Arsene Wenger’s time at Arsenal spans over two decades with the Frenchman set to call time on his tenure at Emirates Stadium when the season ends.
Ten major trophies in 22 years, one unbeaten Premier League season and a legacy in English football which will never be forgotten, Wenger’s achievements and vast experience in the game have made him an immediate target for clubs and national teams around the world.
Goal understands that the 68-year-old is keen on staying in the game and already has a number of teams interested in his services. But, where will Wenger end up next season?
Wenger’s passion and enthusiasm for the game was demonstrated early in his career when he joined Cannes as assistant manager to Jean-Marc Guillou in 1983. A fresh-faced Wenger was earning £300-a-week, while the club also covered his living expenses, and he spent hours examining the opposition’s weaknesses and researching revolutionary fitness techniques which could improve the performances of his players.
One aspect of Wenger’s personality is clear – money has never been a sole motivator behind his passion for the game or why he decided to become a coach in the first place.
“I don’t have any particular attachment to money as this aspect has truly never occupied me,” he said.
“What I’m paid now [at Arsenal] is a result of finding myself in the financial explosion of this sport. But if I didn’t earn as much, I would still be the same coach.”
Japan has been mentioned as a potential destination for Wenger this summer and his relationship with the country goes back to when he was manager at Nagoya Grampus Eight in the mid-1990s. He credits the culture in Japan for improving his temperament and rediscovering his passion for the game.
“People in France thought that I was mad to be fleeing the country but Japan gave me back my love for the game. The players gave me more effort than I could possibly have expected.”
While a return to Japan could be a long shot, former Arsenal assistant manager Pat Rice believes Wenger could be the target of a footballing organisation such as UEFA or FIFA.
“I know he’s very well respected at UEFA and FIFA and I would not be surprised if he had an opportunity to go and join one of those,” Rice told Sky Sports .
“Football is his love. When I was working there, you would go in the next day and talk about what film or comedy show you watched the previous night, or if you’d been out in the West End.
“He would come in and ask if anyone had seen Juventus or Roma or Barcelona v Malaga.”
Another realistic option is the general manager or sporting director role at Paris Saint-Germain, a club where Wenger already has close connections. The relationship between Wenger and Nasser Al-Khelaifi goes back several years and has seen the Frenchman take part in media work for the Qatari-owned beIN Sports channel which the PSG chairman also fronts. He has failed in two previous attempts to bring Wenger to the club but there is a feeling that his departure from Arsenal could reignite talks this summer.
China has also been touted as a country which could tempt Wenger, with reports that he turned down a £30m-a-year offer to become the highest-paid manager in world football last season. Instead, Wenger decided to honour his Arsenal contract where he subsequently signed a two-year extension.
It seems unlikely at this stage that he would head back to the Far East but one option that could tempt him is German giants Borussia Dortmund.
The Bundesliga side look set to part ways with Peter Stoger, who has struggled to maintain a title challenge this season, with Dortmund 24 points behind champions Bayern Munich. They have a relatively young squad which Wenger may see as an exciting challenge when you factor in his history of success with youth players.
Real Madrid are also long-term admirers of Wenger having tried to sign the manager on several occasions since he’s been at Arsenal. Former Madrid president Ramon Calderon has previously claimed that Wenger was keen on heading to the Bernabeu but wanted to stay loyal to the Gunners and honour his contracts.
Indeed, with talk that Zinedine Zidane could leave Madrid at the end of the season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see current president Florentino Perez make a late push for Wenger, and it is a job which many would deem the most prestigious in world football.
“He will have no shortage of offers,” said former Arsenal vice-chairman and close friend David Dein .
“I personally had calls from various people yesterday, saying, can I speak to him? He won’t be short of offers from clubs. Over the last few years, he has been approached by some of the biggest clubs in the world, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, the national team wanted him at one stage.”
Wherever he decides to go this summer, there is no doubt that Wenger remains a man in demand. His skillset, experience and attack-minded footballing philosophy appeal to teams all over the world and it certainly won’t be long before we see the Frenchman patrolling the touchline again.