An exodus from Arsenal? Not if Arsène Wenger can help it. He may have remained as urbane and unflustered as ever yesterday, but there was steel in his words as he warned Milan off Emmanuel Adebayor and insisted that Cesc Fabregas is going nowhere.
Having seen how Real Madrid successfully destabilised Cristiano Ronaldo's position at Manchester United with a barrage of news stories suggesting his move to the Bernabeu was all but done, there was a clear barb yesterday as the Arsenal manager hit back at reports linking Adebayor with a transfer to Serie A.
"If AC Milan are interested in Emmanuel Adebayor, they have to understand he is under firm contract we extended last year," he said. "They have just to call me and they will get the answer they deserve."
La Gazzetta della Sport reported yesterday that Adebayor had already agreed personal terms with Milan, and their vice-president Adriano Galliani had confirmed that the forward was on their list of potential targets for the summer, along with Samuel Eto'o of Barcelona, Chelsea's Didier Drogba, Mario Gomez of VfB Stuttgart and Tottenham's Dimitar Berbatov.
"Any of them would be good," he said, although he did admit that prising Adebayor from Arsenal would be difficult given he has four years remaining on his contract.
The Togo striker himself, who was Arsenal's top scorer last season with 30 goals, remains adamant that he will stay loyal.
"I am very happy here," he said. "Reports which suggest I have threatened to quit are rubbish. I love the club and the fans. We have a great set of players here with a fantastic team spirit. We have had a good season, but next year we want to go one better by winning a trophy."
Still, with Alexander Hleb seemingly on his way – probably to Barcelona – and Robin van Persie this week voicing his concerns about the rigour of Arsenal's wage structure, there appears to be a concerted effort on the part of Arsenal to reassure fans and players that a highly promising squad will not disintegrate.
Wenger's words, at a press-conference promoting Castrol's Performance Index technology, reinforced the attack made by the Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood, who said earlier this week that by encouraging players constantly to seek improved deals, agents were leading football towards anarchy.
Fabregas has been persistently linked with a transfer to Real Madrid, but Wenger was quick to head off that rumour as well.
"Fabregas will be at Arsenal next season," he said. "It is obvious to me and there is no doubt." He went on to tip the 21-year-old as a potential player of the tournament. "For me Fabregas is something fantastic to see at a young age," he said.
"I know him well because I see him every day. In a period when football goes more towards athletes, he is a player. If you have the quality, you don't need to run 100m in 10sec. Intelligence helps a lot. It is great to see in the modern game that players of average size in a normal body can still succeed."
Wenger admitted that in the globalised age, when videos of even the most obscure players are only a click of a mouse away, he does not expect any previously unheralded new star to emerge, but he has not wholly closed him mind to the possibility of signings if anybody catches his eye. "I'm here with my cheque book," he said. "I don't rule anything out. If I fall in love with somebody, then why not?"Reuse content