Arsene Wenger is worried Manchester City’s policy of buying up clubs around the world could see them side-step financial fair-play regulations.
Former Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard will turn out for City in the coming season having signed on-loan from New York City – a Major League Soccer franchise owned by the same powers as those in charge of the Barclays Premier League champions.
After falling foul of UEFA’s Financial Fair-Play regulations, City have been restricted to a 21-man Champions League squad this year – with eight home-grown players required in their Premier League squad.
Former Barcelona and Spain striker David Villa has also signed up to play for New York City next season – but has instead moved on loan to another club owned by the same group – Melbourne City of Australia’s A-League.
Although his move has not been officially confirmed, City manager Manuel Pellegrini has announced that Lampard will now occupy one of those berths after the England midfielder sealed a shock return to the Premier League just months after leaving Chelsea - who had not offered the 36-year-old a new deal at Stamford Bridge.
But Wenger, who has always been a staunch advocate of financial fair-play, believes the move could benefit City at the expense of Arsenal and their fellow title rivals.
“It is a surprise,” he said when asked about Lampard’s loan move.
“After the statements we hear it is a surprise but it looks like all of these ‘City’ clubs will feed the main club Man City – I heard they want to buy five clubs all over the world.
“I don’t know the rules well enough but they brought a franchise for 100million US dollars (£59.4million) to play in the States to play next season.
“At the moment the players they sign cannot play until next year so they will register them in the clubs where they put them and they can get out on loan.
“Is it a way to get around the fair-play? I don’t know. We are happy to dedicate the money to just run our club – there is not a lot of surplus to run other clubs.”
Wenger was talking following his side’s 1-0 Emirates Cup defeat to Monaco, a result which saw Valencia walk away with the pre-season trophy.
Wenger handed a first start to big-name summer signing Alexis Sanchez in the 1-0 defeat, with Radamel Falcao’s first-half header enough to give Monaco a win.
It followed a free-flowing Arsenal display in Saturday’s 5-1 victory over Benfica – with Wenger admitting playing twice in two days took its toll on his players.
“We have made a demonstration that in 24 hours a lot can change in football,” he said.
“As much as our performance was sharp, creative, dynamic and mobile yesterday, today it was static, lethargic and not convincing at all.
“I feel many players had not recovered physically and we not completely ready. Congratulations to Monaco they were better than us today, sharper and stronger - we lost the game because we deserved to lose it.”
Arsenal last won their own competition in 2010 and looked likely to break that run with success this time around, but a 3-1 win for Valencia over Benfica followed up their 2-2 draw with Monaco to hand them the trophy.