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By ESPN Staff
May 9, 2008

Wenger refutes Hleb 'to leave Arsenal' claims

Arsene Wenger insists there is 'nothing' in reports that key midfielder Alexander Hleb is set to follow Mathieu Flamini out of the Premier League club.

The Belarus international's agent Nikolai Shpilevski was quoted on Friday morning claiming the 27-year-old 'is leaving' Emirates Stadium this summer, with Inter Milan most strongly linked as a possible destination.

Shpilevski told Belarussian paper Pressball: 'Alexander is preparing to make the most important moves of his life.

'He is leaving Arsenal even though they want to offer him a new long-term contract and better conditions. Only time will tell if leaving is the right decision, but there's no way back now. Everything will be cleared up in the next two weeks.'

Arsenal boss Wenger has previously reacted angrily to rumoured interest from the Italians, even claiming he might report them for 'tapping up' the former Stuttgart player.

But he insisted on Friday that there was no reason to suspect that Hleb would not be playing for the London club next season.

Asked if there had been any developments, Wenger told Arsenal TV: 'Frankly, no.

'You cannot stop people talking but at the moment there is nothing (to discuss).

'I believe that usually all the players want to stay, and I expect this team to say 'let's make a pact together, come back next year and win'.

'That's what I expect them to do and my priority is to keep the team together, add what I think can help us to even be better and then see from there.'

Wenger also insisted there was nothing more the club could have done to keep hold of out-of-contract Flamini, who signed a four-year deal with AC Milan this week.

But the Gunners manager sees no reason to hold a grudge against his countryman.

Asked if everything possible had been done to keep the Frenchman, Wenger said: 'Yes. I believe that even Mathieu would concede that.

'We put him in the bracket of where we could go (financially, with a contract offer), and we made him that offer, but unfortunately it wasn't enough.

'We have to accept that because Mathieu was a good servant of the club for four years and he came without costing any transfer fee and left without costing any transfer fee, so he was free to go.'

Wenger does not believe that Flamini's exit means a central midfielder must be brought in this summer, citing Denilson, Abou Diaby and Alex Song as possible replacements.

He is also hopeful that Brazilian Gilberto may still be at the club next term.

'I personally would like him to stay but he has to make a decision on that - I want him to feel comfortable,' said Wenger.

'I like Gilberto and since he has been playing again he has shown how good he is as a player, but we will see.'

Wenger has, meanwhile, tipped Manchester United to claim the Premier League title on Sunday by winning at Wigan.

If they do so, whatever Chelsea achieve against Bolton at Stamford is likely to be an irrelevance, given the Red Devils' superior goal difference.

Asked for his title tip, Wenger said: 'You would say Man United because Wigan do not have a lot to go for and a team who has only 90 minutes to play, of that quality, doesn't give it away.

'But there is always an uncertainty about the game because you can have a player sent off in the first minute and a penalty against you and then struggle.

'But logically it should be Man United.'