Ljungberg gives Arsenal a lift

Arsenal were given some heartening news yesterday by their winger Fredrik Ljungberg on a day when the Patrick Vieira transfer saga still hung in the balance and the legality of the transfer of Mathieu Flamini came into question.

Ljungberg insisted that he has no intention of leaving Highbury this summer even if Vieira departs for Real Madrid.

Arsenal and Real look to be involved in a battle of wills over Vieira. The Spanish club had hoped to sign the 28-year-old before 11am yesterday - the deadline to register him for the third qualifying round of the Champions' League. Real still have until the close of the transfer window on 31 August to ensure that Vieira is available for the group stages.

However, reports suggest that, rather than bowing to Real's pressure and agreeing a deal of anything between £18m and £23m, Arsenal are actually holding out for as close to £30m as possible.

Indeed, with Vieira apparently yet to agree personal terms after being offered less than the club's existing galacticos, reports speculated that Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, would now look to capitalise on any delay to persuade his captain to stay.

Wenger was today quoted in the French sports newspaper L'Equipe as insisting: "I categorically deny that Arsenal have accepted any proposition from Real Madrid about Vieira."

That does not mean a move cannot be agreed, even though Vieira requires treatment on a persistent thigh strain that will rule him out of Sunday's Community Shield in any case.

Arsenal's former striker Nwankwo Kanu believes the departure of Vieira would have a dramatic effect on the club's hopes of retaining their title.

Kanu was unveiled at West Bromwich Albion yesterday and said: "It is going to be so difficult to replace Patrick. He is a major part of the team and he is the captain as well. I think it will make it more difficult for them to win the title. He could really make that much difference."

Ljungberg played down speculation linking him with a move away from Highbury. "I don't know where these stories about me leaving have come from. I enjoy playing football here. I have never had a conversation with the boss at any time about wanting to leave," he said.

Marseille insisted yesterday that there is a problem over Arsenal's signing of the French midfielder Mathieu Flamini and they may call in the sport's world governing body, Fifa, to adjudicate.

Christophe Bouchet, the Marseille chairman, said: "Mathieu Flamini has contradicted the rules because he was obliged to sign his first professional contract with the club that educated him. The French League asked us if we had offered him a professional contract - and we did. The case is far from being settled."

Comments