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By ESPN Staff

Wenger surprised as Campbell opts for Pompey

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has expressed his surprise at the news Sol Campbell is on the brink of joining Portsmouth.

The England international has been undergoing a medical at Fratton Park ahead of a proposed move to the south coast club.

Campbell has had attractive offers from clubs in Turkey and France since he left Arsenal last month but it appears manager Harry Redknapp is on the verge of clinching the 31-year-old's signature.

However, former boss Wenger was taken aback by the news just weeks after Campbell announced he was to leave Arsenal 'for a fresh challenge' adding 'I have nothing left to prove in England but it would be special if I could now go to the continent and make a major statement in a foreign league too.'

Wenger said: 'I have no regrets, but it is a big surprise to me because he cancelled his contract to go abroad.

'Have you sold Portsmouth to a foreign country? No.'

Pompey are tying up a one-year deal, with the option of another 12 months, for Campbell, whose contract was paid up by Arsenal last month.

Despite the huge influx of cash new owner Sacha Gaydamak has brought to the south coast club, they are being cautious over Campbell who would not cost a transfer fee but would command a salary of around £40,000-a-week - about half his earnings at Highbury - and has a history of calf and ankle problems.

But he appears likely to start the season for Pompey against Blackburn a week on Saturday.

Campbell could form a new central-defensive partnership with Sylvain Distin, Manchester City's French skipper who is reportedly close to agreeing a £4million switch.

Redknapp believes Campbell's arrival would spark a rash of new signings. And he is putting more pressure on City to also sell England goalkeeper David James.

Redknapp rates James the best keeper in the country and is ready to offer him a three-year contract at the age of 36 if City boss Stuart Pearce agrees to make him available for around £2 million.

Blackburn have offered their New Zealand centre back Ryan Nelsen an 'improved contract' which could end Pompey's hopes of enticing him away from Ewood Park where manager Mark Hughes insists: 'We don't want to let him go.'

Hughes admitted: 'Portsmouth have made an inquiry about Ryan but we have made him an improved offer. They want him but we don't want to lose him.'

Pompey, now bankrolled by billionaire Gaydamak for a reported £30-million plus, are said to be willing to pay £4.7million for Nelsen but if that avenue is blocked, they will go for Distin in a double swoop on City.

James' arrival, however, might upset present Pompey number one Dean Kiely, the former Charlton keeper signed by Redknapp in a relegation crisis last season.

Kiely told the Portsmouth News: 'For me, as long as decisions are made purely on goalkeeping and effort, then I will accept it but I think it would be a little bit of a travesty, certainly on the back of what I did last year, if some sort of Hollywood-type showbiz keeper with a massive ego came in and played just because he's a big name.

'And I don't think me being replaced would be deserving on the back of my contribution over the past six months.'

But with Pompey reserve keeper Jamie Ashdown ruled out for up to six weeks with a broken thumb, Redknapp wants James to fight it out with Kiely for the first-team jersey.

Meanwhile Peruvian left back Juan Vargas has still not signed a proposed £1.6 million deal despite arriving from Argentinian club Colom de Santa Fe last week for a medical at Portsmouth. He watched their injury-hit team in a goalless draw at Oxford United on Friday.

And star striker Lomana LuaLua whose last competitive appearance for Pompey was against Arsenal on April 12 when he injured an ankle celebrating a point-saving equaliser with a trademark somersault, has become a major doubt for the start of the new season.

He sustained more ankle damage in the Oxford game and had to be carried off. Pompey are still waiting to discover the full extent of the latest injury but he looks certain to miss Thursday night's prestige home friendly with FC Porto.

If Portsmouth are forced to cope without LuaLua for several weeks or even months, the arrival of Campbell would come as a timely boost to morale.

Manager Redknapp told Sky Sports News: 'We have been talking to Sol. Hopefully he will join us. It's not done yet, but hopefully it will be.

'He will bring great experience, he's a good player. I still think he has a great deal to offer.

'I'd be really pleased and it will be great if we can get him.

'He is a good player, a real strong character and just the type we need.'