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Wenger firmly against Blatter quota plans

LONDON, Oct 5 (Reuters) Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said today he was firmly against Sepp Blatter's plans to restrict club teams to only five foreigners.

He said he believed the proposals made by the president of soccer's world governing body FIFA were not in the interests of clubs competing in the English Premier League.

Blatter told the BBC he would like to see every team include six players who are qualified to play for their domestic national team and a maximum of five who are not.

Speaking at a news conference, Wenger said: ''I am against it. Sport is competitive and competition is based on merit.

It does not matter where you are born. It matters who you are.'' He felt the position was aggravated in England by the wealth of the English Premier League and the clubs' understandable ability and desire to sign world-class non-English players.

''It is my first responsibility for my club for us to play the best football, with the best players,'' said Wenger.

Wenger argued that the idea of having restricted quotas in England could only serve to protect the interests of the national team in the short term.

''English players can go somewhere else to play,'' he said, adding that young English players benefit from training with and sometimes playing with top-class foreign players.

Arsenal will bid to extend a run of nine consecutive wins against struggling Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday and Wenger had encouraging reports on his injured men.

French defender William Gallas and German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann are both back in full training but Wenger hinted it was unlikely they would be risked against Sunderland.

He said of Sunderland's Roy Keane: ''He has done well for them as manager in difficult circumstances, he turned them around last season.

''If he can stop them from being relegated this season, he will have done another great job. I think he has the mental strength to do it.'' Asked about ongoing takeover speculation at Arsenal, he quipped: ''Here I am not affected at all. Do not forget that here we live on an island called London Colney (the club's training grond.).'' REUTERS PDS VC2025

Story first published: Friday, October 5, 2007, 21:05 [IST]
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