Arsene Wenger likened his relationship with former club Arsenal to a father who “has no contact with his children anymore but still loves them” after admitting he has not returned to the Emirates Stadium since his departure in May 2018.
After 22 years in north London, during which time the Frenchman won three Premier League titles, seven FA Cup trophies and was widely heralded with revolutionising English football’s approach to the modern game, Wenger acknowledged that after his painful exit he felt the “best thing to do was cut it away" and keep “a complete distance” from the club.
“The love of my life,” he told the BBC. "I gave 22 years of my life to the club, I built the training centre and I built the Emirates Stadium. I gave a lot of sweat to get the stadium money paid back and to create an atmosphere and infrastructure to allow this club to do well and invest in the future. I think we are in a good way.
"I'm a little bit like a guy who's ended a relationship and has no contact with his children any more but he still loves them.
“I have chosen to keep a complete distance. It doesn't mean emotionally, just physically. It's important people don't see you as a shadow. It may look like you're still trying to influence things and have your way. I felt that the best thing to do is cut it away.”
In a wide-ranging Q&A, Wenger also urged Arsenal to stop “wasting” Mesut Ozil’s talent and “find a way to involve him” in their first-team plans.
Wenger signed Ozil from Real Madrid in 2013, but he has become a peripheral figure as of late, first outcast by Unai Emery and now seemingly having no place under Mikel Arteta.
Arsenal were keen to offload the 31-year-old this summer, but Ozil insisted he would see out the remaining year of his £350,000-a-week contract at the club.
“I feel it is a waste for him,” Wenger said. “Firstly because he's in the years where a player of his talent can produce the most.
“And it's a waste for the club as well because he's a super talent, a creative talent that in the final third can create that killer pass.
“The way football is going at the moment it's quick counter-pressing, quick transitions and everybody plays the same. It's kicked out players like Ozil. Although let's not forget who this guy is. A world champion who has played at Real Madrid.
“He's been the record player of assists, so you have to find a way to get him involved again.”
Wenger spoke in glowing terms of Arteta, though, who played under him at the Emirates between 2011 and 2016, and has enjoyed a magnificent start to his managerial career, taking the club from virtual chaos to winning the FA Cup last season.
“He has the ingredients to be a very good manager, a top manager, but many of my former players had these ingredients,” Wenger said.
“We have to give them time, let them do their job in the way they want to do it.
“He's intelligent, he has big passion and a strong character. And I believe he's surrounding himself with the right people.”