Gunners dismiss City's £100m Fabregas bid

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The Independent Online

Arsenal have warned newly enriched Manchester City not to bother offering even £100 million for players such as Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott when the next transfer window opens in January.

Fabregas was recently named in a "dream team" selected by Dr Sulaiman Al-Fahim, the front man for City's new owners, the Abu Dhabi United Group. Fahim received short shrift from Manchester United's manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, when he mischievously suggested that the club may bid £135m for Cristiano Ronaldo in four months' time, and Arsenal's reaction to a possible raid on the Emirates Stadium was equally dismissive.

After publishing annual accounts that include a turnover of £223m, the chairman, Peter Hill-Wood, said: "I don't think selling our best players for almost any figure makes any commercial sense. If somebody gave us £100m, we'd pay 40 per cent tax on it, and what the hell are we going to do with theextra £60m? I'd rather have two good players, so we'll resist any overtures for our star players."

Although shocked by reports that City are paying their new Brazilian signing Robinho £160,000 a week, the 72-year-old Hill-Wood also insisted that Arsenal pay better wages than many believe. "There's a story that we don't pay as much as other people, which isn't quite true," he said. "Chelsea have a much bigger wage bill than us but we pay about the same as Manchester United. We're not mean, we just don't like to go completely potty."

Hill-Wood, a former banker, did however admit that the threat of recession will have an effect, but that Middle Eastern investors will be immune to it.

"It must affect football," he said. "It hasn't yet, but with a lot of people out of work and inflation, salaries aren't going up and businesses aren't doing so well. Are [clubs] going to sell all your premium seats and your boxes?

"It would be a brave man to say that football is recession-proof. If you live in Abu Dhabi and have 500 trillion in the bank, a little local difficulty over here with a few banks going bust is nothing to them."

Analysts believe that although Americans are feeling the financial pinch, and rich Russians are increasingly investing in their own country's football, the Middle East will remain keen on the Premier League.

The Indian-based Reliance group owned by Anil Ambani also continue to be linked with a number of top-flight clubs, including Newcastle United, Everton and Liverpool.

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