Belfast Telegraph

Arsene Wenger admits Premier League 'cannot compete' with China cash

Arsene Wenger has warned of the "danger" of astronomical wages being offered by Chinese Super League clubs becoming the benchmark for the Premier League's top talent.

Chelsea striker Diego Costa has been linked with a move to the Far East with an offer of £600,000 a week reportedly on the table for the Spain international.

Two of his former Stamford Bridge team-mates, Oscar and John Obi Mikel, have already moved to Super League outfits, while former Premier League striker Carlos Tevez became the highest-earning player in the world when he joined Shanghai Shenhua in December.

Arsenal manager Wenger is facing questions on a weekly basis over the future of both Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, as the pair reportedly seek parity with the best-paid players in the Premier League.

But the Frenchman fears the ever-increasing pay packet of a top-flight star could soon end up being compared to the money on offer in China.

"That's the danger, that the Chinese offers become the benchmark for Europe," Wenger said, when asked if the money on offer in China could complicate negotiations with top players.

"You cannot compete with that but I still think that, when you're a footballer, the first thing is that you want to play against the best players in the best teams.

"Of course it's a worry but it happened in Europe before. It also happens when you're at a smaller club. Sometimes we had periods where we could not financially compete with the bigger clubs who took our players away from us. It can happen inside the country."

Despite his fears, Wenger believes many players will want to stay put in the Premier League and Europe rather than uproot for financial gains.

"My thought is that when you want to be a football player, your first aspiration is to play in the best league, against the best players," he added.

"That has to be the first target, after that when you are a professional football player you want to combine the fact you can play in the best league, against the best players, for the maximum amount of money.

"I think that combination is the best in England at the moment, so I don't see why the players should leave the English Premier League.

"But China has moved forward, tries to promote football and I'm happy that football becomes very popular in China, but I still think most of the players, of the big players, will stay in Europe at the moment."

Other than signing full-back Cohen Bramall from non-league Hednesford, Arsenal have done no other business and Wenger admits he expects the remainder of the January transfer window to be "very quiet".

He did announce the club have taken up a one-year option to extend the contract of captain Per Mertesacker.

The 32-year-old's deal was due to expire at the end of the campaign but he will now be staying until at least 2018.

Mertesacker has yet to play for the Gunners this season after suffering a serious knee injury in a July friendly against Lens.

The German World Cup winner needed surgery and is still some time away from making a first-team return, but Wenger has still opted to take up the option on keeping the defender for a further 12 months.

"He has an option that we have taken," Wenger said.

"There was no negotiation, there was just an option that we took up. He is back in training, not with the squad but I think he is a few weeks away."

Mertesacker replaced Mikel Arteta as the club's skipper after the Spaniard retired at the end of last season and took up a coaching role at Manchester City.

Arteta was sidelined with a number of injuries for much of his spell with the armband, but Wenger insists the same fate will not befall his current captain.

"It's completely accidental," he said of the German's knee problem.

"With Arteta, it's true that he struggled with muscular problems, but Per was accidental.

"It was a knee problem but he has recovered from that, so there's no reason why he should be injured again."

Mertesacker faces a fight to get back into the team once he is fit as compatriot Shkodran Mustafi, a big-money summer signing from Valencia, has built a strong understanding with vice-captain Laurent Koscielny at the heart of Wenger's defence.

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