Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger insists Patrick Vieira is committed to staying at Arsenal despite the player’s Spanish-based agent claiming Real Madrid president Florentino Perez would not fail in his quest to sign the Frenchman.
Wenger, who claimed certain outside influences were trying to ‘‘destabilise’’ the team, told the club’s official website, www.arsenal.com: ‘‘I believe the speculation will be endless and that people are trying to destabilise the team and the club.
‘‘Nothing is really true about it, it is just fantasy-land. When you are at a club like Arsenal, you have to cope with it and the team are strong enough to cope with it.
‘‘Patrick is the captain of the team and is committed to the club. He came out last week and said that. There is mainly nothing else to add.’’
However, Wenger continued: ‘‘Of course, you defend freedom of speech but the excessive side of it is that people just write stories and you can’t do anything about it.
‘‘But we cope with that and we can live with it. When you are the manager of a good team, it is important to know that the players are committed to your ambition and vision and Patrick is that.’’
Vieira was reported to have been in Madrid during two days off from Arsenal duty earlier this week, with speculation rife he was there with his agents to meet Real officials.
Vieira’s Spanish representative, Santos Marquez, insisted Vieira was not in the Spanish city to discuss a multi-million pound transfer.
And it is clear Arsenal will again attempt to resist any interest in their highly-prized midfielder, who was constantly linked with a move to Real last summer only to remain at Highbury.
However Vieira, who recently promised to make up his mind on his future at the end of this season, was identified as one of the Spanish club’s main two targets - along with Andrei Shevchenko - by Perez earlier this week.
And the Real president succeeded in his last two major moves into the transfer market to sign Luis Figo for €47m and then Zinedine Zidane for €60m, even though they seemed improbable at the time.
Marquez, who was also involved in the Figo deal, told Spanish newspaper Marca: ‘‘If Florentino Perez wants Patrick Vieira, I have no doubt that he will get him.
‘‘Last season, he wanted Zidane and he got him. And before that he got Figo when nobody thought it was possible.
‘‘I know Real Madrid are interested in the signing and there has been contact, but I am certain Real Madrid, being a gentlemanly club, would call Arsenal and agree a deal before negotiating with the player.’’
Marquez did not elaborate on what contact had supposedly taken place, although he insisted that Vieira’s French agent, Marc Roger, had only been ‘‘in Madrid to sort out some things with Real midfielder Claude Makelele but nothing else’’.
He continued: ‘‘If Vieira was in Madrid, then it must have been for personal motives and nothing related to football. People can do what they want on their day off, can’t they?’’
Vieira, 25, returned to training on schedule, but Arsenal have been left to again consider how best to ensure he remains at Highbury beyond the end of this season.
They are likely to turn down any bid to sign the Frenchman before the end of the Spanish transfer window on January 31 amid reports of an impending €33mi offer that would ensure huge wages.
However, Vieira’s long-term future remains clouded in more doubt even though he has two years remaining on his contract and Arsene Wenger has constantly made it clear he is not for sale.
Any suggestions he has been illegally approached would surely be investigated by Arsenal, who similarly felt Nicolas Anelka was unsettled in his controversial move to Real in 1999, in which Roger was also involved.
However, Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein, who conducted an astute campaign to keep Vieira last summer, was wisely keeping his own counsel after previously stressing his determination to hold onto the midfielder.
Marquez also insisted: ‘‘Real Madrid give a good example, I am convinced of that and I am certain they will do things in the best possible way.’’
Vieira revealed last week that Arsenal’s new stadium could prove the key to keeping him at the club, but this whole saga has been littered with conflicting reports of the Frenchman’s intentions.
Either way, he will surely not have been impressed with comments attributed to chairman Peter Hill-Wood, in which he reacted angrily to reports that the Frenchman had supposedly met Real officials.
‘‘From what has been coming out it seems Patrick has met Real Madrid,’’ Hill-Wood told a British newspaper.
‘‘It is very irritating when you take a lot of time and trouble to sort out lucrative deals with players and then find out it is a waste of your time.
‘‘Patrick didn’t look his usual self against Liverpool last Sunday.’’