Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger revealed that he was close to joining Real Madrid on two separate occasions in a recent interview. The legendary manager also stated that being involved in the project to build a new stadium at Arsenal was the reason he didn't make the switch.
"I almost went to Real Madrid twice," said the Frenchman. "There are not many who can say that, but I was involved in a project to build the new stadium that would replace Highbury and it had to be financed."
Wenger insisted that he refused to leave Arsenal for the Los Blancos because he had started a "project" in North London, which involved refinancing the club. The Gunners left Highbury and moved to the Emirates Stadium at the end of the 2005/06 season.
"We (Arsenal) paid for it all ourselves, we did not get help from anyone," the Frenchman revealed. "We paid (for that) on the field and selling the most expensive. That's why I did not go to Madrid, I wanted to finish that project."
Under Arsene Wenger, Arsenal reached the Champions League final in 2006, in a losing effort to Barcelona. Following the loss, the Gunners were forced to sell most of their star-power and rely on the younger players in the squad.
Despite their financial woes, however, Wenger managed to keep Arsenal in the Champions League for multiple seasons following their move to the Emirates. The Frenchman failed to do so only on two occasions - in 2016/17 and 2017/18 - his last two seasons with Arsenal.
Arsene Wenger reveals Real Madrid was his favourite team growing up
During the interview, Arsene Wenger also revealed that Real Madrid was his favourite team growing up. The Frenchman talked about being impressed by the likes of Alfredo di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas, and Raymond Kopa when he was younger.
"When I was a child, Real Madrid was my team. I grew up watching Di Stéfano, Puskas, Kopa, Santamaría, Gento. They left me impressed. I liked Real Madrid, and over the years, I got to play against them," revealed the 71-year-old.
"I love to see that the stadium is in the center of the city. It is part of people's lives. Football is in the heart of the city. This is Real Madrid and this is the Santiago Bernabéu," said Wenger.
The former Arsenal manager also responded to questions about Zinedine Zidane's future at Real Madrid, following what has been an up-and-down season.
"It's the world we live in. Real Madrid has done incredible and so has the coach, but it's a team at the end of its life cycle," Wenger asserted. "The players who raised it to glory are getting older and it's time to replace footballers who are very difficult to replace," said Wenger.
"Benzema, Modric, and Ramos are all over 30 years old. Even if you spend a lot of money to replace them, you don't know if those who come in will give the same level," said the Frenchman.