Arsene Wenger admits that Alexis Sanchez's proposed transfer to Manchester United in a deal that would see Henrikh Mkhitaryan move in the opposite direction is "likely" to happen in the next 24 hours, although claims the Chilean forward will play for Arsenal against Crystal Palace on Saturday (20 January) if negotiations are not completed by then.
United have now seemingly become the sole suitors for Sanchez, who has entered the final six months of his contract in north London, after rivals Manchester City ended their long-term pursuit amid concerns over the total costs involved.
The Telegraph report such a deal, which agent Mino Raiola insisted was dependent upon his client Mkhitaryan agreeing terms with Arsenal, will end up costing an eye-watering £180m ($249m) after Sanchez supposedly settled on a four-and-a-half year contract at Old Trafford worth £27m a season before tax.
United are also expected to pay a £30m transfer fee in addition to a £20m signing-on fee and an agents' fee in excess of £10m.
"Yes it is likely to happen," Wenger told reporters when grilled on all things transfer related during a press conference held before the visit of Palace to the Emirates Stadium on Friday morning, per The Mirror.
"But any minute things can break down. That's how the transfer market is. These things are never guaranteed."
Asked if Sanchez could still play for Arsenal again, he added:"Yes. If it doesn't happen he will play on Saturday."
Mkhitaryan's considerable financial demands were rumoured to be holding up confirmation of the part-exchange deal, though the Gunners boss does not believe that will present a potential barrier to the oft-maligned Armenian playmaker heading south.
"Yes that is my understanding [that Mkhitaryan will join Arsenal]," he said. "I like the player. The wages will not be a problem."
Wenger reiterated that he would have sold Sanchez in the summer had Arsenal been able to secure a suitable replacement - their deadline day swoop for AS Monaco's Thomas Lemar ended in failure after a £60m fee was initially agreed with City - and stressed that the club did "the maximum we could afford to do" in terms of attempting to convince him into signing an extension.
He conceded that the FA Cup holders simply could not compete with the Manchester clubs purely in terms of finances, but does not think that means they cannot hope to match them on the pitch.
The Frenchman did not want to comment specifically on Sanchez's rumoured salary, stating only that he respected a "very well managed" outfit in United due to them "raising the money they pay to players with their own resources."