In an exclusive interview with Le Parisien, Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger spoke notably about his personality, after it became aware that a chapter had been dedicated to him in TF1 pundit Christian Jeanpierre’s new book, charting the rise of 12 incredible individuals in the world of football. Extracts.
Are you flattered to appear in this book?
I am very happy, even if I think that my life could be considered as mundane because I have always done things in football. But when one is born, like me, in a little farming village, it could be seen as extraordinary to find that you end up being the manager of Arsenal. I see it.
In this moment, we see a solid sense of humour from you. It is not the image that you project…
It is true, it is an aspect of my personality that people do not know about. With my job, I am often stressed, so I might appear a bit like a constipated person. But I like to laugh when I am with my friends and to let my humorous side reign free, something that I obviously cannot do in front of the media. You know that you can quickly cause irreparable damage when you have my job. I am more interested in controlling that.
It seems as if you listen to Bob Marley in the car?
Yes, I love his music and the man that he was. He was not “fabricated”, he was real. I love people who do not have conventional paths and who stand out because of their talent. Raymond Devos and Pierre Desproges are also some of my favourite comedians.
Is Lionel Messi going to win his fifth Ballon D’Or in January?
Without a doubt because this year he won everything. For me, he is the greatest. Messi has been touched by God when he has the ball at his feet. He has a supersonic level of training. He scores 50 goals a season and makes about 20 assists. His balance is extraordinary.
Can France win EURO 2016?
With the generation of the Pogbas and Griezmanns, they have great potential. But it will also depend on how they deal with pressure. Brazil cracked during their own World Cup, England went wayward in their own Rugby World Cup, France did not win the their Euros in basketball…
Sport has become so vital in our society that the players have more and more pressure on their shoulders. That is multiplied when you are playing in a competition at home.
Can Benzema and Valbuena continue to co-exist in the French national team?
You have to remain prudent in this situation. We need to wait to see what the legal system decides. Is it truly serious, or is it not as bad as it has been made out to be? I have no idea, but this situation is sad for everybody.
How does a manager deal with such a situation?
In terms of football, we prefer to have all our players available, but you also have to maintain a respectable moral framework. The FFF will take, I think, a decision once the legal decision has been made. For the moment, they are right to wait.
On the BBC, Thierry Henry, who you managed for 8 years at Arsenal, regularly criticises your team. Does that annoy you? (The reporter got this question wrong – Thierry Henry appears on Sky Sports)
Not at all! That is the job of a pundit. He needs to say something. Personally, I do not listen to what he says.
Are you missing Sir Alex Ferguson?
We went up against each other quite often when he was still a manager, but the intensity of the battle has left respect (behind from both parties). It is always a pleasure to see him again.
How would you describe your relationship with José Mourinho?
I would prefer not to talk about it.
Do you think that you could manage another club other than Arsenal?
It seems to me that it would be difficult, I am 66. I still have a year and a half left on my contract, I will see what happens after. One small step after the other, it is more like that, the way I operate at the moment.
Are you still in contact with PSG?
Yes… but those are friendly contacts. It is always a pleasure to run into Laurent Blanc and Nasser (Al Khelaifi – PSG President). I am very happy that their club is getting good results.
Can they win the Champions League this season?
They have the ability to dream about it. It will be without a doubt difficult to beat Barca and Bayern. Those two teams are above the rest. PSG are just behind. But the season is long.