May 28, 2017

Arsene Wenger: Money shouldn’t be only incentive for elite players

Arsene Wenger believes earning more money should not be the only incentive for the world’s elite footballers – although he admits that his view may make him “naive.”

The Arsenal boss was reacting to reports both Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez are holding out for parity with the Premier League’s top earners as the duo continue to negotiate extensions to their current deals.

Talks with representatives for both players have been ongoing for some time, but the London Evening Standard reported that Ozil and Sanchez are only interested in moving into the same pay league as the likes of Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Manchester United.

Wenger, talking in Switzerland ahead of his side’s final Champions League group game against Basle, said he believes there should be more to a top players’ ambition than simply earning a similar amount to their peers.

“I would like to say the luxury of the modern game should be it’s not only about the money, because the players make anyway wherever they play good money at this level,” he said. “I believe, personally, and maybe I am a bit naive, but it’s more about getting to meet the players’ needs.

“That’s about the way the club has values, the way the club has ambition, the way the club respects the players.

“So I think, for me, that is more important nowadays and an important ingredient for every player to consider. The money is good everywhere for everybody.”

Wenger said it was normal for negotiations to be ongoing as the pair enter the final 18 months of their current deals, and said Ozil and Sanchez had very little to do with the talks.

“You know, nowadays, you negotiate with the agents more than with the player. We are in negotiations, yes,” Wenger said. “The players have 18 months away from the end of their contracts, so it’s normal. But the players always come in at the end, when it’s a renewal, because with the first contract you need the players.

“But after that, when you renew, 90 percent of the contracts are negotiated with the agents.”

Arsenal will play a full-strength side in Tuesday’s Champions League tie in Basel, despite only having an outside chance of topping their group.

With current group leaders Paris Saint-Germain at home to Ludogorets Razgrad, Arsenal need to hope for a surprise at the Parc des Princes to have a genuine chance of finishing first.

With their place in the last-16 already secure and his side pressing for the Premier League title, Wenger, could have been tempted to rest some of his key players but will not.

“Sometimes I think that when a guy is doing well, it’s sometimes more dangerous to stop him than keep him playing,” Wenger said. “I haven’t decided on my team yet, I have another 24 hours to decide on that, but my main goal is to win the game.”

Wenger confirmed France international forward Olivier Giroud is in the squad that has travelled to Switzerland, though midfielder Francois Coquelin misses out through suspension.

Should Arsenal fail to better PSG’s result, they will finish second, and potentially face a tougher test than their French counterparts in the knockout stages.

However, with Manchester City, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich among the teams currently in the runners-up spots in their sections, Wenger admitted he will not be overly concerned should his squad fail to overhaul the Ligue 1 champions.

“Not really, no,” replied Wenger when asked whether it was a disadvantage to finish second in the group. “We’ll see what happens with the final results, but it looks quite even.

“The advantage of finishing first is that you play the second leg at home, and in the case of extra-time, you play an extra 30 minutes at home.

“We’ll see. PSG are favourites to beat Ludogorets at home and win the group, but we can assess that scoreline at half-time and see where we go.”