Ahead of the visit of Crystal Palace this weekend, the Gunners boss revealed that he expects Alexis Sanchez to depart for Manchester United in exchange for Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
It has been reported that Sanchez, who came close to joining Manchester City last summer, could earn as much as £500,000 a week at Old Trafford.
Last season, the Chile international turned down a vastly-improved offer to stay at Arsenal and could leave for free at the end of the current campaign as his contract expires.
But Sanchez now looks set to join Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils, with Wenger admitting wages will continue to rise as players run down their contracts rather than leave for large transfer fees.
Lionel Messi’s wage packet at Barcelona has been reported as exceeding £1m-a-week, and asked if he could see Premier League players earning that amount soon, the Frenchman replied: “How many weeks do you have in a year, 52. You cannot rule anything out. Who was the first player who was a £1million transfer? Trevor Francis (in 1979). Today it looks ridiculous.”
Wenger pointed to the example of Robin van Persie, the last big name to leave the Emirates Stadium for Manchester United, as someone who would not extend his deal with the club and was looking to move elsewhere.“Maybe it was the first case with the big players,” he said.
“Van Persie was one of the first cases where a big player didn’t extend his contract and came close to the end of his contract. That will happen more and more.
“Because we arrive to a level where the money at stake for players who are free is so big, and the transfers are so big, that the players think ‘it’s better I go to the end of my contract, and if I don’t get the whole integrity of the transfer now, if I get only half, it’s a huge amount of money’.’”
Despite being priced out of retaining the Chilean, Wenger insisted he had no problem with Manchester United’s huge wage offer.
“I respect United because they raise the money they pay to players with their own resources,” Wenger said, presumably aiming a dig at Manchester City, who were also interested in taking Sanchez.
“United is a club very well managed financially so I don’t have a problem.”
Wenger also insisted Mkhitaryan’s contract demands would not be an issue for the Gunners, even though they cannot compete with the Manchester clubs when it comes to financial packages.
“Yes, financially yes,” he conceded when asked whether Arsenal could offer less than their rivals.
“That doesn’t mean that you cannot compete on the pitch. That will not be an excuse big enough to not compete on the pitch. Of course, there’s no mystery that United and City have bigger financial resources. We did the maximum we could afford to do (with a contract offer for Sanchez).”
With Wenger now expected to lose another star player, he admitted Arsenal’s scouting policy may have to change if they are to find fresh talent, having already signed promising Greek defender Konstantinos Mavropanos this month.
“Yes, of course,” he said when asked if the club now has to be more creative in the transfer market.
“We have to revisit the way we structure our club, and our scouting policy.
“You look at world-class players now, you look at Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Sanchez, their level of financial demands and the level of their costs, you have to go younger and certainly these players are not affordable.
“That is more difficult nowadays because the competition is everywhere, it is very big. What is important today is that we are the club that can maybe give them a chance, more than many other clubs.”