Wenger will resist Real, say Arsenal

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The Arsenal chairman, Peter Hill-Wood, is convinced that his manager, Arsène Wenger, will sign a new contract and resist any advances from Real Madrid.

The Spanish giants are searching for a new manager following the resignation this week of Jose Antonio Camacho, and Wenger is being linked with the job.

The Frenchman's contract runs out in 13 months, but negotiations are said to be at an advanced stage to secure him until 2008 and the Gunners hope he will sign the three-year extension next month.

Hill-Wood said: "I am absolutely certain that Arsène will stay at Arsenal. I cannot believe he would go there. We are having talks about a new contract and they are progressing well.

"He said he will decide in October and it's September now, and I'm very hopeful we'll come to an agreement with him next month.

"Our negotiations with him are always very gentlemanly and there is no confrontation at all. As far as we are concerned, he can stay here as long as he wants to do the job.

"He is very well paid at Arsenal but he is not particularly motivated by money. I don't think he would be attracted by a club like Real where, we hear, the president buys the players without telling the manager.

"I believe he's very happy at Arsenal. He doesn't have to put up with any interference and we don't buy any players he doesn't know about. He has a free rein at Arsenal and we have a very good relationship with him. He is involved in all aspects of running the club - the new stadium, the financial side, the buying and selling of players.

"He knows what we can afford and is happy with that. I would be very surprised if this kind of 'new challenge' would have any appeal," Hill-Wood added.

Since arriving at Arsenal in October 1996, Wenger has won three Premiership titles, including two League and FA Cup Doubles, prompting several European clubs, among them Real Madrid last season, to try to lure him away.

The German football federation has also tried to recruit him to take over the hosts of the next World Cup after Rudi Völler stood down following a disastrous European Championship campaign in Portugal last summer.

Wenger has so far spurned all advances and feels a loyalty towards his players. Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires have all signed long-term contracts following reassurances that Wenger was committed to the club.

The England coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, has also been linked with the Real post, but he had already given assurances that he will honour his contract with the Football Association, leaving the way clear for Real to pursue Wenger.

Sol Campbell is hoping to provide a fillip for both Wenger and Eriksson by returning from injury in time for Arsenal's trip to Manchester City on Saturday. The 30-year-old central defender made his first appearance since Euro 2004 when he played the full 90 minutes of Arsenal reserves' 4-0 victory over Coventry at Underhill on Monday night.

Wenger watched the game and after criticising his defence following Saturday's 2-2 draw at home to Bolton, which spoilt Arsenal's 100 per cent record this season, he may be tempted to throw Campbell straight back into the fray.

"It was great to see him out there," Wenger said. "It was his first game for nearly three months and it was a tremendous boost to have him back just before we go into the winter period.

"I could consider him for the next game because we need defensive stability and of course he can help us. You always miss players of this quality."

Wenger had described his defence as "passive and naïve" after they twice surrendered the lead against Bolton, and he spoke of the qualities that the team had missed in Campbell's absence.

"Sol gives us physical strength, recovery power and he is our most experienced player at the back, and at some stage of the season that will be important," said Wenger.

"We need three or four centre-backs in a season and we want him back because his influence since he arrived at the club has been massive.

"At this stage of the season it is good to go into a period when you need all your players because at the start you do not need to rotate so much. But when you go into October and November and players go away for internationals, it is good to have everybody available."

Eriksson will also be monitoring Campbell's return closely as England are due to play two World Cup qualifiers, against Wales and Azerbaijan, next month.

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