Premier League - Arsenal 'never wanted Balotelli'

Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal were “never in” for Mario Balotelli and told Milan that Joel Campbell isn’t for sale.

PA Sport Report
Premier League - Arsenal 'never wanted Balotelli'

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Arsenal verhandelt wohl schon mit dem AC Mailand - Mario Balotelli soll kommen.

The Gunners boss spoke in his press conference this afternoon and shut down on-going transfer gossip about Balotelli.

“For weeks we were buying Balotelli from one minute to the other and it was all wrong. We were never in for him,” insisted Wenger.

“We do not master the noises that come out.”

He was also at great pains to point out Costa Rica striker Campbell, who spent last season on loan at Olympiacos, was not heading for Milan.

“Yes, Joel Campbell is part of my plans. He might play tomorrow against Benfica.”

Wenger also wants to see England win the next World Cup with a team made up of Arsenal talent.

The 64-year-old has signed England Under-19 captain Calum Chambers from Southampton during his summer recruit drive, with the likes of Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott already in his ranks at the Emirates Stadium.

With previous World Cup winners Spain and Germany having a nucleus of players from Barcelona and Bayern Munich, respectively, Wenger is keen to provide the backbone of an England team who can challenge for major honours in the coming years.

"He was a long-term goal," Wenger said when asked about his pursuit of Chambers.

"I like the player and the quality he has, he is a young prospect as well.

"He is English and I hope in the future we have a core of the English national team because what we have learned over the past two World Cups is that Spain won it with six players from Barcelona, this time Germany won it with six players from Bayern Munich - I hope England win it with six players from Arsenal."

Of Wenger's current home-grown crop, only Wilshere appeared from England in Brazil in a disappointing showing from Roy Hodgson's side.

Since then the 22-year-old midfielder, who has suffered with knee and ankle injuries in recent years, has courted controversy having been photographed smoking a cigarette whilst on holiday.

But Wenger has been impressed with the player he has seen in pre-season training, although he admits the coming campaign will be a pivotal one for Wilshere's development.

"It is a big season for Jack," Wenger said.

"But in the last three years, for me, this is the best shape he's has been in. He has prepared, I think he is rid of his ankle problems and if he can maintain that I think he will have a great season - but it is a very important season for him."

If Wilshere can keep fit and hold down a place in an ever-competitive Arsenal midfield, he could find himself playing alongside Chambers - who Wenger believes is equally adept at playing in a more advanced role as he is at operating at full-back or in the heart of the defence.

The move away from Southampton continued an exodus from St Mary's, with Chambers joining Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Dejan Lovren and Luke Shaw in leaving the south-coast side.

The 19-year-old has also extended the trend of Arsenal taking young, English talent away from Southampton, joining Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain in north London.

Wenger admits the Saints could have been one of the biggest teams in Europe had they kept those players, as well as current Real Madrid star Gareth Bale, and will be watching on intently as new coach Ronald Koeman looks to cope with the loss of so many talented players.

"I respect the quality of work they have done," added Wenger.

"You look at Southampton and the team they had last year, plus Walcott, Chamberlain and Bale - they could have won the European Cup had they managed to keep everyone together.

"The modern game has changed and the smaller clubs with less potential are not in a position to keep their players. It will be interesting to see how they get over what happened to them.

"They have made a lot of income and they have shown in the past they are very clever at scouting and it will be very interesting to see how they manage what has happened to them."

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