Arsenal’s German midfielder Mesut Ozil (L) vies with Basel’s Swiss midfielder Renato Steffen during the UEFA Champions league Group A football match between FC Basel 1893 and Arsenal FC on December 6, 2016 at the St Jakob Park stadium in Basel. / AFP PHOTO / Patrick HERTZOG
Arsenal lynchpins Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil will not be allowed to leave the club before their contracts expire in 18 months’ time, manager Arsene Wenger said on Thursday.
British media reports this week suggested Chilean forward Sanchez and German playmaker Ozil want new deals that will put them on a par with the Premier League’s highest earners.
But while Wenger cannot guarantee the pair will stay at Arsenal beyond the terms of their current contracts, he vowed neither player would be sold during the next year and a half.
“These players will stay here for at least 18 months. I cannot repeat always the same things,” Wenger told his weekly press conference at Arsenal’s London Colney training base.
“I think at some stage you have to accept that negotiations are private and secret and we do not always have to come out every day to explain what we do in football 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.”
Sanchez, 27, and Ozil, 28, have been in sparkling form of late as Arsenal have climbed to second place in the league table and secured a place in the Champions League last 16 as group winners.
In the past, Arsenal have cashed in on players unwilling to sign new deals, such as when they sold former captain Robin van Persie to Manchester United in 2012.
But Wenger suggested he would sooner let Sanchez and Ozil leave for free in 2018 than sanction moves for them.
He was, however, unable to offer fans any guarantees the duo will sign new contracts with the club.
– ‘Why go to China?’ –
Asked what assurances he could give supporters, the Frenchman replied: “None.
“They have 18 months left on their contract and they are completely committed to do well as long as they are here.
“Beyond that, we’ll try to extend their contracts, but I cannot make that the subject in every press conference because it’s a normal part of every renewal when you renegotiate.
“The less you talk about it, the better it is.”
Wenger played down reports former Barcelona former star Sanchez could be tempted by a mega-money move to the Chinese Super League.
“I believe it (that there has been interest). Yes, why not?” he said. “But why should you go to China when you’re playing in England today?
“We live in a world where great players like Alexis and Ozil earn a lot of money and they have the privilege of choosing where they really want to play.”
Arsenal can go top of the table for 24 hours at least if they beat Stoke City by two goals or more at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
Right-back Hector Bellerin could feature after returning to training following an ankle injury.
But Arsenal remain without Per Mertesacker (knee), Mathieu Debuchy (hamstring), Santi Cazorla (ankle) and Danny Welbeck (knee).