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Alisher Usmanov: Henry 'pushing me' to buy Arsenal

Tuesday, 29 January 2013 - 10:20am IST | Place: London | Agency: The Daily Telegraph

Henry's long-term agent has been Darren Dein, the son of former Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein, who himself sold his stake in the club to Usmanov for 75million pounds.
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The simmering tensions at Arsenal boiled over on Monday when Alisher Usmanov, the second largest shareholder, escalated his attack on the club's directors and claimed that Thierry Henry wanted him to buy out majority owner Stan Kroenke. Usmanov, who is Russia's richest man, believes that Arsenal have effectively become a feeder club for the best teams in Europe but said that his "money" and "know-how" were readily available. He also again pointed to a friendship with Henry, who is the club's all-time leading goalscorer.

"I like many footballers," said Usmanov. "Perhaps my favourite of the last 10, 15 years is Thierry Henry. He's pushing me to buy all of Arsenal's shares but I cannot predict the future."

Henry's long-term agent has been Darren Dein, the son of former Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein, who himself sold his stake in the club to Usmanov for pounds 75million. When contacted on Monday by The Daily Telegraph, Dein Jnr could not say whether Usmanov was accurately representing Henry's views on the Arsenal ownership.

Henry had been expected to return on loan to Arsenal as a player during this January transfer window and, while there is still interest in Barcelona's David Villa, it is increasingly likely that Wenger will make no new signings this month.

Usmanov has grown frustrated with the club's transfer policy. "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," Usmanov told Fraench sports paper L'Equipe.

"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. 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.

"For me, he [Wenger] is one of the best coaches in the world, but it's not easy for him. 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."

Usmanov owns just under 30% of Arsenal but was ultimately outmanoeuvred in the takeover battle after the late Danny Fiszman and Lady Bracewell-Smith, as well as the existing board, opted to sell their stake to Kroenke. It all leaves Kroenke with almost 70% of Arsenal and in control of the day-to-day running of the club.

Kroenke has never previously sold a share in any of his sports teams - he also owns American football, basketball, ice-hockey and Major League Soccer teams - and has no intention of selling to Usmanov. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, he said: "We are long term. Look at everything we have done. There were a lot of shareholders who loved Arsenal for half a century or more, who wanted us to step up and spend hundreds of millions of dollars to keep this thing stable and protected. We did that and we did that honestly."

Usmanov also claimed that he was portrayed as a "pirate" in the takeover battle and highlighted the money that was made by existing and previous board members in selling their shares to Kroenke. The irony, however, is that those former shareholders would almost certainly have made more money if they had opted to sell to Usmanov. "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," said Usmanov. "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.

"Arsenal's current situation remains an interesting investment. Everything's in Kroenke's hands, and I hope he succeeds, even if he doesn't go along with my ideas. 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."

Arsenal remain committed to a self-sustaining model, with their natural income made available to Wenger in the transfer market. The current transfer budget stands at around pounds 40million.
Arsenal supporters are also divided on the club's future, with scuffles breaking out at Brighton on Saturday after a banner was unveiled that called for Wenger to stand down as manager.

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