Friday 20 April 2018

Wenger: I turned down PSG job three times because of my love for Arsenal

Arsene Wenger has chosen to remain at Arsenal despite offers from Paris Saint Germain, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City and the England and France national teams Photo: BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images
Arsene Wenger has chosen to remain at Arsenal despite offers from Paris Saint Germain, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City and the England and France national teams Photo: BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Arsene Wenger will put his Arsenal team up against Paris Saint Germain tonight, after admitting for the first time that he has turned down the job at the Parc des Princes three times before.

Ever since Qatar Sports Investments bought PSG in 2011, the president Nasser al-Khelaifi has been desperate to attract his close friend Wenger to take over.

Wenger was offered the job in 2011, when QSI bought PSG, again in 2013 when Carlo Ancelotti left to be replaced by Laurent Blanc, and even in 2014, just before he signed his latest Arsenal contract, when Monaco were also interested in taking him back to the principality.

Wenger had always thought that if he returned to French football it would be to PSG, but on all three occasions he decided to stay at Arsenal.

He has also turned down approaches from Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City as well as the England and France national teams, completing 20 years in charge of Arsenal instead.

Yesterday evening, Wenger revealed how hard PSG's Qatari owners, with whom he is still in touch, had tried to make him the manager there.

Confirming the three approaches from PSG for his signature over the last few years, Wenger said it was his loyalty to Arsenal that kept him in the job.

"Because I love where I am," Wenger said. "I know well the (PSG) owners, but I feel always I remained loyal to Arsenal Football Club because I think it's a club that has the qualities I love."

This is Wenger's 19th Champions League campaign but the first time he has faced PSG as Arsenal manager. He said how much he was looking forward to a match against the reigning French champions at the Parc des Princes.

"I like to come to Paris," Wenger said. "It is a city I love, it's my country, a country I love. PSG are a good test for us. They're a team who are, in France, the team above everyone else.

"In France they always produce good football teams and players, so it's exciting to come to this city and compare to where we are this season compared to everyone else."

Wenger has been fiercely critical of 'financial doping' by Chelsea and Manchester City, but when given the opportunity to criticise PSG for their own billionaire benefactor model, Wenger chose not to.

"It's an important game, but I don't think it goes beyond two good sides playing against each other," Wenger said, when asked about Arsenal and PSG's very different models. "There is no symbolism to it, no symbolic meaning to this match. We just want to pick up the three points."

Arsenal have been knocked out at the last-16 stage of the Champions League for the last six seasons, a record that has infuriated Wenger. He is determined to win Group A - also including FC Basel and Ludogorets - this season, which would mean that Arsenal would be seeded for the last-16 and would not have to play a group winner.

After a summer transfer window in which the club signed Granit Xhaka, Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez, Wenger was confident that he has a more experienced squad than ever before. That is why he believes that his team can win their group and reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2010.

"I was used to playing with my younger squads when you build a stadium because you don't have the resources," Wenger said. "Now I have a team with more experienced players. The squad is between 24 and 30. That's where you have a good combination of physical strength and experience."

Olivier Giroud is expected to make his first start of the season, after being gradually eased back into first-team action after Euro 2016, and making just two substitute appearances so far.

Laurent Koscielny has recovered from a facial injury and will start alongside Mustafi at centre-back.

Independent News Service

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