Arsenal secure Wenger with £80m summer war-chest
Arsene Wenger will be given full autonomy to preside over the largest transfer budget in Arsenal's history following confirmation yesterday that he will extend his contract beyond the end of this season.
The Premier League's longest-serving manager is ready to sign a new deal that is understood to be worth £24m over three years and will take him into an unprecedented third decade at Arsenal.
It was revealed in September that Stan Kroenke, Arsenal's majority owner, would ask Wenger to oversee the next phase of the club's development and chief executive Ivan Gazidis said yesterday that confirmation was now a formality.
"Arsene will be extending with us and, at the right time, we will make that announcement," said Gazidis. "We have always supported Arsene, the board and Stan Kroenke have always been completely behind him. Arsene has always been committed to the club. He's the right person to see us forward."
Gazidis was speaking at a press conference to announce a £150m five-year kit deal with Puma that is the largest in British football history. The partnership, which will increase Arsenal's annual revenue by £22m, will begin in July and be part of an eventual yearly increment in Wenger's spending power of £70m.
Arsenal could still add a forward before the transfer window closes on Friday, with the club hoping to sign Schalke's Julian Draxler. Contract extensions for Per Mertesacker and Tomas Rosicky are almost complete.
If major signings do have to wait until the end of the season, it is estimated that Wenger's budget for spending on transfer fees – or increases to the wage bill – would increase to around £80m.
Arsenal's kit deal with Nike dates back to 1994 and has been worth around £8m over each of the past seven years. The new contract, which is also the largest in Puma's history, is worth a basic £30m annually, and could rise to £34m with add-ons. It surpasses all existing kit deals in English football, with Manchester United receiving £25.4m a year from Nike and Liverpool £25m from Warrior. United, though, are soon expected to announce an enhanced contract with Nike worth almost £77m a year.
The Puma partnership is hugely significant to Arsenal's long-term strategy and, alongside the new Emirates shirt sponsorship contract and other commercial deals, will amount to a major escalation in the club's financial firepower.
Wenger yesterday described it as "a big moment for our club" and Kroenke will allow his manager to invest in the squad as he sees fit.
Wenger intends to continue with the strategy of building Arsenal around a core of young players who have been developed internally but then also use his enhanced spending power to add some of the world's best established talents.
It should mean that deals like the £42.5m club-record signing of Mesut Ozil can become more common. Draxler has a £37.8m buy-out clause and would be within Arsenal's budget.
Wenger has never previously extended his contract so late into the cycle but, according to sources, the delay has been more about being sure he is still wanted by Arsenal fans rather than offers from elsewhere, notably Paris Saint-Germain.
At the age of 64, and having been at Arsenal since 1996, the former Monaco and Nagoya coach also wanted to be certain he had the energy to lead the club into what he expects to be a new era of success.
Wenger has reached one Champions League final, won three Premier League titles and four FA Cups at Arsenal, but the last of those trophies was lifted in 2005.
"This is the biggest deal in our history," said Gazidis. "From this summer, that money will be available to the manager to use how he sees fit. We have a vision to be competing at the top of the world game.
"We get criticism along the way, we don't do everything right but, if you look at how the club has progressed, not from outside benefactors or state funding, but the efforts of people who love the club, when we do achieve success it will be incredibly meaningful."
(© Daily Telegraph, London)
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