shay is a very talented goalkeeper who I know very well and I paid good money to take him to Man City, but he's their player so it's not in my interest to talk about him," said Hughes.

Attempts to lure another City player to Craven Cottage failed when Craig Bellamy opted to join npower Championship club Cardiff.

Hughes held talks with the Wales international but accepts his decision to return to his home town - even if it is a loss to the Barclays Premier League.

"I'm delighted for Craig and he looks very happy with his decision. People should respect that," he said.

"He's gone back to his home town club at a time when he still feels he has the means and ability to make an impact.

"Good luck to him. I think he'll have a huge impact on Wales, Cardiff and the Championship.

"The only regret is that he should still be playing in the Premier League, but I wish him well.

"I had conversations with Craig but fairly quickly I understood he wanted to go home. I respect that."

Fulham are waiting on paperwork before completing the signing of Benfica's Algeria defender Rafik Halliche in a deal reportedly worth £1.3million.

Hughes is looking forward to locking horns with his old manager Sir Alex Ferguson when United visit Craven Cottage - the setting of their 3-0 drubbing last season.

Ferguson showered Paul Scholes with praise after Monday's victory over Newcastle and Hughes believes the emergence of the gifted midfielder resulted in his own departure from Old Trafford in 1995.

"I could see his quality back then and I think he hastened my exit!" he said.

"Alex had complete faith in the young players like Scholes, David Beckham and Nicky Butt.

"They were the future and I was the past. Sir Alex always was and still is very good at making key decisions at the right time. He got that one right."