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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 July, 2004, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
Vieira quiet over future
Arsenal and France midfielder Patrick Vieira
Patrick Vieira has heightened the uncertainty over his Arsenal future by refusing to comment on whether he is set to join Real Madrid.

"I am sorry," said Vieira when questioned by a Spanish reporter on Arsenal's tour of Austria.

"I cannot speak. This is not the right moment. I cannot talk about Real Madrid. Leave me. Don't do this."

Vieira's agent, Steve Kutner, has said he has "met (Arsenal vice chairman) David Dein about Patrick's future".

But Arsene Wenger remains hopeful Vieira will not join Real Madrid.

Wenger denied there had been any bid from Real and insisted: "He would not go to Real Madrid.

"If that was going to happen it would have happened a long time ago."

Last week, Real were reported to have stepped up a bid for the French midfielder by sending agent Luis Vicente to London to help clinch the deal.

Vicente does not work directly for Real but has close ties there having acted in Luis Figo's move to the Bernabeu.

And Kutner claimed: "Patrick has talked to Arsene Wenger and of course they were not talking about his holiday."

But, when asked if a transfer request from Vieira would come as a shock, Wenger said: "Of course."

Vieira, who has three years left on his contract with the Premiership champions, flew into Austria on Saturday with the other Arsenal players who had featured in Euro 2004.

But he did not watch the pre-season friendly against Grazer AK, which Arsenal won 2-1, and remained in his hotel in Bad Waltersdorf.

Real veteran Ivan Helguera has singled out Vieira as a player to replace Claude Makelele as the team's holding midfielder.

Makelele was sold to Chelsea for 16m last season.

"Since we sold Claude Makelele, it can't be denied that we've not really had a defensive midfielder like him," said Helguera.

"Vieira is a player who has all the necessary defensive characteristics.

"Guti and David Beckham did a good job for us last season but Claude was important for the whole side and this season we need a great player to take his place."

It has also been claimed that Porto's defensive midfielder Maniche is on his way to Arsenal as Vieira's replacement.

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