By Andrew Warshaw
November 14 – After all manner of rumour about where he might up next, Arsene Wenger is finally returning to the game, not in dugout as most anticipated but as FIFA’s new chief of global football development.
The legendary former Arsenal manager accepted FIFA’s offer – first reported two months ago – just a week after being approached by Bayern Munich about the German champions’ vacant head coach position.
The appointment is the first formal role the 70-year-old Frenchman has taken since his emotional departure from Arsenal at the end of the 2017-18 season. He has regularly spoken of his desire to return to management after 22 years at the club but that has now been put on the backburner, possibly for good, with a new career at FIFA and an all-encompassing brief of “overseeing and driving the growth and development of the sport for both men and women around the world.”
Wenger, who will also oversee the workings of the International FA Board, the game’s rule-making body, effectively replaces Marco van Basten who was FIFA technical director until October 2018.
“I very much look forward to taking on this extremely important challenge,” said Wenger. “Not only because I have always been interested in analysing football from a broader perspective but also because FIFA’s mission as world football’s governing body is truly global.”
FIFA president Gianni Infantino said Wenger’s “profound knowledge and passion for the different aspects of our game sets him apart as one of the most respected personalities in football.”
Although he was recently linked with Bayern, Wenger ruled himself out of the running last weekend and told beIN Sports, where he has been a regular pundit: “First of all I was never a candidate. I had been approached but I am not in the running for the job.”
Wenger said he is keen to use his knowledge of football to contribute to the growth of the game across the world.
“I want to share what I have learned and I want to share the knowledge I have of the game I love,” he said in an interview with FIFA. “Maybe one of the best positions to do that is at FIFA.”
“We have seen recently with the Women’s World Cup that it is a global sport but I believe there is lots still to do. I think I can bring my ideas to that, how to analyse the games and the performances of individual players.”
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