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Arsenal to break wage barrier for elite targets

Thursday, 28 February 2013 - 11:38am IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph
Arsenal are ready to relax their wage structure this summer to help attract the genuinely world-class talent that Arsene Wenger wants to boost his squad.

Arsenal are ready to relax their wage structure this summer to help attract the genuinely world-class talent that Arsene Wenger wants to boost his squad.

Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski are the club's highest paid players on just under 100,000 pounds a week but, with centre-forward the priority position, there is a willingness to break through that barrier.

It is understood that Arsenal were prepared to offer Robin van Persie a new contract worth 140,000 pounds a week last summer and are prepared to reach similar figures this year for the right player. Stevan Jovetic, the Fiorentina striker, is being regularly watched and Wenger retains a strong interest in Borussia Dortmund playmaker Mario Gotze. Both would command transfer fees and wages well in excess of Arsenal's previous budget.

Arsenal have around 70 million pounds in their transfer fund, with this week's half-yearly accounts showing that the cash balance at the bank stands at 123 million pounds. This is not exclusively available for squad strengthening, as it must also deal with the club's running costs, but it is clear that Wenger has more money at his disposal than ever before.

Arsenal's financial certainty is further enhanced by the new shirt sponsorship contract with Emirates that is worth an additional 22 million pounds a year. A kit deal that would bring in around 20 million pounds a year from 2014 is also being renegotiated.

According to the most recently published accounts, Arsenal's annual wage bill already stands at 143 million pounds. That is only 17 million pounds less than Manchester United and around 50 million pounds more than Tottenham, albeit well below both Manchester City and Chelsea.

Arsenal's spending on wages account for more than half of the club's turnover, meaning that significant increases in the overall wage-bill could not be sustainable without the new commercial deals.

At least 6.5 million pounds will also be freed up from Arsenal's wage-bill this summer by the departure of several high earners, notably Sebastian Squillaci and Andrei Arshavin, who are both out of contract.

Nicklas Bendtner, Andre Santos, Marouane Chamakh, Johan Djourou and Park Chu-young will also be available, although Arsenal's difficulty in selling well-paid but underperforming players has been evident over recent transfer windows. Arsenal's wage structure has attracted criticism for being overly generous to mediocre players and too cautious for exceptional players. There is a realisation, however, that the sort of players whom Wenger has been scouting can only be signed if the wage structure is stretched.

Wenger still believes that there will be a general trend away from players being paid more than 200,000 pounds a week as Uefa's Financial Fair Play rules takes effect and believes Arsenal will now compete for the very best.

At 23, Jovetic is regarded as similar in style and potential to a young Van Persie and would cost around 20 million pounds. Wenger is also targeting a right-back amid uncertainty about Bacary Sagna's future and wants another holding midfielder as an option alongside Mikel Arteta, with Toulouse's Etienne Capoue still on his radar.

Sagna has been offered a one-year extension to a contract that expires in 2014 but is understood to want a longer deal. Arsenal believe that their offer is sensible for a player who has just turned 30 and suffered several serious injuries. Wojciech Szczesny's dip in form will also force careful consideration of the goalkeeping department, with both Pepe Reina and Asmir Begovic among the options.

With Wenger himself out of contract next year, his success in this summer's transfer market and how Arsenal start next season could be pivotal in deciding whether he remains at the club beyond 2014.

Wenger's plan is to continue to rebuild around a British core, notably Jack Wilshere, Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey and Kieran Gibbs, but also use the club's greater financial strength to have a better chance of competing for the world's elite players.

Dennis Bergkamp, meanwhile, is to become the next Arsenal legend to be immortalised outside the Emirates Stadium later this year with a statue. Bergkamp, who was part of the 'Invincble' team of 2003-4, was voted second by Arsenal fans in a poll of the club's greatest players. Statues of Thierry Henry, Tony Adams and Herbert Chapman were also erected in December 2011.

 


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