By David Hytner/The Guardian
Arsene Wenger has made it clear that he expects to swap Alexis Sanchez for Manchester United’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan, as he described this transfer window as “more disturbing” and “more destabilising” than ever for Arsenal.
The manager was unusually open when discussing transfer business yesterday, which reflected his level of certainty on a number of issues – chief among them Sanchez and Mkhitaryan.
Wenger said that Sanchez’s transfer to Old Trafford was not guaranteed but “likely to happen” – and quickly, possibly in the next 24 to 48 hours. He spoke candidly on Mkhitaryan, too, saying it was his understanding that the attacking midfielder would be moving in the opposite direction. He added that Arsenal had no problem about meeting Mkhitaryan’s wage demands.
Arsenal would still be on the market for another attacking player and they retain a strong interest in Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Wenger, however, appeared to rule out a move for the Bordeaux winger Malcom.
On Sanchez, Wenger said: “I’ve worked on transfers for 30 years, so it is likely to happen. But at any moment, at any minute, things can break down. That’s how the transfer market is. As long as it’s not over the line, you have to accept that it can, as well, not happen. It’s now in the next 24 to 48 hours that it will happen or not.”
Wenger did not sell Sanchez last August to Manchester City – after accepting a £60mn offer – because he was unable to sign a replacement. This time, Mkhitaryan is set to smooth the deal.
Wenger was asked whether Mkhitaryan would come as part of the Sanchez move. “It’s my understanding, yes,” he said. “If it’s a possibility, it’s because I like the player. We played many times against him when he was at Dortmund. He certainly appreciated the quality of our game and the way we play football.
“The wages would not be a problem. Look, this would be an exchange of players and I think one would replace the other. Are we still on the transfer market after that? Yes.”
The Arsenal hierarchy are convinced that Dortmund are ready to sell Aubameyang. The question is whether they will do so now or in the summer. Dortmund are desperate to qualify for the Champions League and would need to replace their top scorer if they decided to take the money for him in January.
“I have nothing to add (on Aubameyang),” Wenger said.
“These kind of things, it’s better when it’s secret and when you don’t come out on it, and when you announce it when it’s over the line.” On Malcom, Wenger said: “Will we sign him in January? I don’t think so.”
Wenger said that Arsenal had done “the maximum we could afford to do” in terms of their contract offer to Sanchez and he accepted that they simply could not compete with United – or City – on wages. “That doesn’t mean that you cannot compete on the pitch,” he said. “That will not be an excuse big enough to not compete on the pitch. Of course, there’s no mystery that United and City have bigger financial resources.”
Wenger said he had no problem with Sanchez chasing the best financial deal. “No, because they are professional players,” he said. “I have no problem with Alexis Sanchez. His attitude has been outstanding with us. He was in training yesterday, fully committed and prepared 100% … He’s 29 years old and the next contract will, of course, be very important for him.”
With Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere in the final six months of their contracts, Wenger admitted that this month had been uniquely challenging.
“For us especially this period has been more disturbing than ever,” he said. “Why? Because we have big players that are at the end of their contracts and that is the first time that it happens. It has been more destabilising than ever.”
United set to make Sanchez highest-paid EPL player
London: Manchester United are set to land Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal by making him the Premier League’s highest paid player, according to several reports yesterday. The Chilean striker would earn between 400,000 and 500,000 pounds ($555,000 and $690,000) a week before tax by moving to Old Trafford, according to The Sun, the Daily Telegraph and other newspapers.
The 29-year-old’s wage demands are said to have scared off Manchester City and Chelsea, leaving United as his main suitors. The Daily Telegraph reported that United have offered Sanchez a four-and-a-half-year contract and he would move for a £30mn transfer fee — it is relatively low because he could leave for free at the end of the summer.
The deal for the former Barcelona player would also likely involve a £20mn signing-on fee and a £10mn agent’s fee. The Sun reports however that Arsenal could still refuse to allow Sanchez to leave if they do not find a replacement.
United are second in the Premier League, 12 points behind runaway leaders Manchester City, and Sanchez’s capture would be seen as a statement of intent from a team already paying huge wages to French international midfielder Paul Pogba and Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku.
Arsenal are struggling to compete for the Champions League places and knocked out of the FA Cup. Though they are through to the last 32 of the Europa League.
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