No star is bigger than club: Wenger

LONDON • Arsene Wenger has warned that "every club loses big players" and no individual is bigger than Arsenal as he tries to keep several of his most important squad members.

Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil are involved in protracted negotiations over extending their deals, which expire in mid-2018.

Reports this week suggested there was an offer from the Chinese Super League that could pay Sanchez £400,000 (S$718,000) a week, while Ozil has been linked with a return to Real Madrid.

Arsenal have sold players before as their contracts wound down, including Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie, but Wenger believes the current situation is different and factors other than money will decide the outcome.

Asked whether he would consider selling Ozil and Sanchez if they get down to having a year remaining on their contracts, the Frenchman said: "I'm not the only one who can decide that. A contract is about negotiations, in this case between two parties.

"I think at some stage you have to accept negotiations are private and secret, and we do not always have to come out every day to explain what we do in negotiations. We are professional people, we work until the last day of our contracts with full commitment.

"These players have 18 months on their contracts and no matter what happens, they will stay for 18 months. Hopefully they'll stay for longer than that."

Both players are thought to earn £130,000 a week and Wenger expressed doubts whether either could be tempted to leave.

"I believe (the Sanchez offer) but why go to China today when you play in England?" he said.

"I believe we live in a world where the big players earn a lot of money and they have the privilege to choose where they really want to play.

"You could say the prestige more than the self-esteem is linked with the players. But I think it is more down to the consistency of the quality, or the way the team plays football.

"Arsenal is a big club. It is not one or two players who will make the difference. What is important is always to take care of the values of the club, and the identity of the club, and not to depend too much on one or two players."

Sanchez and Ozil will spearhead Arsenal's attack as they host Stoke in the Premier League today.

"They've been hugely important," Wenger added of the duo.

"Their commitment is absolutely total. The first quality of a professional guy is to give 100 per cent. It's here and now, that's what it means to be professional."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2016, with the headline 'No star is bigger than club: Wenger'. Print Edition | Subscribe