Arsene Wenger reflects on rejecting an offer from Real Madrid, and his failed move for Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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The former manager of Arsenal football club, Arsene Wenger said he had to reject coaching offers from top European clubs and countries like Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Paris St-Germain, France, England, and Manchester United while coaching Arsenal because of his loyalty to the club.

A European club as huge as Real Madrid approached the French tactician twice but the 70-year-old coach turned down the offers because he was engrossed in his job at Arsenal.

Though Arsene Wenger failed to win the UEFA Champions League with Arsenal, he is regarded as the most successful coach at the club. He admitted that he was very close to joining Real Madrid as the club’s football manager because it was difficult for any manager to reject a club as huge as Madrid twice.

“Certainly Real Madrid, because you do not know many people who turned them down twice”, Wenger told BBC when asked about the club he almost left Arsenal for.

“And it was to stay with a team which doesn’t have the resources to win the championship. But I told myself if I was going to go for the challenge of managing Arsenal, I would go until the end.

“You have different types of managers. I was the longest-serving manager at Monaco and the longest-serving manager at Arsenal – so it’s part of my personality.”

Arsene Wenger spent 22 years of his life as an Arsenal manager between 1996 and 2018. While at the English club, the 70-year-old tactician won three Premier League titles, 7 FA Cup titles, and 7 Community Shields.

The hallmark of his coaching career at Arsenal was when he helped the club to win the Premier League unbeaten at the end of the 2003-2004 season.

Arsene Wenger lifting the Premier League title at the end of the 2003-2004 season.
Arsene Wenger lifting the Premier League title at the end of the 2003-2004 season.

When asked what Arsenal means to him, Arsene Wenger said the club is the love of his life and reflected on how he gave 22 years of his life to the club.

I gave 22 years of my life to the club”, he said. “I built the training center and I built the Emirates Stadium. I gave a lot of sweat to get the stadium money paid back and to create an atmosphere and infrastructure to allow this club to do well and invest in the future. I think we are in a good way.

“I’m a little bit like a guy who’s ended a relationship and has no contact with his children anymore but he still loves them.”

Arsene Wenger and Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Arsene Wenger and Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Arsene Wenger and Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Meanwhile, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the goals’ king at AC Milan and former Paris Saint Germain striker, would have been Arsenal’s player if Arsene Wenger had offered him a direct contract instead of inviting the Swedish forward to the club on trial.

Ibrahimovic told those who cared to listen that he decided not to attend to Wenger’s invitation because he felt he was already too good to go through football trial despite playing in a lower league.

When asked whether he ever regretted inviting Ibrahimovic on trial instead of offering him a permanent deal, Wenger said: “Not really, because he was a 17-year-old boy playing at Malmo in the second league in Sweden.

“And nobody knew him. We gave trials to many players at 17 – it was normal before you make a decision.”

Arsene Wenger has been out of coaching since 2018. In November 2019, the French coaching icon accepted the role of Fifa’s chief of global football development. He has been serving in that capacity since then.