Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has admitted for the first time that defender Bacary Sagna could be set to leave the club on a free transfer at the end of the season.
Wenger had maintained throughout this season that he was hopeful of persuading his French international full-back to sign a new contract with the Gunners and extend his current deal that is due to expire next summer.
Yet Wenger has now conceded his hopes of keeping Sagna at the club are fading after admitting there has been minimal progress towards agreeing a new deal for the 30-year-old who joined Arsenal from Auxerre in 2007.
"When I say I expect [him to sign a new deal], it's more that I want him to," Wenger told reporters. "I hope that in the end I am right, but we are not close at the moment.
"He wants to keep his options open, because he is at the end of a contract. It is an important contract for him, I can understand. I'm not alright with that because I would like him to sign just now, but I have to accept it. It's his freedom, the decision belongs to him.
"We are ready to give him more than one year. We are always in negotiations with him and we try always to be fair with him. I believe his future is here and any other decision would be wrong."
Wenger went on to pay a fulsome tribute to the full-back who has been linked with a move to Manchester City in recent weeks, as he insisted he has no concerns about his commitment to the Arsenal cause in the final three months of the season.
"You know when you start the game that Bacary Sagna will give you 100 per cent commitment and no matter where you play, against whom you play, he will just commit 100 per cent," added Wenger.
"That is a fantastic guarantee. I believe that his future is here and any other decision would be wrong. He can cover in central defence and in the future he will play more central than on the flank."
Meanwhile, Arsenal forward Lukas Podolski believes his club are about to enter a defining month in their season, that will include games against Liverpool, Manchester United and Bayern Munich.
"We have now a run of key games and it's an important part of the season," Podolski told the Arsenal website.
"Everyone can beat everyone in the league and there are important matches coming now and in two or three weeks we will see what's happened.
"I think the [February] games are important but the decision about the title is not now. It's a long season with a lot of matches. We have big cup games against Bayern Munich and Liverpool coming up. They are also important matches. I think we are strong and we want to fight until the end."