Arsenal will be powerless if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang decides that he wants to leave the club, says Nigel Winterburn, with it up to Mikel Arteta to try and talk the prolific striker into staying.
A switch for the Gabon international has been mooted with another transfer window now open.
Aubameyang has sought to quash that speculation, with there no plans on his part to push for a move in January.
Speculation refuses to go away, though, with the 30-year-old frontman having been linked with the likes of Manchester United and Barcelona.
If his head is turned, then Arsenal will find it difficult to prevent him from heading for the exits.
Gunners legend Winterburn admits as much, telling Love Sport Radio : “If a player wants to leave and run down his contract, there's not really anything you can do.
“It doesn't matter who you are or who you have at your club - if the player wants to leave, he will leave.
“Aubameyang will have his own views on what he wants to do. Players hold the key to everything now - you cannot force a player to sign.
“It's crazy if the club don't want him to stay that's crazy, but Arteta will try to persuade him with style of play, and who comes in to the club, too.”
Arsenal had been hoping to have Aubameyang tied to a new contract by now.
No extension has been agreed , though, to a deal which is due to run until the summer of 2021.
That uncertainty is keeping the rumour mill ticking over, despite claims from the player himself that no thought is being given to a fresh challenge elsewhere.
Aubameyang has told RMC Sport when quizzed on his future: “The English press likes to talk a lot.
“For now, I'm here. I'm 100% here.”
Aubameyang, who has inherited captaincy duties at Emirates Stadium this season, has recorded another 15 goals across all competitions in 2019-20 to highlight his value to the Arsenal cause.
It remains to be seen whether he will figure in an FA Cup third round clash with Leeds on Monday, with it possible that Arteta will look to shuffle his pack for a meeting with Championship opposition.