Wenger gunning for Abidal
By Tom Adams
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Eric Abidal has claimed Arsenal want him to replace the departed Ashley Cole.
Lyon star Eric Abidal has claimed that Arsenal are interested in installing him as the successor to Ashley Cole at Emirates Stadium.
The France left back, who played for Les Bleus in the World Cup final defeat to Italy, attracted interest from a number of Europe's top clubs over the summer but stayed at Stade Gerland with Gerard Houllier's Ligue 1 champions.
Meanwhile, having accepted Cole's desire to leave North London, The Gunners are currently utilising William Gallas at left back after completing a swap deal with Chelsea involving the two players.
Gallas has previously stated his desire to play regularly in the heart of defence though, and when Gael Clichy completes his long recovery from injury he is expected to slot into the position vacated by Cole.
However, Gunners boss Arsene Wenger may have another option up his sleeve, as his compatriot Abidal claims the London side will be keeping an eye on his development after first signalling their interest over the summer.
"Arsenal wanted me this summer and they're following my progress this season," said Abidal in The News of the World.
"I know Arsene Wenger likes me. I know that they will continue to follow me."
If Arsenal do opt to move for Abidal then they could face competition from a number of Europe's elite clubs, as the 27-year-old says Chelsea and Real Madrid both attempted to prise him from Stade Gerland during the summer transfer window.
"Chelsea also wanted me in the summer, there were discussions," Abidal continued.
"But they had many options and I don't know whether I was their priority.
"Real Madrid also tried to get me if Roberto Carlos left the club but in the end he stayed."
One player who did arrive at Emirates Stadium is Julio Baptista, but only after shunning initial interest from North London to spend last season at Real Madrid.
Wenger finally landed the Brazilian known as 'The Beast' in a swap deal with Jose Antonio Reyes on transfer deadline day, and the Samba star has now revealed he made his delayed move to The Gunners after speaking to compatriot Gilberto and being impressed with the setup under Wenger.
"The first time Arsenal wanted me it was difficult," said Baptista.
"I had been two years in Seville and had to stay in Spain to get my passport.
"The talks with Madrid were very advanced and I thought it was the right move for me because it is such a big club, but nothing happened for me in my time there.
"Then I got the second opportunity with Arsenal.
"The setup and the organisation here persuaded me it was the right thing to do.
"Gilberto said if I had the chance to play for Arsenal I should take it because it is such a great club.
"There are only one or two teams in Europe that play football that is so fast and attacking."
Baptista was also attracted to a sense of stability at Emirates Stadium, with Wenger's near ten years in charge contrasting sharply with a season of managerial upheaval at the Bernabeu that saw Wanderley Luxemburgo, Juan Ramon Lopez Caro and, finally, Fabio Capello take charge of Los Merengues.
"What appealed to me as well was that the manager, Arsene Wenger, had been ten years with one club," Baptista continued.
"Gilberto said he was a good man, a calm man and the club was also tranquil and stable.
"That was the big difference with Madrid. They had five managers in three years - I had three in one season - and even now it will be a while before the club can settle down and move forward.
"They might be rich, but that is not enough.
"When I saw Arsenal last season they had a lot of players under the age of 25 and, while they might be in transition now, they will get where they want far quicker than Madrid."