Arsenal skipper Patrick Vieira has dropped his biggest hint yet that he is planning to sign a new contract with the Gunners.

The French midfielder has been persistently linked with a move away from Highbury, with Real Madrid and Manchester United among those said to be interested in buying him but Vieira has confirmedthat he has begun new contract talks with the north London club.

“I have entered negotiations to extend my contract, which expires in 2004,’ admitted Vieira.

“I am taking part in talks to find a common ground and I cannot see any reason why I shouldn’t stay.”

“I have experienced so many things with that club, and for me winning the Champions League with Arsenal would be more meaningful than with Manchester United or Real Madrid.

“That is how I see things. I started from nothing and winning the most beautiful trophy with my club would be extraordinary.

“Being the captain of Arsenal fills me with pride.”

There were question marks over Vieira’s future when chairman Peter Hill-Wood recently claimed that Arsenal would struggle to hold onto Vieira.

But the Frenchman dismissed talk of a move away from Hiighbury.

: ‘I must admit that I was surprised by Hill-Wood’s declarations and I did not take it so well. But I usually don’t have any contact with him.

‘When I discuss my contract it is always with David Dein, the vice-chairman and real boss at Arsenal.

‘And I am repeating it, I have no reason not to extend my contract with Arsenal, we will soonfind the time to discuss all that quietly.’