LONDON — Arsene Wenger remains “optimistic” that Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez will both sign contract extensions — but only if Arsenal deliver success on the pitch this season.
Ozil and Sanchez have entered the final year of their contracts and could leave the club for free next summer, a scenario that could deal a huge financial blow to the club. While the standoff has mainly been attributed to money, Wenger said he thinks it’s the results on the pitch that will determine whether the star duo stays at the Emirates beyond this campaign.
“I am optimistic on both [signing extensions],” Wenger said. “Look, both players are happy at the club. After, you have to meet their needs. Their needs are their desire for success and their needs are as well financial. I think if we can meet their needs on the pitch, there is more chance to extend their contracts.”
Wenger has remained adamant all summer that he’d rather let the players leave on free transfers next year than sell them to a rival. However, he refused to criticise Chelsea’s decision to sell Nemanja Matic to Manchester United after he himself sold striker Robin van Persie to Old Trafford in 2012.
“Look, every club has a different policy and you have to respect that. You analyse the age and the money you get, and I don’t say I never do it because I did it as well with Robin van Persie at the time when he was at the end of his contract and Man United paid good money,” Wenger said. “It’s not ideal because you strengthen your opponent and you weaken your team.”
Wenger insisted that the club board is backing his decision to hold Ozil and Sanchez to their contracts — and also said the financial sacrifice involved isn’t as big as it seems.
Sanchez and Ozil have reportedly been demanding deals worth well in excess of £250,000 per week and Wenger said the cost of keeping the players must be weighed against the cost of losing them.
“It is a financial sacrifice [to run down their contracts]. It is a sacrifice that you have to calculate, how much it costs. If you let the player go [for a transfer fee] and you buy somebody you spend maybe more than you lose [by keeping them].
“And as well if you extend the contracts it costs you maybe more than you lose when you keep the player. So you have to consider the length of the contract as well that the players want. So all that goes into consideration, the financial sacrifice is not as heavy as it looks.”
In the end, though, Wenger said the decision isn’t about money at all — but the value they bring to the team on the pitch. And that’s even harder to put a figure on, especially in today’s inflated market.
“The ratio between what the player will cost, what he brings back, this has gone. How can you quantify today what Neymar costs? Will he bring €300 million back [to Paris Saint-Germain]? It’s impossible to say. There is a part that is rational, and the other part is completely irrational: it is passion, ego, pride, you can call that how you want.
“How much is that worth financially? Maybe that’s down to every club. … I am a football manager, I want Sanchez to stay, and that’s it. After that, all the financial implications, for me, is less important. But at the end of the day you have to afford it as well. I want Sanchez to extend his contract. But as well you have to be capable to afford to pay him.”
Mattias is ESPN FC’s Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.