Wenger says Vieira move is 'fantasy-land'

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The Independent Football

The Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, last night denounced reports of Patrick Vieira's imminent departure for Real Madrid as "fantasy-land", saying that the France international midfielder was committed to staying at the club and that certain outside influences were trying to "destabilise" his team.

"I believe that the speculation will be endless and that people are trying to destabilise the team and the club," Wenger said. "Nothing is really true about it, it is just fantasy-land. When you are at a club like Arsenal, you have to cope with it and the team are strong enough to cope with it.

"Patrick is the captain of the team and he is committed to the club. He came out last week and said that. There is mainly nothing else to add."

However, Wenger continued: "Of course, you defend freedom of speech but the excessive side of it is that people just write stories and you can't do anything about it.

"But we cope with that and we can live with it. When you are the manager of a good team, it is important to know that the players are committed to your ambition and vision – and Patrick is that."

Earlier, Vieira's Spanish-based agent warned Arsenal that the Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez, will succeed in his pursuit of the Frenchman. "If Perez wants Patrick Vieira, I have no doubt that he will get him," Marquez said. "Last season, he wanted Zidane and he got him. And before that he got Figo when nobody thought it was possible."

Francis Jeffers suffered a recurrence of his ankle injury while playing for Arsenal reserves on Wednesday. The England Under-21 striker has suffered persistent ankle trouble since his £10m move from Everton last summer.

Arsenal remain confident that their £250m stadium at Ashburton Grove will proceed despite the Government placing a holding order on the scheme. Stephen Byers, the Secretary of State for Transport, Environment and the Regions, issued the order because his officials say they need more than the statutory 21 days to consider the application. But the Arsenal director, Ken Friar, who is heading the development, said he had always expected a holding order to be issued.

Queen's Park Rangers have told Fulham that Wasps rugby club must find a new home before a Loftus Road ground-sharing deal can be finalised. The final obstacle to Fulham's £70m revamp of Craven Cottage was removed in the High Court yesterday – but QPR will not commit to hosting their games until their present tenants find new landlords. Fulham said they were "extremely pleased" by the decision to dismiss an appeal by 11 local residents.

Bolton's Michael Ricketts could play for Jamaica if he is ignored by England. "I would really feel very happy for him if he was selected for England," Jamaica's technical director, Carl Brown, said. "But if they don't, we will make the effort to try to get him to perform for us."

James Beattie has set himself a four-week target to return. The Southampton striker said he feared he had broken and dislocated his ankle after falling awkwardly in the recent defeat to Manchester United. However, he has discovered the injury is only ligament damage and does not need an operation.

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