When Arsene Wenger blows out the candles on his 70th birthday cake on October 22 it will mark 527 days since his final game in charge of Arsenal.
After a 22-year reign as Gunners manager ended with a 1-0 win at Huddersfield – those supporters split on whether he should have been replaced years before united in their praise for a man who delivered three Premier League trophies, seven FA Cups and an unbeaten ‘Invincible’ season.
Given those accolades and plenty more besides, many would have expected Wenger to walk into another major job.
The links and gossip came and went – Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Everton, France – as Wenger was rumoured to be close to such posts only for someone else to fill the void.
“I had opportunities to work in England but I turned them down,” he said recently when asked what his long-awaited next move would be.
Wenger said he remained “too linked” to Arsenal and his track record of seeing out his contracts and honouring agreements means it is very unlikely he would ever manage on these shores again.
As he approaches 18 months out of the game and his eighth decade, he could also be seen by some as no longer the man to turn to for a top club.
Instead, he claims he has been offered a major job at FIFA – the world’s governing body seemingly lining him up for a key role.
“It’s chief of football development in the world and that decision will be made very soon,” he said at a recent event in London where he was named a Nordoff Robbins ‘Legend of Football’.
“They look for people who have big experience and knowledge of the game who have learned a lot.
“I just want to share what I’ve learnt, and give it back to the game in a different way.
“I’m not sure that I would stop coaching as well, because the devil is still in there. But I have to see, do I like it, and can I be efficient?”
Such a role would see Wenger established as a figurehead rather than being back in the dugout – but will the managerial bug bite again?
Any time a post becomes available at a major European club, Wenger’s name has been in and around those mentioned as the favourite – even being linked with Manchester United in recent weeks – and that is not likely to end any time soon, with or without FIFA employment.
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