Kevin Keegan has urged Shaun Wright-Phillips to delay his apparently inevitable move away from Manchester City for another 18 months. However, Keegan admits that City may soon receive an offer for their prize asset which is simply too good to resist.
Indeed, the City boss even accepts the winger is unlikely to be able to fulfil all of his long-term ambitions at the club. But he is determined to hang on to Wright-Phillips for as long as possible, and has pleaded with him to stay until the end of next season, when Keegan's own contract runs out.
Wright-Phillips has been targeted by several clubs as a potential signing, with Arsenal seen by many as his natural destination, given his step-father Ian Wright's legendary status at Highbury. Wright witnessed the 23-year-old's latest spectacular long-range strike as City held the Gunners to a 1-1 draw on Tuesday night.
Ashley Cole revealed that Arsenal players regularly tease Wright-Phillips on England duty by asking, "When are you joining us?", while Arsène Wenger has made no secret of his admiration for the winger.
Chelsea and Manchester United are well aware of Wright-Phillips' abilities. Keegan nevertheless insisted: "He's 23 now and I don't think it would do him any harm to stay at Manchester City for another year or two. I went to Hamburg when I was 27 and was at my peak. Too many players have moved on too early and, when they have hit certain barriers, they haven't had either the maturity or the experience to get through them.
"Of course, every club wants Shaun - we know that - and it may well be that an offer comes in that is so big this club can't turn it down. But I would still fight that every bit of the way. I'm here for another 18 months, and I hope that Shaun will stay to help us build something at Manchester City.
"He's loved at City. He can't achieve all his ambitions with us, we know that, but he'll only be 25 in 18 months' time."
Wright-Phillips has already scored eight goals this season and is seriously rivalling David Beckham for a starting role in the England side.
"The minute that the England manager puts him in, that's when he'll remain England's winger," Keegan predicted. "The hardest part for Shaun, and any young player, is to break into the side and get a starting place in a game that really matters.
"He came on at Newcastle against Ukraine earlier this season and scored a great goal. If that had been a league team, he'd have been in the next game but it's not, it's England. Once you get him in, you won't get him out. You can't afford to leave players like him out.
"Shaun is a very special player. I haven't seen a player like this in all my time in the game. He's got terrific balance and courage, he's small but can win it in the air. He can turn almost within himself. I said to his dad two years ago that Shaun is very special and will go right to the top."
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