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Arsenal can lay down a marker

Arsenal
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Amr Zaki courts controversy over Portsmouth rejection

Amr Zaki has astonishingly claimed that he will not consider signing for Portsmouth on the grounds that they employ two Israelis - Tal Ben Haim and Avram Grant - as well as an Algerian in the form of Nadir Belhadj.

Zamalek striker Zaki, who impressed in the first half of the 2008-09 season with Wigan before attracting criticism for a series of disciplinary lapses, has long been a target for Portsmouth shareholder Sulaiman Al-Fahim.

Indeed, Al-Fahim confirmed only last week that he was hoping to convince manager Paul Hart and director of football Grant to sign Zaki, who he claimed "loves" the club and is desperate to move to Fratton Park.

But Zaki has courted controversy by claiming that the presence of Grant and defender Ben Haim means he would not consider joining Portsmouth. After the recent bad blood between Egypt and Algeria in World Cup qualifying, the presence of Belhadj is also an issue.

"I refused their offer before, but now joining Portsmouth is no longer an option for me," Zaki said on his official website.

"After Portsmouth signed an Israeli player and also hired an Israeli football director a possible move was ruled out. On top of that, no way could I play at Portsmouth with an Algerian within in their ranks."

Egypt was the first Arab nation to recognise Israel in 1969 but resentment still exists towards the Jewish state from many in the Muslim community.