Lionel Messi would threaten the balance at Paris Saint-Germain if he joined the club from Barcelona, says Arsene Wenger.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi has been linked with PSG and Manchester City after failing to engineer a move away from Camp Nou in the close season.

The 33-year-old was not allowed to leave the club on a free transfer and is expected to depart when his contract expires at the end of the campaign.

But with PSG already possessing Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, former Arsenal and Monaco boss Wenger wonders whether there is truly a need for Messi at the Parc des Princes.

"Lionel Messi is one of the two best players in the world. Those who will replace Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi are already at PSG," Wenger said to Europe 1.

"After that, it's a question of balance in the club, a technical balance and a financial balance. Can you keep the balance at PSG by bringing in players like Messi? I'm not sure."

Success in the Champions League is the primary objective for PSG, who were defeated in the final in August by Bayern Munich.

But having Messi does not necessarily guarantee success in the competition. The Argentina star had seven shots on target in Barca's 3-0 home loss to Juventus on Tuesday, the most by any player in a Champions League game without scoring since at least 2003-04.

Ronaldo, a five-time winner of Europe's premier club prize, became the first player to score two penalties against Barca in a single Champions League fixture, helping bring parity to his head-to-head with Messi in the competition; they now have two wins and two draws apiece from six meetings.

PSG will on Wednesday resume their final Group H game against Istanbul Basaksehir – which was suspended on Tuesday following allegations of racism – with their spot in the last 16 already secured thanks to RB Leipzig's 3-2 win over Manchester United.

Thomas Tuchel's team look set for a more significant challenge in Ligue 1 this term, though, with their advantage at the summit just two points after 13 games.

Wenger believes less ingenuity in the middle of the pitch is the reason they are finding things tougher in the top flight.

"PSG have a little less potential because they had, for years, an absolutely flamboyant midfield, which is now a little less creative," said Wenger.

"I see them a little less dominant and it's reflected in the standings in Ligue 1.

"But they still have exceptional players who can make a difference in key moments, as we saw again at Manchester United."

Wenger, who now serves as FIFA's chief of global football development, reiterated his objection to the possibility of PSG leaving Ligue 1 and joining a European Super League.

"I will fight until the last day so that sporting merit is rewarded. The closed league, for me, is no longer competition, it is business," he said.

"I will always be fiercely opposed to it. Everyone can dream and everything is possible for people who work well."

 

How it started: With a Jermaine Pennant hat-trick against Southampton, in a "farcical" game.

How's it going? Try asking Britain's most decorated football manager, standing at the heart of his Manchester United kingdom, smeared in mozzarella, tomato and pepperoni.

It's October 24, 2004, and Alex Ferguson needs a change of outfit before heading to post-match interviews.

His United team have halted Arsenal in their tracks, a 2-0 victory at Old Trafford ending the Gunners' record 49-game unbeaten run in the Premier League.

And while Ferguson might be smarting as the victim of what would become known as 'pizza-gate', just moments ago he was rejoicing while Arsene Wenger was seething.

For the Scot, the next day's dry-cleaning bill would be a small price to pay.

But even Ferguson must have felt a grudging admiration, for he and United never scaled the heights that Wenger and his Invincibles reached in their greatest year.

Who were the Invincibles and how did their run begin?

Arsenal had already won the Premier League twice already under Wenger, in the 1997-98 and 2001-02 seasons, and they were hot favourites for the 2002-03 crown when a 2-0 victory over Charlton Athletic on March 2 gave them an eight-point lead over Ferguson's United.

They blew it from there, ultimately surrendering the last lingering hopes of the title when losing 3-2 at home to Leeds United on May 4, Mark Viduka striking a super late winner for Peter Reid's visitors to Highbury.

Manchester United, with whom Arsenal were waging a bitter rivalry, scooped the silverware.

But that loss to Leeds was the trigger point for the longest unbeaten run in English top-flight history, and three days later Arsenal crushed Southampton 6-1 in what would prove to be game one of their historic achievement.

The BBC reported it as "a slightly farcical" victory for Arsenal against Southampton that night, with both sides resting a host of players ahead of their meeting later in the month in the FA Cup final.

Pennant hit a treble and so did Robert Pires. Only one of that pair played an integral role for the duration of the Invincibles' run. Reader, it was not Jermaine Pennant.

Arsenal signed off their 2002-03 league campaign with a 4-0 win at Sunderland, where Freddie Ljungberg helped himself to a hat-trick too, but it was the following campaign where Wenger's men were truly sensational.

Unstoppable Gunners

Arsenal began 2003-04 in the Premier League with four straight wins before a draw with Portsmouth checked their charge ahead of a trip to Old Trafford on September 21 - a game that stoked the tension for what that occurred 13 months later.

Down to 10 men after Patrick Vieira saw red for kicking out at Ruud van Nistelrooy, Arsenal conceded a 90th-minute penalty. Van Nistelrooy stepped up with the chance to win the game - only for the Dutchman to smack his spot-kick against Jens Lehmann's crossbar.

Arsenal stars, including Martin Keown, playing the big man, confronted Van Nistelrooy at the final whistle, amid unsavoury scenes that saw the Gunners fined £175,000 by the Football Association, with short-term bans scattered among the unruliest of the players.

Arsenal escaped that day with a draw and never looked back. A 1-1 draw with United at Highbury in March left Arsenal seven points clear of second-placed Chelsea, and Thierry Henry's hat-trick in the next home game sealed a 4-2 win over Liverpool, proving a soothing result after FA Cup and Champions League exits.

United ended their FA Cup run and Chelsea eliminated Arsenal from Europe - sore losses, both.

Yet a 2-2 draw at Tottenham secured the title, with Arsenal grandstanding at White Hart Lane, home of their great north London rivals, and still their Premier League aura remained.

How it ended

Eight wins from nine at the start of the 2004-05 campaign pointed to Arsenal being prime contenders for another title. For how long would they stay unbeaten? Could the Invincibles repeat the trick?

United had won just three of nine by the time Arsenal arrived at Old Trafford on that fateful October day, when Van Nistelrooy this time made no mistake with a second-half penalty before Wayne Rooney marked his 19th birthday by sealing the home side's win late on.

If that was the main course, the tasty afters were reserved only for those with behind-the-scenes access, with word trickling out of chaos in the tunnel, by the dressing rooms.

Ferguson, in his 2013 book My Autobiography, wrote that Wenger "was livid" after the game.

"His fists were clenched," Ferguson claimed.

Soup was thrown. Or was it pizza? Maybe it was both, as many reported at the time - pea soup or tomato soup, depending on your newspaper of choice.

Ferguson would know, and he wrote in his book: "The next thing I knew I had pizza all over me."

The players were at loggerheads, and in admitting his guilt as recently as 2017, Cesc Fabregas said he had ventured out of the Arsenal dressing room to see punches being thrown.

The 17-year-old Fabregas, a slight figure not built for dust-ups, decided the pizza would be his tool of war, and off it went into the throng, unwittingly finding what some might consider the bullseye of all bullseyes.

Invincibles never die, and nor do their statistics

Arsenal went past the previous record of 42 unbeaten top flight games, set by Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest from 1977 to 1978, when they thumped Blackburn Rovers 3-0 at Highbury on August 25, 2004.

The third goal that day was scored by Jose Antonio Reyes, a January acquisition who shone brightly at Arsenal for a while, played for Spain at the 2006 World Cup and also appeared for Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla. In June 2019, Reyes died in a car accident.

In their famous run, Arsenal won 36 times and drew 13 matches, scoring 112 goals and conceding just 35, with 20 clean sheets.

Thierry Henry and Kolo Toure each appeared in all but one of the games, with goalkeeper Lehmann playing 47 times and winger Pires next on the list with 45 outings, ahead of Ashley Cole and Lauren (both 41), Dennis Bergkamp, Ljungberg and Gilberto Silva (all 39) and Sol Campbell (38).

Henry was at his magnificent peak, plundering 39 goals across the run, along with 19 assists, with Pires scoring 23 and Ljungberg 10. Reyes bagged eight and Bergkamp seven, the Dutchman adding 13 assists.

It meant that Henry had an involvement - putting the ball in the back of the net or setting up the chance - in 52 per cent of Arsenal's goals in those 49 games.

Pires, also in his pomp, was next, playing a part in 29 per cent of the goals, with Bergkamp (18 per cent), Ljungberg (17 per cent) and Reyes (12 per cent) rounding off the top five contributors at the sharp end.

Could anyone go 50 unbeaten now?

Liverpool got to 44 before Watford stopped them in their tracks earlier this year, and the truth of it is that footballers are imperfect and will have bad days.

Manchester City reached 30 unbeaten before Liverpool beat them 4-3 in January 2018.

Arsenal's Invincibles remain held up by many as the benchmark team of the Premier League era.

Pep Guardiola's Manchester City reached 100 points, Liverpool hit 99 last season, but they both had slips along the way. Arsenal completed a full season unbeaten in the league, and then some.

Wenger's third Premier League trophy was also his last, but his greatest Gunners regiment, from field marshals Henry and Bergkamp down to lance corporals Pascal Cygan and Jeremie Aliadiere, will not be forgotten in a long time.

And 'pizza-gate' might carry different connotations in the modern world, but there was no conspiracy theory surrounding the Old Trafford flying slice.

It happened all right. Perhaps somewhere there are still the stains to prove it.

Lionel Messi is preventing Antoine Griezmann from expressing himself at Barcelona as the Frenchman continues to be overshadowed by the superstar captain, according to Arsene Wenger.

Griezmann arrived from LaLiga rivals Atletico Madrid in a blockbuster €120million transfer last year but he has struggled to establish himself alongside Messi at Camp Nou.

An unused substitute in Barca's 5-1 Champions League rout of Ferencvaros on Tuesday, Griezmann has failed to score in four LaLiga appearances this season – only managing one shot on target without creating a single chance.

While Messi has just one league goal, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner has registered seven shots on target and created six chances for his team-mates.

Former Arsenal manager Wenger believes France international Griezmann is being hindered by Messi's presence in his preferred central attacking position.

"Not playing at his position is complicated in the long term," Wenger told beIN SPORTS.  

"At the start, the guy accepts it but, if he does not meet his needs in the long term and he feels that the position does not allow him to express his qualities, he will become discouraged.

"Today, he is a player who must play in the centre because he has a great work rate, a precision in his passes. 

"He can be dangerous with the last pass and by scoring goals, but there is congestion because he is in the range of play of Messi."

In his first season with Barca last time out, Griezmann scored nine goals, supplied four assists and created 33 chances in 35 LaLiga appearances.

Griezmann finished 2019-20 with 15 goals in all competitions – a tumultuous campaign which saw Barca dethroned by bitter rivals Real Madrid and humiliated 8-2 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals.

The 29-year-old scored 133 goals in 257 games for Atletico between 2014 and 2019.

Arsene Wenger has described the criticism he received from sections of the fan base and board towards the end of his Arsenal tenure as "unjustified" and "brutal". 

The Frenchman spent 22 years as manager of the Gunners, winning three Premier League titles and the FA Cup on seven occasions, while famously overseeing the Invincibles side of 2003-04. 

However, Arsenal struggled to match the standards of the golden days of Wenger's early tenure after the move to Emirates Stadium in 2006, though there were three FA Cup triumphs in 2014, 2015 and 2017. 

There was an increasingly vocal "Wenger Out" brigade at Arsenal towards the end of his stay at the club and those moments were tough for Wenger to accept. 

Speaking to the Guardian, Wenger said: "The hostility of a section of the fans and the board was unjustified. 

"I felt as if I’d built the training centre and the stadium myself brick by brick...it was very hard, very brutal. 

"Arsenal was a matter of life and death to me, and without it there were some very lonely, very painful moments."

Elaborating further on his time at Arsenal being life and death, Wenger said: "It was my approach to the job.

"When you drive home after a defeat, and you think about the number of people who are destroyed, you have a sense of responsibility, of guilt.

"I believe there is no other way for a manager than to identify completely with the club, and to behave like he owns it."

Wenger opened up on the struggles he went through after a defeat, often replaying games in his mind, causing sleepless nights.

"I was more mentally sick. I made 1,235 games for Arsenal and didn't miss one. I can't remember when I stayed in bed to miss training in 22 years," he said.

"But, after defeat, you never sleep. You have an internal film that goes through your mind. It's a sense of anger, humiliation, hate. 

"The next day you have to put that into perspective but every defeat is still a scar on my heart."

Mikel Arteta said it was a "really difficult decision" to leave Mesut Ozil out of Arsenal's Europa League squad, as he welcomed the "buzz" created by the signing of Thomas Partey.

Ozil has been outcast under Gunners boss Arteta this season and the Germany World Cup winner's long-term future was cast into further doubt when he failed to make their European party.

It remains to be seen if Ozil, who turned 32 on Thursday, will be included in Arsenal's 25-man squad list for the Premier League, which clubs have until October 20 to submit.

Asked about the decision to leave the midfielder out of the Europa League selection, Arteta said: "Well he wasn't the only one not in the squad.

"It was a really difficult decision for me to make because to leave players out of the squad at that level when they know they cannot get involved is really tough.

"I don't like it at all but the decision has to be made because we exceeded the amount of foreign players [we can include] and unfortunately we had to make that decision."

Ozil has been in steady decline since providing 19 assists and creating 28 big chances in 35 Premier League outings during the 2015-16 season, dipping to nine, eight, two and two in terms of assists in the following four campaigns.

Arsene Wenger was the man to bring Ozil to the Emirates Stadium from Real Madrid and this week described Ozil's situation as a "waste", while he told talkSPORT on Thursday: "Mesut Ozil is a great player and a creative player.

"But you have to balance the team because on the defensive side of it, it is not his strength. Mikel Arteta has gone for a team with counter-pressing and who play high up, and everybody has to work hard so that is a bit of handicap for him.

"But he is not a bad character – he is a good guy. It just depends what kind of football you want to play."

Asked about Wenger's comments, Arteta replied: "I think you have to try and find a way to fit every player with their qualities - this is our job and our responsibility with the players you have to manage."

While Ozil is on the outside looking in, Partey arrived from Atletico Madrid on transfer deadline day after the Gunners paid his reported £45million release clause.

The Ghana international adds quality to Arsenal's midfield and Arteta is excited by his addition, even if there were a few nervy moments waiting for the deal to be completed.

"There is a buzz around the place, the fans are really happy. I've seen some positive reactions after we brought him," he said.

"It's the same with the team, same with the staff, he's a player we have rated for a long time and we have managed to bring him I think he's going to be a really important addition to the team.

"Up to the last minutes it's always a risk - a lot of things happened at the same time. There's a lot of paperwork to do, so it was a challenge to do it in 24 hours. In the end we managed to do it."

Arteta, who said he hopes Atletico can "respect" Arsenal opting to pay Partey's release clause, accepts there may be a period of adaption required.

"I think it's something individual, depending on many factors - how they settle here in the city with their families, whether they speak the language or not, whether their qualities fit the team or Premier League.

"You see some adapting very quickly, others need more time," he added.

This weekend sees Arteta once again come up against Manchester City, where he spent four years as assistant to Pep Guardiola.

Talks over a new deal for Guardiola, whose contract expires at the end of the season, have reportedly not yet begun.

Asked if that was a surprise, Arteta replied at his pre-match news conference: "I don't know - it's up to him. The last time I heard an interview he was really happy there, talking about the future, the signings they have done recently. I want to see him happy."

In his heyday, Arsene Wenger was widely praised for his trust in young players and eye for developing talent.

After all, Cesc Fabregas, Nicolas Anelka, Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie are just a few of the players he helped nurture into top-level international footballers.

But for every Henry is a superstar who got away… Or so Le Professeur would have us believe.

A football manager can't sign everyone, but as the joke goes, Wenger seems to have tried to buy all of them - all of the players. Or, all the really good ones anyway. Funny, that.

The Frenchman has been doing the media rounds of late and most recently floated the idea of Cristiano Ronaldo playing alongside Henry, Robert Pires, Sylvain Wiltord and Dennis Bergkamp in an interview with the BBC.

So, with that as the jumping-off point, we put together an XI made up entirely of players who supposedly came close to joining Wenger at Arsenal…

GIANLUIGI BUFFON

As the story goes, Wenger's pursuit of Buffon got to the point where the pair had dinner together during his days with Parma, but Juventus soon came along and made him the most expensive goalkeeper in the world at the time.

Everything suggests he would've been a remarkable signing in terms of ability and longevity. In 2017 he became the oldest player to captain a side in the Champions League final at 39 years and 126 days – and he's still going, three years on.

RAPHAEL VARANE

Granted, Wenger may not have explicitly said that he almost bought Varane during his formative years, but he was certainly frustrated to have missed out on him in 2013 when he queried why Arsenal hadn't been in for him two years earlier.

Varane has gone on to establish himself as one of the world's best centre-backs and in 2018 became just the third player to be on the winning team in the Champions League and World Cup finals in the same year, emulating Christian Karembeu (1998) and Roberto Carlos (2002).

VINCENT KOMPANY

It's arguable that Arsenal's biggest weakness in Wenger's final 10 years at the helm was their defence – a host of underwhelming options were signed and discarded.

Oh how different it might have been had they signed Vincent Kompany in 2006 when his agent claimed they were interested. He went on to captain Manchester City to two Premier League titles and played 265 times in the top-flight, more than any other Belgian.

GERARD PIQUE

It seems a long time ago that Pique was at Manchester United, struggling to earn a place in the starting XI, but even before then he could have ended up at Arsenal – and, stylistically, one has to wonder whether that would have been the better move for him.

Wenger has previously admitted they tried to get Pique but they were unable to beat United to his signature. He returned to Barcelona in 2008 and has since won three Champions League crowns, just one of three players to play every minute of those finals.

ROBERTO CARLOS

OK, to be fair to Wenger, this isn't one he has specifically claimed – rather Roberto Carlos himself hinted at the move in 2003 as his Real Madrid career appeared to be winding down.

As it was, he ended up staying in Madrid until 2007 before moving on to Fenerbahce, Corinthians, Anzhi Makhachkala (remember them?) and Delhi Dynamos.

N'GOLO KANTE

The one who got away… Twice. That's right, Wenger says he tried to sign the industrious Kante when he was at Caen and Leicester City.

He played a starring role as the Foxes remarkably claimed the Premier League title in 2015-16, before then joining Chelsea and becoming the only player to win the Premier League in successive seasons with different clubs.

PAUL POGBA

When Pogba left United in 2012, a whole host of fellow European heavyweights were linked with him, including Arsenal, but Juventus swiftly struck a deal and the Gunners' attempts fell flat.

He of course left Juve again in 2016, though the then world-record fee United paid was never likely to be matched by Arsenal, and in 2018-19 Pogba became the first United player to appear in the Professional Footballers' Association's (PFA) Team of the Year since Robin van Persie six years earlier.

YAYA TOURE

In hindsight, this one looks a particularly odd miss from Arsenal. Yaya Toure had a trial with the Gunners in 2003, a year after his brother Kolo signed for them, but wasn't particularly outstanding in a trial game and work permit difficulties made it tricky for him to join permanently.

That didn't stop him from enjoying a fine career, however, and he eventually made it to the Premier League in 2010 when joining Manchester City, with whom he became just the second African player to score in both an EFL Cup and FA Cup final.

LIONEL MESSI

That's right, the one you've been waiting for. In an alternate universe, Fabregas, Pique and Messi could have spent the best years of their careers in north London – Wenger attempted to prise all three away.

But six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi had already gotten "too big" reputation-wise when Arsenal made their move. In Barcelona he stayed and he has since become LaLiga's all-time leading scorer with 445 goals in 488 games – a truly remarkable feat, though not as impressive as playing well against Stoke City on a cold Tuesday night, some might have you believe.

ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC

In fairness to Wenger, he insists he has no regrets about not signing Ibrahimovic when he was a 17-year-old on trial. Whether he says as much privately is another matter.

Regardless, Ibrahimovic can console himself with the fact he has gone on to enjoy an incredibly successful career and scored Champions League goals for six different clubs, more than any other player in the competition's history. Unfortunately for him, however, he has never won European football's top prize.

CRISTIANO RONALDO

And finally, the other one you've been waiting for. Arguably the quintessential Wenger "nearly signed" claim relates to Ronaldo, whom he says almost joined Arsenal before United made their move in 2003. Like Buffon, Ronaldo also had discussions with Wenger over food, but he says the Gunners were pipped at the last.

Wenger apparently regards this as his biggest regret, and understandably so – Ronaldo has gone on to win everything in the game, including five Ballons d'Or, and is the Champions League's top scorer with 130 goals in 170 games.

Arsene Wenger regrets missing out on the chance to pair Cristiano Ronaldo with Thierry Henry at Arsenal and jokingly suggested his Gunners side may have scored 200 goals if he had.

Legendary ex-Arsenal boss Wenger has spoken on several occasions of how close he came to bringing Ronaldo to north London and this week claimed the Portugal great "had the shirt" after a deal was struck with Sporting CP.

Of course, a teenage Ronaldo instead joined Manchester United and became a global name, winning eight major trophies including the Premier League three times and the Champions League.

A move to Real Madrid in 2009 saw Ronaldo scaling even greater heights, becoming Los Blancos' record goalscorer and winning another four Champions League medals before joining in Juventus in 2018.

Ronaldo is also a five-time Ballon d'Or winner, a number surpassed only by his long-time rival Lionel Messi at Barcelona, and Wenger cannot help but imagine what life had been like if Ronaldo had played with the likes of Henry, Robert Pires and Dennis Bergkamp under his stewardship.

"Of course I think what if, for example, Cristiano Ronaldo played with Thierry Henry, Pires, [Sylvain] Wiltord and Dennis. Maybe we score 200 goals in a season!" He told BBC Sport.

"You regret sometimes, you think it's your fault that you didn't decide quickly enough or sometimes financially you couldn't agree quickly enough, but overall I must say you go to Chelsea, you go to Manchester United, you go to Liverpool...every club is full of stories like this."

There is a sort of long-running joke regarding Wenger and the players he missed out on signing during his 22-years with Arsenal.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, like Ronaldo, is another of the greats that slipped the net at Arsenal, with the Swedish star having had a trial at the club as a teenager.

But Wenger says the circumstances were markedly different to those involved in his pursuit of Ronaldo.

Asked if he wished he signed Ibrahimovic instead of inviting him for a trial, Wenger replied: "Not really, because he was a 17-year-old boy playing at Malmo in the second league in Sweden. 

"And nobody knew him. We gave trials to many players at 17 – it was absolutely normal before you make a decision."

Mesut Ozil has been frozen out at Arsenal and former manager Arsene Wenger described the situation as "a waste" for the midfielder and the club.

The German playmaker, now 31, joined in a then club-record deal from Real Madrid seven years ago, with Wenger saying Ozil possessed "all the attributes I look for in an Arsenal player".

But his reputation has nosedived since that reported £42.5million move and Ozil was left out of Mikel Arteta's Europa League squad last week, underlining how isolated he now is at the Gunners.

Wenger, whose 22-year time at the helm ended in 2018, lamented the position Ozil finds himself in and urged the club to reconsider their approach.

"I feel it is a waste for him," Wenger told BBC Sport of Ozil, who is reportedly earning £350,000 a week but has not played this season.

"Firstly because he's in the years where a player of his talent can produce the most. And it's a waste for the club as well because he's a super talent, a creative talent that in the final third can create that killer pass.

"The way football is going at the moment it's quick counter-pressing, quick transitions and everybody plays the same. It's kicked out players like Ozil. Although let's not forget who this guy is: a world champion who has played at Real Madrid.

"He's been the record player of assists, so you have to find a way to get him involved again."

Ozil's decline has been evident in the data behind his Arsenal career, which peaked in the 2015-16 season when he laid on 19 assists and created 28 big chances in 35 Premier League outings.

Only Thierry Henry and Kevin De Bruyne have had more assists in a Premier League season, with 20 each in 2002-03 and 2019-20 respectively.

But the numbers have gone the wrong way since then for Ozil, with dips to nine and then eight assists in 2016-17 and 2017-18, and big chances created sliding to nine and 13 across those same seasons.

Worse was to follow in the 2018-19 campaign, when he had two assists to his name in 24 top-flight appearances, a tally he matched last season from 18 outings.

Although Wenger may not like seeing his one-time star signing slide into obscurity, the Frenchman does rate Arteta.

"He has the ingredients to be a very good manager, a top manager, but many of my former players had these ingredients," he said.

"We have to give them time, let them do their job in the way they want to do it.

"He's intelligent, he has big passion and a strong character. And I believe he's surrounding himself with the right people."

Former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger conceded he is perplexed by how far Mesut Ozil's stock has fallen at his old club.

Ozil suffered his latest ignominy this week when the Gunners left the German playmaker out of their 24-man Europa League squad for the group phase.

The 31-year-old is yet to make one of Mikel Arteta's squads this season and his most recent appearance was back in March before the coronavirus-enforced lockdown.

A move in the transfer window never looked like materialising given his reported £350,000-a-week wages, though his contract does run out at the end of this campaign.

It was Wenger who brought 2014 World Cup winner Ozil to north London from Real Madrid in 2013 and the Frenchman cannot fathom how such a creative player has fallen from grace.

"He disappeared from the radar when I left the club," Wenger told Welt am Sonntag.

"He's an artist, but there is no longer a place for artists in modern football.

"The real reasons why he's not where he should be are a mystery to me."

Wenger, whose former club are now led by his old captain Arteta, believes it is a shame that Arsenal fans are being robbed of seeing Ozil on a regular basis.

"[It is] a waste, for him and for everyone who loves football," he added.

"People go to the stadium to see players like him."

Arsene Wenger dismissed a report claiming he had offered to take over as the Netherlands coach.

The former Arsenal manager was said to have offered his services to take charge of the Netherlands, according to Fox Sports, with Ronald Koeman leaving the helm to become Barcelona coach.

Wenger, 70, has not coached since leaving Arsenal in 2018 and is currently FIFA's chief of global football development.

The Frenchman dismissed the report, telling De Telegraaf: "That is a lie. I have not offered my services to anyone.

"I am the only one who talks about my own future."

Wenger left Arsenal after 22 seasons at the helm that included three Premier League titles and seven FA Cup wins.

Koeman is taking over at Barcelona after Quique Setien's sacking following the club's trophy-less 2019-20 season, including a capitulation in the Champions League.

He was expected to lead the Netherlands into the European Championship, but the tournament was postponed until 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Is Ronald Koeman the chosen one?

Quique Setien was sacked by Barcelona on Monday, following the club's Champions League horror show.

And Netherlands head coach Koeman – a former Barca defender – is reportedly on the verge of being appointed.

 

TOP STORY – KOEMAN TO LEAD STRUGGLING BARCA

Ronald Koeman is set to become Barcelona head coach, according to widespread reports.

Netherlands boss Koeman is reportedly the man Barca want to appoint following Quique Setien's sacking in the aftermath of their 8-2 Champions League humiliation against Bayern Munich.

Tuesday's frontpages of Marca and Sport say former Barca defender Koeman will replace Setien.

Voetbal and Sky Sports claim LaLiga giants Barca are holding talks with the Dutch Football Federation (KNVB) as they seek to appoint Koeman.

 

ROUND-UP

- With Koeman set to vacate his position, Fox Sports presenter Jan Joost van Gangelen claims former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has offered to take the Netherlands job. Wenger has been out of work since leaving Arsenal in 2018.

- The Guardian reports Premier League champions Liverpool are unwilling to pay the €30million (£27m) fee Bayern Munich are asking for star midfielder Thiago Alcantara. The Spaniard has also been linked to Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City.

Inter remain in talks with Brescia to sign star midfielder Sandro Tonali, reports Fabrizio Romano. Inter will reportedly try to finalise a transfer following the Europa League final. Tonali has also been linked to champions Juventus.

- Alfredo Pedulla says Napoli want to sign Arsenal defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos but are still trying to negotiate a fee. It comes as Arsenal reportedly close in on Lille centre-back Gabriel Magalhaes, who has also been targeted by Napoli.

City are preparing a new and improved offer for Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly, says Sportitalia's Pedulla. Napoli are reportedly keen to sell Koulibaly in order to raise funds for Gabriel.

- According to Sky Sports, Manchester United are monitoring Juve winger Douglas Costa. The future of Costa in Turin is in doubt as new boss Andrea Pirlo rebuilds and with United struggling to prise Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund, they could turn to the Brazilian.

- Cadena Ser claims Barca plan to force pay cuts on players who refuse to leave Camp Nou. Luis Suarez, Jordi Alba and Ivan Rakitic are among three of the highest earners who the club are hopeful of selling this off-season.

Milan are hopeful of re-signing Gianluigi Donnarumma and Zlatan Ibrahimovic before the end of the month despite negotiations dragging on, according to Calciomercato.

- AS reports RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano could join Real Madrid in 2021. Due to the financial situation amid the coronavirus pandemic, Madrid are reportedly holding off on major transfers until next year.

Mikel Arteta believes he faces a tougher job at Arsenal than Arsene Wenger did when he arrived in London in 1996, although he sees evidence the Gunners are fighting for him now.

Arsenal defeated Premier League champions Liverpool 2-1 on Wednesday, but Arteta acknowledged the gap between the sides remains "enormous".

Asked by Sky Sports to compare his brief with that of Wenger, who took over a team that had finished fifth in the previous season and won the title in his second campaign, Arteta did not shy away from the scale of the task.

"I think the context is different," said the Spaniard, who replaced Unai Emery in December. "I think the competition in the country right now is much harder than it was before.

"Arsene did some incredible things and he brought a new philosophy, new ideas to the country, and he was very successful. I've done nothing yet. I have everything to do.

"We will need support, we will need belief, and we need to go in the direction, it doesn't matter what happens."

Arsenal trailed to Sadio Mane's opener and only claimed the lead after uncharacteristic Liverpool errors let in Alexandre Lacazette and Reiss Nelson.

Arteta was therefore under no illusion that Arsenal are ready to compete with the Reds, explaining: "It's massive. We only need to look at the difference between the two teams today.

"The gap is enormous. The gap in many areas we cannot improve in two months.

"But the gap in the accountability, the energy, the commitment and the fight is now equal. Before, it wasn't like this. I'm very proud of that.

"The rest will take some time, but at least we've got that now. My message to the players is, with that, we can create something."

Arteta recognises Arsenal will need to invest if they are to make up the deficit, however.

"I don't know [if Arsenal have the necessary finance] – it's a big concern," he accepted. "You just have to see how [Liverpool] build those squads and it's no magic.

"You need to improve with quality, quality players, and you need bigger squads to compete in this competition. That is the challenge."

Arsene Wenger is "convinced" Barcelona will sign another forward despite expecting improvement from Antoine Griezmann.

Griezmann has struggled to hit top form in his first season at Barca, scoring 14 goals in 37 games since his €120million arrival from Atletico Madrid.

Barca are heavily linked with a move for Inter star Lautaro Martinez, who is considered a long-term replacement for Luis Suarez.

Former Arsenal manager Wenger believes Griezmann will improve, but feels Barcelona will add another forward this close season.

"Barcelona has always bought the greatest players. Personally, I'm not sure that Suarez needs to be replaced," he told beIN SPORTS.

"They can add another striker because it's true that Suarez and [Lionel] Messi are the main contributors and they might need somebody else who can score goals.

"I still think Griezmann at some stage will start to score goals, he doesn't look completely adapted, maybe now after confinement he will be refreshed because he's a good goalscorer as well.

"But I'm convinced they will buy another striker as well."

While Messi has scored 24 goals this season, Suarez has – like Griezmann – contributed 14, although he has played in 14 fewer games.

Barcelona, two points clear atop LaLiga, resume their campaign away to Mallorca on Saturday.

Lionel Messi delivered a moment of history for Barcelona on this day in 2009, as Manchester United lost the Champions League final in Rome.

Arsene Wenger also has fond memories of May 27 from his Arsenal career, having achieved an unprecedented FA Cup feat at Wembley three years ago.

Shane Watson powered Chennai Super Kings to 2018 IPL glory, while back in 1995, the great Jonah Lomu scored the first tries of a famous New Zealand career.

Join us in looking back on some memorable moments from this day in years gone by.

 

1995 – Jonah Lomu scores his first tries for New Zealand

One of rugby union's all-time most famous faces made his mark on this day back in 1995.

Lomu scored his first two tries for New Zealand as they claimed a 43-19 win over Ireland in a Pool C clash at the Rugby World Cup in Johannesburg.

He finished the tournament as joint-top try-scorer on seven as the All Blacks reached the final, where they were famously beaten by hosts South Africa.

Lomu tragically died at the age of 40 in November 2015.

2018 – Shane Watson scores unbeaten century as Chennai Super Kings win the IPL

It is two years since a spectacular innings from Watson secured Indian Premier League glory for Chennai Super Kings.

Questioned for putting their faith in a squad of players approaching the end of their careers, it was fitting that Chennai's triumph would be sealed by 36-year-old Watson's unbeaten 117 from 57 balls.

Watson hit eight sixes and 11 fours to dominate the contest, the Super Kings easing to an eight-wicket win with nine balls remaining.

 

2009 – Barcelona beat Manchester United in the Champions League final

Barcelona became champions of Europe on this day 11 years ago, denying Manchester United a piece of history and securing their own place in the record books.

Holders United were looking to become the first team to win back-to-back Champions Leagues in the modern format but were dealt an early blow when Samuel Eto'o squeezed a 10th-minute shot past Edwin van der Sar.

A header from Lionel Messi – a goal he still considers the most important of his career – made it 2-0 in the second half as Barca won the treble for the first time in their history in Pep Guardiola's first season in charge.

2017 – Arsenal beat Chelsea in FA Cup final as Wenger wins the trophy for a seventh time

Arsene Wenger became the most successful manager in FA Cup history three years ago when he lifted the trophy for a seventh time.

Premier League champions Chelsea were favourites, but a fourth-minute goal from Alexis Sanchez set the tone for the final.

Victor Moses' red card 68 minutes in made life tougher for the Blues and, although Diego Costa grabbed an equaliser, Aaron Ramsey struck what proved to be the winner three minutes later.

Aside from Wenger's feat – his 10th major trophy as Gunners boss – it was a final fondly remembered by fans for the performance of Per Mertsesacker, who was outstanding at the heart of defence.

Arsene Wenger has warned about the motives of foreign investors in French football, suggesting a commission should be set up to ensure they are not solely seeking to make money. 

Former Arsenal boss Wegner, who now works as FIFA's chief of global football development, believes an increase in purchases from overseas sources can have a negative effect on the game if not monitored closely. 

Marseille, Bordeaux and Le Havre all have American owners, while Toulouse – who were relegated to Ligue 2 following the decision to abandon the 2019-20 top-flight campaign – are in talks with an investment firm out of the United States. 

In the Premier League, Newcastle United are expected to be purchased by a Saudi Arabia-backed consortium. 

Wenger believes a process needs to be implemented to ensure "football culture" is not eroded away by those with eyes only on finances. 

"Unfortunately, I think today we are witnessing a reverse phenomenon," Wenger told beIN SPORTS. 

"For example, if you take French clubs, they gradually fall into the hands of people who are not real builders for the future of the club, but rather investors who seek to earn money very quickly. 

"We can see in France today there are a lot of problems at this level because the clubs are dissatisfied, the supporters feel that the primary goal is not to build a good team but to achieve financial game. 

"Perhaps we should create a Club Purchasing Ethics Commission to see what the real intentions of the people who buy our clubs are. 

"You can't squander a country's football culture just for financial reasons."

Page 1 of 3
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.