Wenger hits out at Real link to RVP

Arsenal manager attacks 'creative' Spanish media after striker expresses interest in Madrid move

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The Independent Football

Questions over the Arsenal captain Robin van Persie's future should be referred to the player himself, the club's manager, Arsène Wenger, said yesterday. Van Persie was quoted in the Spanish press yesterday morning as saying that he was interested in a move to Real Madrid.

Asked if he would respond to the striker's comments, Wenger said: "No. You should ask Robin van Persie." He went on to disparage the provenance of the quotes. "In Spain, they are very creative," he said. "They've created another story. They don't care."

Van Persie's contract expires at the end of next season, leading to inevitable talk of him possibly leaving this summer. Yesterday morning's Marca newspaper quoted Van Persie as saying: "I'm grateful to hear about the interest of a club as important as Real Madrid. It's logical that players desire to play for them. But I don't believe that Arsenal accept any negotiations."

When asked whether Spanish interest in the Dutch striker might extend beyond Real Madrid to Barcelona, Wenger said yesterday that Arsenal would dig in. "What do you think [the answer would be]? Barcelona know that they have a difficult job with us always."

For all the speculation, Van Persie has been unequivocally Arsenal's best player for at least the last year. He is the Premier League's leading goal-scorer this season, with 22, six ahead of second-placed Demba Ba of Newcastle United.

Van Persie will play at Sunderland this afternoon, in what will be Thierry Henry's penultimate game before he returns to New York Red Bulls. When Henry signed on loan, there were hopes that he would stay until the north London derby against Tottenham on 26 February. But he will return to New York on Thursday, the day after the Champions League away game in Milan.

"I would have been happy if he had stayed for two more weeks," Wenger said yesterday. "He would have had a psychological impact on the derby but it did not work."

Although Arsenal start this weekend 10 points behind Spurs, who are third, Wenger expressed his hope that they could still be caught. When asked whether Arsenal were competing for fourth place, Wenger aimed higher. "It's not only for fourth place because Tottenham is not clear [in third]," he said. "Mathematically Tottenham is 10 points ahead of us. That means they are seven points ahead of Chelsea. Seven points in our championship is not a lot."

Wenger insisted that he was not interested in the now-vacant England job. "I have never been tempted by the national-team job," he said. "I am in a marathon job and the national-team manager is more of a sprinter's job. Maybe I don't have enough quick muscle fibres. You have less impact on building a team and the players. In a club you always have ways to build a team. I have ruled myself out of many national-team jobs. In the future I don't know, because the job I am in requires a lot of physical power. But at the moment I rule myself out."