Arsene Wenger hinted yesterday that relations between footballers and their clubs are on a fast track to chaos if players refuse to honour their contracts.
The Arsenal manager has suffered at the hands of rebellious footballers before, namely Nicolas Anelka, who engineered his own departure to Real Madrid in 1999, and now Wenger sees a repeat scenario emerging between Louis Saha, Fulham and Manchester United.
The Premiership champions are keen to add Saha to their roster during the January transfer window and have seen their offers rejected so far, although Saha himself has now said he wants to leave the London club. But Wenger believes that Fulham are justified in their desire to hold on to their French striker, while acknowledging that United may simply be able to make an irresistible offer.
Wenger said: "When Saha goes and says he wants to leave, the club can say no because he has a contract. You have to accept that because if you don't that means there are no rules any more in football.
"A contract is an agreement of three parties, and that means Chris Coleman is right to hold Saha to it. When you sign the contract no one puts a gun to your head. You cannot say you want to stay for five years with that guaranteed income and then leave as well when you feel you want to leave. The contract must mean something.
"When you sign a long contract you have to respect it, whatever the terms. In exchange you expect to know when the player is going to leave. Then you are not forced to sell him, unless the right price comes in." Wenger gave an insight into the workings of some transfers when he said: "What happens is that the player has a certain amount of time left on his contract, and he is called up. He is unsettled and because he has a much better offer he goes to see his chairman. Now Fulham must decide if they want to qualify for Europe with Saha and earn £10m or sell him for that amount but miss out on Europe."
Wenger recalled the reluctance he felt agreeing to Anelka's move to Real, although his pain was assuaged by the club receiving a record £22m fee. "Nicolas Anelka left because, in the end, the price was right," he said. "We didn't want to lose the player but as he wanted to force the issue we said the price was at that level of £22m. If Anelka had said he wanted to stay he would have stayed. We didn't want him to leave."
However, Wenger will be staying out of the transfer market this month, despite the fact that he is about to lose Nwankwo Kanu, who has been called up by Nigeria for the forthcoming African Nations' Cup. He is also still without the injured the strikers Dennis Bergkamp and Sylvain Wiltord, as well as the defender Kolo Touré, for their home match against Middlesbrough today.Reuse content