Jens Lehmann says the return of Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Vieira to Arsenal as part of Swedish billionaire Daniel Ek’s potential takeover would be “fantastic”, but has questioned what their roles at the club would be.
On Monday, it was revealed that the trio – who, along with Lehmann, were part of Arsenal’s famous ‘Invincibles’ side – are helping Ek in his mooted bid for the club.
The Swedish billionaire, who is the co-founder and chief executive of Spotify, is understood to be serious about wanting to purchase the Gunners from Stan Kroenke, who was the target of fan protests last week following the club’s involvement in the failed European Super League.
But while many Arsenal fans would be pleased to see Ek replace Kroenke at the club with the help of Henry, Bergkamp and Vieira, Lehmann remains a little more sceptical.
The former Arsenal goalkeeper and coach, who is now on the board at Hertha Berlin, told Sky Sports News: “It would be fantastic to have my former team-mates working for Arsenal again because they’re all great guys.
“But I don’t know if the Kroenke family actually wants to sell Arsenal. From my encounters with Josh Kroenke [Arsenal director], he’s a very nice guy and he was very interested to lead Arsenal to a brighter future.
“My experience of football, now I’m on the board at Hertha Berlin, is people first need to know the right questions and then implement a structure where all the guys – Thierry, Dennis and Patrick – can work.
“Would you see them working on the pitch all together? I don’t really understand their jobs because there needs to be a good structure from the top to the bottom.
“There’s Edu [Arsenal’s technical director], a former team-mate, I think he’s doing a good job there. So if on top comes Thierry as a coach or manager probably, Patrick the same… Dennis was an assistant coach at Ajax.
“I think their expertise is probably not becoming a sporting director or CEO.”
But while Lehmann is unsure whether Kroenke is willing to sell the club to Ek – who has been described as an Arsenal “obsessive” by friends – he was encouraged to see the supporters help to force the Gunners to withdraw from the Super League.
“It was the power of the fans, who didn’t see the competition aspect in the Super League,” he said. “So it tells you the fans are quite keen about fair competition, even though it means that Arsenal would probably not play in the Super League or the Champions League next year.
“Everybody loves to have competition, which is the basis of the game in Europe. The fans have a very sensitive attitude about it and it absolutely needs to be respected.
“That’s why I love the Arsenal fans, because they know that it’s very hard for Arsenal to get back into the Champions League, and still they are against it.”
Ek is expected to speak for the first time on Wednesday about his plans to buy Arsenal, in an exclusive interview with the CNBC business channel.
Henry: I don’t recognise my Arsenal
Henry, Arsenal’s all-time top goalscorer, joined his former manager Arsene Wenger in publicly criticising the club’s ownership last week.
“I do not recognise my club and what happened just now, with them trying to join a league that would have been closed, makes no sense to me,” Henry told The Telegraph. “They have been running the club like a company, not a football club, and they showed their hand.
“Maybe it’s a lack of understanding of the core football values and maybe the money was too big of a temptation. But whatever it was, they got it wrong. Badly wrong.
“I was genuinely shocked like most people and couldn’t believe what was unfolding.
“I have never talked before, but what happened recently made me realise fans, this is your club. It is your club and I’m an Arsenal fan too.
“I’m proud of what the fans achieved. Not just Arsenal fans, all the fans. The result was a victory for football.”
What do we know about Daniel Ek?
Sven Carlsson, Author of The Spotify Play:
“It was Anders Limpar, the Swedish midfielder, who caught Ek’s attention and made him start supporting Arsenal.
“As far as his investments go, he’s laid low for a long time. He has, however, in the past year or so began to really look outside the company he founded.
“So, he’s actually pledged €1bn of his wealth – a sizeable amount of his wealth – to invest in technology companies, essentially, but no sort of entertainment bet outside of Spotify yet.
“And this makes this very interesting.”
‘There’s a willing buyer, but is there a willing seller?’
Sky Sports News reporter Kaveh Solhekol:
“For a deal to happen you have to have a willing buyer and a willing seller.
“So, what do we have in this case? Do we have a willing buyer? Yes, of course we do. Daniel Ek has come out on social media and said he’s interested in buying Arsenal. He certainly has the money. He is worth about three to four billion pounds and he’s also backed by three club legends in Henry, Vieira and Bergkamp.
“Arsenal fans say they ‘want their Arsenal back’ and if these three legends were involved in buying Arsenal, they would almost certainly be getting their Arsenal back, and they would also have a principal owner in Daniel Ek, someone who has been an Arsenal supporter himself since the early ’90s.
“The question was, is this deal likely to happen? The most important thing is, do we have a willing seller? Does Stan Kroenke want to sell Arsenal? All the indications have been that the club is not for sale.
“Arsenal is not officially for sale but I have been told in the last few days that the owners of the six breakaway clubs have been taken aback by the backlash to their plans and in fact, one of those six owners is close to throwing the towel in and he would listen to offers for his club.
“Of course, if you own a Premier League club, one the of the big six, and you want to sell the club, you are not going to come out in public and say I’ve had enough, the fans are forcing me out and the club is for sale. You are not going to do that because that’s going to affect the price you are going to get for the club, but you would discreetly make it known to people that the club is for sale.
“Now, there has been no indication that Arsenal is for sale but my understanding of the situation is that if Stan Kroenke was to sell the club to anyone, it would be to a consortium that included club legends like Henry, Vieira and Bergkamp.
“So, I wouldn’t say that this is certainly going to happen. I wouldn’t say I’d put money on it happening, but it is a possibility. The other tiny concern I would have is the fact that when these kinds of deals happen, they tend to come out of the blue. It just happens. People who’ve got the money to buy a big Premier League club like to do things discreetly. Normally, when we see these things played out in the media, they don’t come to fruition.
“That is another concern but look, if you are going to put a consortium together to buy a club like Arsenal, you would want a billionaire like Daniel Ek, who also supports the club and you would want people like Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Vieira involved.”