By now you’ve probably all seen reports that Wenger has ‘hinted’ he might be off to join Florentino Perez at Real Madrid next season. The papers have latched on to it, claiming that it is either confirmation that he is sick of the criticism being levelled at him for four trophyless years, or an ultimatum to get more transfer funds in the summer.
But it is also a story that, when you actually look at it, has no credence whatsoever.
The story stems entirely from comments Wenger made on French television, when asked about Perez’s plans to return to Real and revive the galactico culture he was famous for during his previous stint. Wenger was quite evasive on the subject, as he often is when talking about other clubs:
“With Florentino Pérez in charge, the project he has put forward would be interesting for any coach”
A sentence that has sparked a thousand rumours. But since when can ‘interesting’ be replaced by ‘appealing’? Having Perez as your boss is certainly interesting, but not for the right reasons – the manager’s job becomes that of a head coach only, as the president often supercedes him on transfers, arranging the arrivals of world stars every year, often those that do not fit into the team structure or ethos. By the end of his time at Real, the dressing room was an unmanageable mess of egos. Already, he is claiming he will bring stars with him if elected, and while these promises are always lies, it confirms that once again he intends to drive the deals.
All of this is against Wenger’s entire working practice. He nurtures players, encourages the development of young talent, and thrives on turning a rough diamond into exactly the sort of player Real themselves then seek. What’s more, he does this irrespective of whether money is available to capture more established talent. Combined with Perez’s penchant for taking control of matters he should leave to others, Real are about as far down the list of clubs suited to Wenger as anyone.
Wenger has consistently pledged his future to Arsenal, and he is aware that leaving now would be perceived as a failure, or at best a half success. He has come under unprecedented fire in the last few years, and it would be in his character to prove the masses wrong before he takes his career in a new direction. He knows this team is not a million miles away, and he will be keen to complete this incarnation before considering any other options. He is a proud man, and he does not walk away when he has such unwavering support from his employers.
We are entirely the summer, and that means the papers need to fill column inches with stories that are increasingly based in fantasy. Unable to cover much actual football, every sentence uttered is scrutinised in greater detail, and often, as in this case, completely misinterpreted.
It is only May – we have months of this to come.