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By ESPN Staff
Jan 12, 2006

Cole suggests he's going nowhere

Arsenal defender Ashley Cole insists he has every intention of playing in the Gunners' new 60,000-seater stadium next season.

The 25-year-old, who is close to a return following a foot injury sustained in October, has been the subject of intense speculation for a number of weeks.

Real Madrid have been rumoured to be chasing Cole's signature but the England left-back insisted Arsenal's final season at Highbury would not necessarily be his last at the club as well.

The Spanish giants have even issued a statement denying reports linking the club with the Arsenal defender.

'Following press reports regarding an interest by Real Madrid for Arsenal's Ashley Cole, the club wishes to clarify that at no time has Real Madrid confirmed via any official spokesman that the club has made a move for Ashley Cole or any other player,' said the club in a statement.

'Due to our excellent and fluid relations that exist between Arsenal and Real Madrid, that the English club would always be first to know of any possible interest regarding any of their players.'

Cole said: 'I've got three years left (on my contract) and I'm looking forward to playing in the new stadium.

'It has been in every paper since the start of the season and there is nothing I can do. People are going to write stories.

'I have just got to get back fit and that's my main aspiration at the moment, as well as trying to win things with Arsenal.'

His words echo those of skipper Thierry Henry, who attempted to quash suggestions he was bound for Barcelona by declaring he would lead the side out at the brand new Emirates Stadium next season, provided the board came up with acceptable new contract proposals.

Henry had previously made it clear that the loss of Cole had been a major factor behind the Gunners' unusually low Premiership placing, which sees them out of the Champions League positions and 24 points behind leaders Chelsea.

Cole has targeted a return to action on Tuesday in a reserve fixture at Leicester and was hopeful a first-team comeback would swiftly follow.

He said: 'It is getting better. I have a couple of weeks left and have just got to see how it goes.

'It has been a hard three months trying to get back fit but I am on the verge of it and looking forward to getting back playing.

'It is a strange injury and a hard one to come back from as your body has to adjust to having a screw in the bone.'

The Gunners are six points behind rivals Tottenham in fourth place and are also fighting on three fronts in the cup competitions both at home and abroad.

And Henry - attending the unveiling of a mural, entitled The Final Salute, with Cole at nearby Arsenal tube station - insisted ending the Highbury era on a high was the number one priority.

He said: 'Obviously winning the league is going to be a massive task but on the other side we are still in the Carling Cup, we are still in the FA Cup and we are going to have an important game against Real Madrid in the Champions League.

'So it is still possible to bring some silverware back to Highbury. It would be the cherry on the cake to finish like that.

'We are going to try our best to bring something back because obviously this season is going to be extra special for the fans and for the club's history.

'To win the Champions League, that would be a thousand cherries on the cake but at the moment it is about going back to basics.'

Meanwhile, Sol Campbell is struggling to return for this weekend's visit of Middlesbrough.

The defender missed the midweek Carling Cup semi-final defeat by Wigan with a foot injury and faces a fitness test tomorrow.

Robin van Persie is still out with a broken toe but could return to face Everton next week.