As the vultures circled on the morning of February 17th for Le Professeur’s pre-Sutton United press conference – the London Colney car park was notably more full than usual – Arsene Wenger gave a composed interview. The former AS Monaco manager has a remarkable ability to dust himself down and look forwards.
Class till the very end, that will be Arsene Wenger. The Frenchman deserves to be carried out of the Emirates front door on a golden chariot. However, he’ll no doubt exchange a few final pleasantries with the kitchen staff, and then quietly head out the back door.
The fire and desire to still succeed at Arsenal will never die inside of Wenger, but for the first time in his astonishing tenure, there’s a feeling from the manager himself that it’s time to leave – the old adage of if you truly love someone, you want to see them happy, even if it’s without you, feels apt.
Look, I will decide on my future at this club in March or April. Of which year? I haven't decided.
— Wenger Knows Best (@wengerknowsbest) February 17, 2017
“No matter what happens I will manage for another season. Whether it’s here or somewhere else, that is for sure.”
The thought of Wenger managing anyone else other than Arsenal, a club where his DNA runs from top to bottom, is, for want of a better word, unsettling.
If Paris Saint-Germain hadn’t pulled off the remarkable result and perfect 4-0 performance against Barcelona, the move to the French capital would make the most sense for Wenger. A near on perfect fit. It’s a move that could still conceivably happen.
Ironically, it may well be the Ligue 1 defending champions dismantling of Barcelona that hands Wenger the perfect job. Barcelona would want him. He’d want to go there. It’s the perfect marriage.
Wenger will have options from London to Shanghai when he walks away this summer. But after years of selflessness, sacrifice and a lack of gratitude from players and fans, no one would blame Wenger for wanting a bit of ‘reward’.
"I've supported this club for years, but I can't do it anymore, fam. It's over. Wenger's got to go, bruv." – Anonymous ArsenalFanTV guest pic.twitter.com/mIyIW0idp1
— Maxi Rodriguez (@FutbolIntellect) February 15, 2017
The football script is already written for it: Arsene Wenger being handed the job Jose Mourinho wanted for so long, and is still so bitter about, because Wenger is everything Barcelona – and any self respecting club – would want.
Arsene Wenger signs Mesut Ozil in a cut-price deal, with the German international entering the final 12 months of his Arsenal deal, with Hector Bellerin also moving to the Catalan giants.
The Champions League round of 16 comes, Arsenal draw Barcelona. And despite valiant efforts from the Gunners in the second-leg at the Nou Camp, they aren’t able to amend the damage done in the first-leg and overturn the 5-1 deficit.
Wenger’s Barcelona go on to the lift the Champions League in his debut season. The 12-month contract comes to an end, and Barcelona want the greatest under appreciated manager of all-time to sign a three-year deal.
Arsene is done now, though, he’s achieved everything he wanted to; the Champions League slots in alongside the unbeaten season.
The BBC Sport montages are emotionally captivating – wonder what Coldplay soundtrack they’ll use? – and the vultures who tried to take Wenger apart are now writing glowing character references.
Wenger turns down a leaving ceremony; he’s never been one for the attention – ironic considering the eyes that are on a top flight manager – but a love for the game burns stronger than anything for Arsene. It just so happens he’s done well from his passion.
Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez head up to Arsene’s office with a farewell cake – a jovial picture of the headline when Wenger bid £40million and a pound for the then-Liverpool striker, Suarez, is on it – they get there but Le Professeur has already left.
Where can he be found? Some say he climbed the roof of the Emirates that night, and looked down on his greatest achievement, tinged with a slight pain of regret at what might’ve been.
Arsene Wenger, the man who did it all the right way, remains loyal to the very end, whether those around him deserved it or not.
Wenger’s leaving Arsenal this summer, but who’s replacing the Frenchman in north London?