By Chris Harris

Arsène Wenger has the utmost respect for Sol Campbell.

The Arsenal manager made a surprise swoop for the former England centre back in January and was quickly vindicated as Campbell held the back four together at the business end of the season, winning an Player of the Month award in the process.

Wenger wanted the 36-year-old to stay at Emirates Stadium but Campbell opted for a new challenge at Newcastle and may line up against his old team in the Carling Cup on Wednesday night if he recovers from a thigh problem.

So does Wenger resent the fact Campbell turned down a new deal at Arsenal? Not a bit of it. The Frenchman has all the time in the world for his former defender and believes Campbell can carry on at the top level as long as he retains his hunger for football.

"I tried to keep Sol," reflected Wenger. "It was more a question of proposals but I wanted to keep him, personally. But he was free and he has chosen to go for a different challenge - I respect that.

"I respect Sol highly because last year when we had a difficult patch he was completely committed and he was our best player in some games. I will always respect him for the help he brought to us last year.

"[He can carry on at the top] as long as he has the needed motivation because Sol is a player who needs to work very hard to be sharp physically and it is not easy because when you get older you have to push yourself.

"But Sol is a fantastic battler and when he has got in his mind that ‘I want this battle’ then he will do it. As long as he can do that then he can play on because he has basic physical qualities because he is strong and quick.

"But how much does he want to? You should ask him that question."

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26 Oct 2010