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Alexis Sanchez on new contract: “It depends on Arsenal”

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Alexis Sanchez has spoken for the first time about the ongoing contract situation at Arsenal.

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The Chilean forward, 27, has 18 months left on his current deal and Arsene Wenger is asked about the negotiations for both Sanchez and Ozil in every press conference.

Ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Manchester City on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) Wenger has accused journalists of “lacking in creativity” as he continues to be asked about Sanchez’s future, while reports suggesting big money contracts from Manchester City, $500,000 per week  deals from China and elsewhere are being offered to the former Barcelona forward.

Speaking to Sky Sports ahead of the trip to the Etihad, Sanchez has firmly placed the ball in Arsenal’s court.

“I’m focused more on winning football matches – I’m staying concentrated on that. It really doesn’t depend on me – if they want to show confidence in me. I’m very happy at the club. I love all the staff. I’m very grateful for everybody here,” Sanchez said. “It depends on Arsenal. I enjoy the relationship with the fans. I want to achieve more for them. I want to win the Premier League and the Champions League.”

“I’ve told my agent I don’t want to speak about this too much when all the rumors are going around – it can distract a player from their main focus of concentration. I’m playing well and scoring goals. I’m achieving my objectives. I’m just focused on playing football, Sunday is a very important match.

“I’ve got an agent who deals with all of this, so I just want to focus on making the fans happy. I’m very relaxed. I’m trying not to let it bother me – that’s not what I want. We’ll see when it’s all resolved – I’m very calm. I’ve told my agent I don’t want to speak about this sort of thing.”

So, that’s quite a big move from Sanchez to admit he doesn’t want his agent to talk to him about the contract situation for the foreseeable future. That could mean nothing will be sorted until the end of the season, which would leave Sanchez with just a year left on his deal at Arsenal.

It is reported that Sanchez’s representatives are asking for $362,000 per week, while Arsenal is offering $250,000. Sanchez currently earns $162,000.

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With Paul Pogba and Manchester United’s to stars all on over $300,000 per week, both Sanchez and Ozil feel like they deserve similar wages.

It’s hard to argue with that. Especially when it comes to Sanchez.

Whether he’s played out wide or more recently through the middle as the lone striker, Sanchez has excelled in his three seasons at the Emirates Stadium. This season he has scored 14 goals and has eight assists in 22 games in all competitions, with his importance to Arsenal clear.

For Arsenal’s fans who have seen Robin Van Persie, Cesc Fabregas and others move on after similar contract disputes in the past, they’ll be getting more nervous the longer this goes on.

From the outside looking in, wouldn’t it make more sense to lock Sanchez down to a long-term contract rather than spend $60-70 million to replace him and then pay someone else similar wages?

Sanchez should demand some of the highest wages in the Premier League and Arsenal need to deliver know they’re financially much more competitive after years of paying off the move to the Emirates Stadium.

USMNT eyeing the table as it kicks off training camp

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (AP) Goalkeeper Tim Howard‘s uniform was filled with grass stains after the first day of training camp.

And this was considered a light workout.

“Just getting everybody back together, getting a sweat,” Howard said Monday after the U.S. squad went through a roughly 60-minute workout. “Day by day, we’re just trying to add on to the pile, put some concepts in and get some understanding between players.”

What awaits the squad in resumption of the final round of World Cup qualifying is certainly a gantlet. They have a game against Trinidad and Tobago on June 8 in Commerce City and then at Mexico three days later.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

There’s little margin for error, with the U.S. currently in fourth place in the six-team standings. They have three home and three away matches remaining. The top three teams qualify, with the fourth-place squad going to a playoff against Asia’s No. 5 nation.

“We need to keep climbing that table. We feel like this is a good opportunity to do it,” said Howard, now with the Colorado Rapids and who will feel right at home with the Trinidad game on his turf at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. “One game, that’s as far as you can look. You can’t look to next week or the week after or two months from now.”

For now, Howard will be coach Bruce Arena’s goalkeeper over Brad Guzan, Ethan Horvath and Nick Rimando, who all were invited to camp. But it’s an ongoing evaluation.

“We have good goalkeepers here. That’s the least of my worries, to be honest,” Arena said.

Given the short amount of time between games, Arena fully plans on using more players than usual. One particular competition to watch will be at right back between Timmy Chandler and DeAndre Yedlin.

“I have a close eye on everything,” Arena said. “We have a bunch of good players here. … We’re watching everybody and thinking about how we can best utilize everyone.”

[ MORE: Kroenke, Wenger meet; Decision looms ]

The roster features a solid blend of youth and experience. Leading the youngsters is Christian Pulisic, the 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder who last weekend became the youngest American to win a club medal in Europe.

On the veteran side are players such as Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Bradley and Howard, all of whom have more than 30 World Cup qualifying appearances.

“We’re past the experimentation phase. These are all guys who the manager believes in whole-heartedly,” Howard said. “They’re not here for anything other than to play minutes, play important minutes.”

Arena couldn’t agree more.

“This is a nice group we have here. Hopefully, we can find the right balance in the team, putting them in the right position to complement them both individually and collectively,” Arena said. “If we can accomplish that, there’s no reason to believe we can’t be successful in these two games.”

Joining the camp in Colorado are a few players who weren’t with the squad in March. Guzan, Chandler, Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood and Yedlin are all on the field. Guzan didn’t participate because his wife was expecting their second child, while the others were dealing with injuries, illnesses and yellow-card suspension.

Now, it’s a matter of getting their timing down – and accustomed to the altitude.

“There’s no reason to make it an excuse,” midfielder Paul Arriola said. “Just doing the best we can to acclimate to it.”

Arena’s squad will get things rolling in a friendly against Venezuela in Sandy, Utah, on Saturday.

“That’s a good game for us,” Arena said. “It gives us a little bit of exercise at lower altitude, which isn’t perfect for what we need to do to get ready here and Mexico City, but it’s a start. Think it will be good to give a chance to 16 players and build from there – get us ready for Trinidad and Mexico.”

Stam after Reading playoff final loss: “Tough to take”

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Jaap Stam has won silverware in three different leagues for five different teams, and has a Champions League title from his time at Manchester United.

He’s used to winning, and that includes his first stop as a full-time manager. And that makes Reading’s loss in Monday’s playoff final sting a bit more.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

Reading lost in penalty kicks and it’s not like the Royals were thoroughly outclassed by Huddersfield Town. But it still burns. From Sky Sports:

“You don’t want to play football to be in the grey areas, you want to get the max out of your career, win trophies and play at the highest level.

“It’s tough to take, but it has to be difficult. It’s not good to lose a game like this, you need to feel it and experience it and then take that forward if you get into the same moment again. The good players do that.”

Reading loses a trio of loan players — Lewis Grabban, Reece Oxford, and Jordon Mutch — as well as American midfielder Danny Williams. It won’t be easy for Reading to get back into the playoffs without an injection of money, but Stam’s first rodeo as a manager was a good ride that came up just short.

Wenger, Kroenke meet; Board to learn decision Tues.

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Wenger watch is entering its final hours.

The BBC is reporting that Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke met with longtime manager Arsene Wenger on Monday to discuss the Frenchman’s future, and that the decision was going to be made together.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

It seems almost certain that Wenger is going to come back to the Emirates Stadium. From the BBC:

The outcome is unclear but the decision rests solely with Wenger and Kroenke and will be relayed to directors at a Tuesday board meeting.

Fresh terms were agreed in principle some months ago, but nothing is signed.

There have been questions about whether Wenger would accept a sporting director being placed above him, and if Kroenke believes the repercussions of keeping the boss would negatively impact the business.

Barcelona to keep goalkeeper Ter Stegen until 2022

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says it has reached a deal to extend the contract of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen until June 2022.

The club said the new agreement, which has a buyout clause of 180 million euros ($201 million), will be signed on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Yaya to stay at Man City ]

Ter Stegen has been with the club since 2014, helping it win nine titles in three seasons.

The German goalkeeper has played 93 matches with Barcelona, conceding 90 goals in 71 wins, 10 draws and 12 losses.

Barcelona has already renewed the contracts of Javier Mascherano, Luis Suarez, Neymar, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic. It is still working on new deals for Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi.