Arsene Wenger's 20 years at Arsenal: He was the future once
Critics say it is time for the north London club to take a new direction
On the day Arsenal celebrated twenty years of life under Arsene Wenger, the richest man in Africa was talking about the future and his plans to buy the north London club within four years. Aliko Dangote is a Nigerian businessman with, according to the Daily Mirror, "a reported worth of $10.9billion". He's also an ardent Arsenal fan and in an interview with Bloomberg Television in New York he outlined his vision for the club.
"It's not about buying Arsenal and just continuing with business as usual," explained the 59-year-old Dangote. "It's about buying Arsenal and turning it around. I've run a very successful business and I think I can also run a very successful team."
On the question of why Arsenal, Dangote says: "If I buy all the Nigerian clubs, the Nigerian flags will continue to remain here. But buying Arsenal will take the Nigerian flag worldwide. Just like whenever Abramovich is mentioned, the name of his country, Russia comes up. Everyone knows he's Russian."
According to Forbes, Dangote is around $2.5 billion poorer since they published its annual ranking of Billionaires in March this year. At the time, reports Forbes, he was worth $15.4 billion but Dangote "now has a fortune of $12.9 billion, a fortune decline caused by Nigeria's recent devaluation of the Naira. "
That's led Dangote to admit that he will have to bide his time before making a bid. "When we get this refinery on track, I will have enough time and enough resources to pay what they are asking for," he said. "Right now, with what we're facing, over $20 billion of projects, I cannot do both."
Arsenal's majority stakeholder is Stan Kroenke with a 66 per cent stake in the club and while the American seems content with how the club is performing on the field, despite 12 years without a Premier League title, Dangote has been more critical in the past. Declaring that Wenger needs to "change his style a bit", he has also stated his belief that the club was "needing a new direction".
But it's unlikely that new direction will come under the 66-year-old Wenger, who on Thursday celebrated his twentieth anniversary at the club. He was unveiled as the new Gunners boss on 22 September 1996 after a period in which the club had finished 10th , fourth, 12th and fifth in the Premier League. In his first press conference he told the fans: "No team can be attractive and fantastic in every match, but my message to the fans is come here and be happy,"
The fans were delighted in the next decade as the Gunners won three Premier League titles and four FA Cups (including two 'Doubles'), as well as producing the Invincibles, the 2003-04 side who went the whole Premier League season unbeaten.
Since 2006, however, all Wenger has to show are the FA Cup triumphs of 2014 and 2015.
As The Guardian noted, when he arrived in north London he was the future but 20 years later the Frenchman "has by now pretty much completed the full circuit from youthful innovator... to something that looks a bit like the opposite: stick in the mud, barnacle, emissary from the distant past."