Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Monday January 28 2013
Uzbeki steel magnate and Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov has claimed that ex Arsenal striker Thierry Henry is backing him to take the club over. For some time, Usmanov has been buying up shares with the ultimate aim of holding a controlling share in Arsenal, but his 30% stake is comfortable gazumped by majority owner Stan Kroenke, who owns 2/3 of the club`s shareholding outright.
In an interview with L`Equipe, Usmanov claimed frustration that he has been portrayed as "a pirate" by Arsenal`s current ownership, but that he had an Arsenal legend in his corner. "'I like many footballers, and I'm in contact with some of them. Perhaps my favourite of the last ten, 15 years is Thierry Henry. He's pushing me to buy all of Arsenal's shares, but I cannot predict the future,' the Uzbek-born billionaire told L`Equipe.
'When I had the chance to buy some shares and become one of the main shareholders in the club, I didn't hesitate for a second. I was even ready to take total control. That wasn't possible because certain people preferred to make a profit and create, using me, an outside enemy. I remain portrayed as a pirate, an enemy. They have won that game.'
Usmanov went on to claim that Arsene Wenger is being handicapped by the current owner, "For me, he's one of the best coaches in the world, but it's not easy for him,' Usmanov said. 'I think he deserves that players are brought in at Arsenal when they're needed.
'The best players, and not being satisfied with selling our best players to our rivals. If that happens, we can ask everything of him. But, today, he's sacrificed. Because of the policy, and we're all to blame. Everything's in Mr Kroenke's hands, and I hope he succeeds, even if he doesn't go along with my ideas.'
He added: 'The greatest achievement of Arsene Wenger is to have created two teams: the one that now plays for our rivals, and the one that is trying to be among the best in the Premier League.
'That's why I say it's not enough to merely flatter the coach, but to give him the possibility to buy the best players, superstars. But not just stars, but those chosen by Wenger. It's unthinkable that the shareholders get well-paid while, for small clauses in contracts, we lose key players, symbols like Robin van Persie, Mathieu Flamini or Patrick Vieira. We should have increased their salaries when they started to be courted, started to look elsewhere. I don't know why we didn't propose that to them.'
He finished by suggesting his interest in Arsenal was an emotional one rather than dictated by finance, a connection he says was forged by the Arsenal side of the late 90s, 'In my opinion, that team was as good as the current Barcelona side,' Usmanov said. 'It wasn't a question of money or prestige. It's a choice [to invest in the club] dictated by my emotions, those provoked in me by the club. And Arsenal's current situation remains an interesting investment.
'I would like to be useful for the club, and I can be. I understand football well, and can prove it, but I'll never force myself on anyone. For the moment, Arsenal don't seem to need me. But I remain convinced that Arsenal should have only one aim in every competition: first place and winning.
'All other theories are hypocrisy aimed at covering up weakness. I'm a strong man. If someone needs my help, my money, my know-how, anything I possess, I'm always ready.'
Date:Monday January 28 2013
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