Fergie, Klopp lead tributes for departing Wenger

Arsene Wenger

Tributes have been pouring in from the football world after Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger announced his decision to step down from the club at the end of the current season.

The French head coach, who has been in charge of the Gunners for 22 years, has long been mulling his future with the north London side.

He was expected to stand down at the end of last season but signed a new two year deal, and leaves with a year left to run on his contract.

Leading the plaudits was Wenger’s great rival of many years, Sir Alex Ferguson, who said the Frenchman was simply ‘one of the greatest’.

“I am pleased he has announced he is leaving at this stage of the season as he can now have the send-off that he truly deserves,” said the former Manchester United manager.

“He is, without doubt, one of the greatest Premier League managers and I am proud to have been a rival, a colleague and a friend to such a great man.

“It is great testament to his talent, professionalism and determination that has been able to dedicate 22 years of his life to a job that he loves.”

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said Wenger would always have his admiration and respect.

“He has been very, very successful, that’s how it is,” said Klopp. “Maybe in the last few months not everybody was happy anymore about this or that result, but that’s normal and part of the business. But he always developed teams, brought fantastic players in, was a dominating guy in the mid-90s, early 2000s when he was really winning pretty much everything and played wonderful football.

“I admired his work always, it was always brilliant. Since I’ve been in England it’s a little bit different because now we have to challenge them, of course, but from Germany he was always a big, big role model in that job.

“It will be different without him. I’m not sure if he steps back at Arsenal or he will go to another club – he looks quite fit, obviously, and he enjoyed the job I think, even in the last few years, so maybe he will go somewhere else.

Former Arsenal midfielder Paul Merson told Sky Sports: "He knew every player in the world. He could see a player, he knew every player in the world.

"I just hope the stadium is packed for the last game to pay him the right respect."

Ex Gunners' striker John Hartson added: "I can’t say I am too surprised, I think it was coming wasn’t it? There have been calls from the Arsenal supporters in particular for him to go, with many of them calling for it for five or six years.

"But if he had gone then there wouldn’t have been three FA Cups in the cabinet, which is what he has won in the last four years.

"I think it’s the right time, it would always have been good if Arsene left on his terms at what he felt was the right time and he’s been able to do that.

“Now Arsenal will be busy looking for another top manager; looking to be somewhere near as successful as Arsene has been in his 22-year tenure as Arsenal manager."

Southampton boss Mark Hughes, meanwhile, spoke about his relationship with Wenger.

"I've had more time in the Premier League than most so our paths crossed on numerous occasions. It was all sunshine and light – we had a couple of run-ins but other times we were civil and respectful of each other's efforts.

"We had a good conversation a couple of weeks ago when we played at the Emirates. He seemed very relaxed and chilled and maybe he understood that the announcement would be made but he looked in good form and seemed happy with his own personal circumstances that day.

"Maybe that was because he knew what is coming. I wish him well."

And Cardiff manager Neil Warnock added: "He's the man who changed the whole face of the game.

"We owe him so much, yet have given him so much stick. In a way I'm glad he's going, I wouldn't want to see him get any more vitriol than he's had."