Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has conceded that Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri must stay for his side to still be considered a “big club”.
Fabregas, 24, has been subject to strong interest from Champions League holders Barcelona, whereas Nasri, 24, has only 12 months left to run on his contract, leading to interest from both Manchester clubs and Chelsea.
The north London side have already lost Gael Clichy this summer to City, and their manager admitted the club cannot afford to let their star players leave.
Wenger was quoted as saying by The Mirror: “Imagine the worst situation - we lose Fabregas and Nasri - you cannot convince people you are ambitious after that. “And even if you lose Nasri, to find the same quality player, you have to spend again the same amount of money. Because you cannot say, you lose the player and you do not replace him.
“I believe for us it is important the message we give out. For example, you talk about Fabregas leaving, Nasri leaving.
“If you give that message out, you cannot pretend you are a big club, because a big club first of all holds onto its big players and gives a message out to all the other big clubs that they just cannot come in and take away from you.
“We worked very hard with these players for years to develop them, and now it's a time for us to keep them together.”
The Gunners, with Nasri in tow, recently departed for their Far East pre-season tour, and Wenger says the France international will “definitely” stay.
Arsenal risk Nasri running down his contract and leaving on a free transfer next year, but the French coach is confident the player will sign a new deal.
Fabregas misses the trip because of a hamstring injury but resumed full training on Monday.
The Emirates club have rejected offers of €31 million and €39m this summer from Barcelona and Wenger admitted he is upset that Camp Nou president Sandro Rosell claimed Fabregas was worth less this summer than 12 months ago.
“That is disrespectful to Cesc,” Wenger continued. “I rate Cesc so highly. For me, he is top, top world class, certainly in the top five midfield players in the world.
“For us, it's not a question of money. It is a question of Cesc wanting to be with us. And I think he is torn because he loves the club deeply. “We will fight until the last second to keep him.
“I think Cesc has always been torn between his love for Arsenal, that I feel is really genuine, and, as well - and what you can understand - the desire to play for the biggest team in the world. I think both exist in his head.
“I am confident, because I hope he will see that there will be no greater achievement for him in his life than to lead this team to success and that it will not be the right period for him to leave.”
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