Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has admitted he’s “scared” of retirement as he enters the final year of his contract with his future uncertain, and insists that he must treat the club’s money like it was his own in the transfer market.
Wenger, 66, who will celebrate his 20th anniversary at the club in October, told former Charlton and West Ham manager Alan Curbishley in a new book that he fears he won’t be able to fill the emptiness that being away from the game would cause in his life.
Wenger is under big pressure to end Arsenal’s 12-year Premier League title drought this upcoming season and has said he won’t decide until next summer whether to renew his contract at the club.
But he said he doesn’t think he would handle retirement as well as Sir Alex Ferguson has since leaving Manchester United in 2013 after 26 years in charge.
“It’s been my life and, honestly, I’m quite scared of the day,” Wenger says in the book “Game Changers,” as reported by the Guardian. “The longer I wait, the more difficult it will be and the more difficult it will be to lose the addiction.
“After Alex retired and we played them over there [at Old Trafford] he sent a message to me to come up and have a drink with him. I asked: ‘Do you miss it?’ He said: ‘Not at all.’ I didn’t understand that. It’s an emptiness in your life, especially when you’ve lived your whole life waiting for the next game and trying to win it.”
Arsenal, who were the only Premier League club not to sign an outfield player last summer, has so far failed in their pursuit of a new striker and centre-back.
Wenger has often frustrated fans with his perceived reluctance to pay big transfer fees, but insists that he’s right to be careful with the club’s money.
“I personally believe the only way to be a manager is to spend the club’s money as if it were your own because if you don’t do that you’re susceptible to too many mistakes,” he said. “You make big decisions and I believe you have to act like it’s your own money, like you’re the owner of the club and you can identify completely with the club. Because if you don’t do that I think you cannot go far.”
That’s one of the reasons why Wenger is always on the lookout for young talent that can develop. But he said he has also increased the club’s scouting of the lower English leagues because the players who have to fight their way up to the top level often have more “hunger” when they get there.
Wenger made similar comments when discussing the rise of Leicester striker Jamie Vardy last year, but failed with a bid to bring him to the Emirates this summer. Wenger thinks players like Vardy, who spent years playing non-league football, have a bigger drive than those who sign with the top clubs as teenagers.
“I’ve fought all my life for footballers to make money but when you pay them before they produce it can kill the hunger,” he said. “What I think will happen is that you will have more and more players coming out of the lower leagues who have had to fight their way through.
“Compare that with a player who has been educated here, who has had Champions League for 17 years, who has not known anything else. It’s not a dream [for that player], it’s normal for him. But if you play for a team in the lower leagues and watch Real Madrid or Barcelona on Wednesday nights you think: ‘I’d love to play in games like that.’
“I’ve said to our scouts to do the lower leagues because the good players are there now. Don’t forget we have many foreign players in the Premier League, but good English players have to go down to develop.”