Wenger looking to complete CV with Champions League triumph
Frenchman admits he is obsessed with winning European Cup ahead of Napoli clash
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger talks to his players during a training session at their London Colney grounds. Photograph: Eddie Keogh/Reuters
Arsene Wenger goes into a riveting Champions League fixture against the Italian high-fliers Napoli with the confession that he is obsessed by an ambition to win the tournament.
He sees it as a glaring hole in his managerial record. “It is something I miss,” he says. “I will try to fight very hard to fill my CV with that. But you play against Barcelona, Bayern, Real Madrid – every year they are there with a chance. Every year you always think: ‘Let’s do it’, and one year it will go for you. Let’s hope it will be this year.”
He is about to be reacquainted with Rafael Benitez, one of only four managers in this season’s edition of the Champions League to have previously won the competition, as have Carlo Ancelotti, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola.
Benitez, returning to London so soon after that strangely uncomfortable spell at Chelsea, arrived for pre-match training at the Emirates Stadium radiating contented confidence. In fact, after a scintillating start to his Neapolitan adventure, he is having to tone down the levels of expectation.
Before their opening Champions League fixture, against Borussia Dortmund, Benitez gave a rallying call, urging his club to show the world how strong they are. Now, the message has changed. “We probably need to control the euphoria,” he said.
He is happily settled in southern Italy. “It’s a nice place, nice fans with a lot of commitment. It’s very similar to Liverpool in the passion for the team and the enjoyment of football. You see it everywhere. That’s why it has been easy for me.”
Wenger believes Napoli will be tough to play against. “I’m not surprised Rafa is doing well,” said the Arsenal manager. “Maybe his first experience in Italy he took a team who had been at a high and they were just over the hill. Napoli are on the way up. He can give them more experience and quality.”