LONDON: Arsene Wenger’s decision to leave Arsenal after over two decades in charge is like a “star has dropped out of the sky” claimed the man who appointed him to the job David Dein.
Dein, who stepped down as club vice-chairman in 2007, told Sky Sports on Monday Wenger’s legacy would not just be confined to the historic club but to world football as well.
“He will undoubtedly go down in history as the greatest Arsenal manager ever,” said Dein.
“His style of football, the way he has conducted himself, his honesty, integrity, the way he handles players, the way he is concerned with youth development — what he has done for the club is immeasurable.
“It’s not just for Arsenal. His legacy is for global football.”
The 68-year-old Frenchman guided the Gunners to three Premier League titles — two of those domestic doubles (1998/2002) whilst the third and last in 2004 was the ‘Invincibles’ team who went through the league season unbeaten — and a record seven FA Cups.
However, growing unease amongst the supporters at a lack of a title challenge — they will miss out on Champions League football for a second successsive season if they don’t win the Europa League — appeared to force him finally to leave, a year before his present contract runs out.
Dein, whose plucking the then unknown Wenger from Japanese outfit Nagoya Grampus Eight in 1996 proved one of the most inspirational moves in British football history, said fans should appreciate that without the ‘Invincibles’ season they would not be enjoying the state of the art facilities at the Emirates Stadium.
“When you go to the stadium today and you see that magnificent singing and dancing stadium, you have to say ‘thank you Arsene Wenger’, because we managed to get it through because of the team’s achievement,” said Dein.
“He has absolutely revolutionised the club. It was ‘boring, boring Arsenal’ at one stage. Now we’re playing pretty football.
“He is a football purist, so that is one of his legacies, and always year-on-year making a profit. He’s very astute; he can read a balance sheet.
“He is honourable, honest and an extremely reliable guy. The shareholders have probably tripled or quadrupled under Arsene Wenger and they should thank him.”
Dein also said he had been contacted by unnamed clubs on Sunday as to whether Wenger would still be interested in coaching.
“I personally had calls from various people yesterday, saying, ‘can I speak to him?’.
“The question is does he want to do it anymore?
“He’s going to be 69 in October but he’s extraordinarily fit. He is the same weight as when I met him – 75 kilos.
“He’s got a very active mind and such a knowledge of the game.”