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Alisher Usmanov has told Thierry Henry not to return to Arsenal for a second loan spell next month. The club’s second largest shareholder would prefer Arsenal to appoint him to a permanent post that could support the manager Arsène Wenger.
Usmanov feels that club ought to have plans for Henry in a non-playing capacity and he does not want them to allow him to slip through their fingers on retirement, as another Arsenal legend, Patrick Vieira, has done. Vieira works at Manchester City as the club’s development executive.
In the rest of the sporting world, particularly in North America, you have team owners and you have team presidents or GMs. And never the twain shall meet, at least as far as sporting decisions go. Which is as it should be; owners fund the enterprise, and GMs lead it, presumably because the latter actually has experience in getting a team to win things and, by extension, draw more fans and sell more shirts to make the owners ‘happy.’
I don’t know much about Alisher Usmanov except that he quite clearly wants to be majority shareholder and doesn’t quite like how Stan Kroenke is running the football club. He also shares a “personal friendship” with Henry, which kind of puts the whole thing in a narcissistic, insidery light. His reasons for reinstating Henry in a coaching role involve this: “The presence of a champion can radically change the soul of a team, that’s what Thierry Henry showed last year when he came back to Arsenal.”
This opining on Arsenal’s optimal coaching set-up however is ridiculous. Usmanov isn’t a manager or technical director: he’s some tycoon. Like all tycoons, despite their claims to fandom, they are for intents and purposes in off the street. What the hell does Usmanov know about Henry’s ability as a coach, or if he will be able to work with Wenger in a constructive way? Because he’s the head of the international fencing federation? Because he owns a lot of Russian metal work companies? Because he’s on the board of Dinamo Moscow? In any case, he probably doesn’t know much more on that subject than Kroenke.
But neither should they. Making coaching decisions is not their job. It should be club chief executive Ivan Gazidis’.