Arsenal's rebel shareholder Alisher Usmanov has formed an alliance with Thierry Henry, arguably the club's greatest ever player, as the Uzbek billionaire puts further pressure on the club hierarchy to offer him a place on the board.
Usmanov's Red and White Holdings owns 29.9 per cent of the club, behind the 66.7 per cent owned by major shareholder Stan Kroenke who has refused any kind of dialogue with the Russia-based investor. On Monday, Henry is understood to have attended a charity dinner with Usmanov in Moscow, the first time a major figure in the club has offered the Uzbek tacit endorsement.
The Usmanov camp, who have advocated greater investment in the team, have been quiet this season in spite of the club's struggles in the Premier League and the humiliation of the Capital One Cup elimination to League Two Bradford City on Tuesday night. They had been openly critical of the club's failure to keep Robin van Persie during the summer.
At the dinner in Moscow, Usmanov was quoted in the French newspaper L'Equipe saying that Henry should return to the club as an ambassador but not as a player.
There are still talks over whether he can return to Arsenal on loan next month from the New York Red Bulls as he did in the last January transfer window.
Usmanov told L'Equipe: "There are a few Arsenal players whom I am in contact with and my favourite is probably Thierry Henry. Thierry should already be a part of the club but not as a player. He has another role to play, a more important role.
"Take the example of Patrick Vieira at Manchester City. He is also a symbol of Arsenal but he is helping another club. We have to avoid that happening wth Thierry. The presence of a champion can radically change the feel of a team. That is what Thierry Henry showed last year when he came back to Arsenal. But I think that a comeback only succeeds once. That is why the decision whether to come back to Arsenal will only be made by Thierry himself."
There was further public bickering between Arsenal grandees when the former director Nina Bracewell-Smith, forced out in a boardroom putsch, tweeted in response to a question on the social media site about Kroenke that the American businessman "cares very little".
She went on to tweet: "Why he wanted to be part of AFC I do not know". Bracewell-Smith tweeted about Kroenke, "If making money was the motivating factor, surely there are better ways. Football is a business of passion and SK [sic] has no passion for AFC."
The Tottenham Hotspur defender Jan Vertonghen said yesterday that he turned down Arsenal because Arsène Wenger wanted to convert him into a midfielder. He said: "[Arsenal's interest] was concrete, but they wanted me to be a controller in the midfield, an Emmanuel Petit-type. I'm not afraid of competition, but the overall picture of Spurs appealed to me more."
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