Arsene Wenger: I Still want to manage another top European club


Arsene Wenger has opened the door on the extraordinary prospect of returning to Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium with another team after admitting that he hopes to continue in elite European club competition. “I hope these are not my last European cup games – my target is to play in Europe again,” said Wenger, ahead of Thursday’s Europa League semi-final first leg against Atletico Madrid. He had earlier replied that "the timing was not really my decision" in response to a direct question about why he was leaving a year before his contract ends and also revealed uncertainty about the imminent prospect of ending his record-breaking 22-year tenure in North London. “I’ve had no break [from football management] for 35 years,” said Wenger. “You can look around, and that doesn’t exist. I don’t know now how addicted I am. I am like a guy who plays Russian roulette every week and suddenly has no gun. I will see how much I miss that gun. “You live always in extreme situations. When I started at 33, I thought I would never survive in this job, but you learn to dominate your emotions. You are never sure if you do the right thing. It will be surreal when I don’t work. At the moment I work.” So, might he take as much as a year out, like Pep Guardiola did ­between his jobs at Barcelona and Bayern Munich? “It’s long – 365 days,” said Wenger, frowning at the thought. Looking relaxed and speaking more expansively than he generally has in recent years, Wenger also urged Arsenal to again be bold in hiring his successor if they judge him right for the job. “I wish that all goes well,” said Wenger, who famously arrived in 1996 to the headline: ‘Arsene Who?’ “You do not give 22 years of your life for something, go away and want things to collapse. Maybe when you have a big ego at 40, you think the world cannot live without you. At my age you understand the world continues and you wish that it continues better. “This team has quality. Two years ago, we finished second [in the Premier League]. Last year, we had 75 points and won the FA Cup and Charity Shield. We reached the ­final of the League Cup and a European semi-final. “I am convinced with two or three additions this team has the quality to fight for the championship. You will not be short of candidates. Green outside, nice trees, good grass. Fantastic. No pollution. Until the press conference starts.” Wenger rocked back grinning at himself with that final remark, but he also made no attempt to disguise how, for the first time, he has not been dictating the club’s direction. He admitted the timing of his departure announcement “was not ­really my decision” and again referenced those fans who have been campaigning for his exit. The Daily Telegraph reported on Friday that he was facing the prospect of being told to leave this summer anyway and, with Wenger also concerned at how fan disunity was harming the club’s image, the decision was made. “When some people are unhappy it is not always a majority, but they get the attention and they look like a majority,” he said. “I think people are intelligent and can make the difference between moments of unhappiness and global satisfaction for what I brought to the club. People will realise that to qualify for the Champions League for 20 consecutive years is not as easy it looks.” Of reports that other clubs were already trying to contact him, Wenger said: “They will find my phone number, don’t worry. At the moment, I’m not ready to commit to anything else but Arsenal.” For all his evident sadness at leaving, Wenger was willing to discuss the succession and he spoke positively about former Barcelona manager Luis Enrique and also his former captains, Patrick Vieira and Mikel Arteta. “They need to make the right decision, even if you have to be bold,” he said. “Is it former people who worked here? That is even better. But there are many players who had qualities. I don’t influence that choice, but I will stand behind the decision. Of course I have a high opinion of Luis Enrique.” Although Arsenal still have four more matches to play in the Premier League, Wenger knows that the mood of his departure will be defined also entirely by the Europa League and his quest for a first ­European trophy. Wenger has previously taken Arsenal to the final of both the Champions League and Uefa Cup – and he also reached the final of the Cup Winners’ Cup with Monaco in 1992. The Champions League final defeat against Barcelona, when Arsenal went down to 10 men and led until the 76th minute, remains the biggest regret of his career. “We played that year against ­Juventus, who had Ibrahimovic, Trezeguet and Vieira – and Madrid who had Zidane, Beckham, Figo and Ronaldo,” he said. “It would have been the greatest achievement. The history of the club [Arsenal] has become very demanding but the longer history of the club is not so bright that you can say the club has won 10 European Cups. It will feel an anticlimax of course if we don’t reach the final. I don’t know if there a perfect goodbye. I just want to give my best.” Meanwhile, Atletico manager Diego Simeone last night distanced himself from any suggestions he could be Wenger’s successor, saying he had not spoken to anyone at Arsenal and that he “loves it” at the Madrid club. Although Petr Cech is fit, Wenger is expected to make the surprise selection of continuing with David Ospina as his Europa League goalkeeper.

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