Real Madrid 'lack class' over Henry, says Wenger

Gunners manager goes on the attack after Spanish club's coach puts striker top of summer shopping list
Click to follow

The Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, accused Real Madrid of showing a lack of class in their pursuit of Thierry Henry on the night that the Frenchman passed the milestone of 100 Premiership goals.

The Real Madrid coach, Carlos Queiroz, has publicly identified Henry, ahead of Ruud van Nistelrooy and Francesco Totti, as his main summer transfer target. The former Manchester United assistant coach said: "If I had to give priorities, my preferences would be for Van Nistelrooy and Henry. The Frenchman is at his best now, both in terms of his abilities and his capacity both to take chances and to give passes."

Henry has assured Arsenal of his loyalty, while the club have insisted he is not for sale at any price. Wenger said angrily: "If I want a player from Real Madrid, I would call Real Madrid first, I wouldn't come out in the newspapers.

"It's unfair to his own players firstly and, secondly, it's unfair towards Arsenal. You'd expect a bit more class. I don't want to say any more about Real Madrid, as I could come out with more stories that would not be nice for them."

Henry took 31 minutes against Southampton at Highbury on Tuesday to score his 100th Premiership goal in 160 appearances, having also hit his first against the Saints in September 1999 at the Dell. He is the 11th player to achieve the feat and only the second overseas player after Dwight Yorke.

His 101st goal followed in the final minute of a 2-0 victory as Arsenal moved five points clear at the top of the table.

Wenger added: "It's a great achievement for Thierry. I think he would say that first of all he's pleased that he got three points and of course those two goals helped. He's a top world-class player. Considering his age and the speed of his improvement, seeing where he began, where he is now and where he could be in two or three years, it's absolutely phenomenal."

The Southampton manager, Gordon Strachan, also paid tribute to Henry: "Arsène Wenger was talking about comparisons with Johan Cruyff. A player that special only comes round every 10 years - and Henry is definitely one of those."

Strachan was waiting to discover yesterday whether he could be hit with a Football Association misconduct charge. Having struggled to restrain himself on the touchline as key decisions went against his side, he had to be shepherded away from the referee, Neale Barry, at the final whistle. He was then said to have continued his protests. Speaking to journalists later, Strachan's frustrations erupted again as he criticised the linesman Mike Tingey for his part in Arsenal's first goal.

Strachan, who admitted he felt "some injustice", declared: "You've got to understand that there's plenty of history between myself and Mr Tingey. Five years ago, I got sent off and he accused me of starting a fight because he had seen it clearly.

"But I took a lawyer to the Football Association hearing, and there was camera footage that showed I didn't start the fight and it was impossible for him to see me. They got me instead for getting out of my technical area.

"Mr Tingey was kind of embarrassed five years ago, and we've had more history since then. My players suffered because of that history. Henry was three or four yards offside."

Such comments seemed to accuse Tingey of bias, allegations that the FA would normally take seriously. Yesterday the governing body was waiting for the official reports from Barry and the fourth official, Steve Bennett.

Asked if his comments could get him into further trouble with the FA, Strachan said: "Have I said anything out of turn?" Asked if he had complained to the officials after the game, Strachan said: "You can't get near to the officials - it's easier to get to the Pope!

"If I'm in London next time and I get mugged I hope the same amount of people turn up - there were six police officers, four stewards and a United Nations peace observer."