Arsene Wenger still thinks Arsenal can convince Alexis Sanchez to stay, writes John Cross in Shanghai.
Despite Sanchez insisting he wants Champions League football, which the Gunners cannot offer again until 2018, they are determined not to sell to a Premier League rival this summer and believe the saga will come down to money.
Manchester City are in pole position and know Arsenal are facing a dilemma because Sanchez could leave for nothing in a year’s time, at the end of his contract.
City will be encouraged by the comments the Chilean striker made over the weekend while on holiday in his homeland and believe they can lure him to the Etihad for a reunion with his old Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola.
But Arsenal believe Sanchez wants to stay in London and his contract demands – he has been asking for £400,000-a-week – have scared off foreign clubs including Bayern Munich.
Boss Wenger insists he has had “positive” messages from the 28-year-old about his future, and the Gunners may let him go into the final year of his contract.
They are trying to prove their ambition after signing Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette for a record £52m and are still after Monaco’s Thomas Lemar , who would also cost big money.
Arsenal do not want to sell Sanchez and Olivier Giroud — a target for Everton and Germany’s Borussia Dortmund — as it would leave them short of options up front, despite Lacazette’s arrival.
They expect Sanchez to report back for training on July 30, and he believes they may hold him to the final year of his contract.
That may be preferable for both sides, as Sanchez could get a money-spinning free transfer next summer while Arsenal get another year of his services as they try to get back into the Champions League.
But they fear the saga could drag on for weeks yet, and Wenger will be anxious it does not become even more of a distraction as his mean gear up for the new season — beginning with a Friday night home match against Leicester on August 11.