ARSENE WENGER has revealed he could have quit Arsenal back in 2007 – 11 years before his exit.
Real Madrid, England and Paris Saint-Germain have courted the Frenchman.
But Wenger, 71, choose to stay on until he was eventually ousted a mid a fans' campaign which divided supporters.
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There was an emotional link to Real Madrid's pursuit of Wenger, now working in a top role for world football governing body Fifa.
He was a Los Blancos fan as a child – and the Spanish giants TWICE made him an offer to take over.
But he remained in North London.
Although he never quite managed to eclipse his first nine years with the Gunners.
He failed to win another Premier League title after the Invincibles unbeaten season of 2003/04.
But he did win three more FA Cups, making Arsenal the most successful side in the history of the competition.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Wenger revealed he was torn after his ally, former Gunners chief executive David Dein was axed by the club in 2007.
The Frenchman, known as Le Professeur, said: "Maybe when David Dein was sacked in 2007 that was the moment when I could have said bye-bye.
"I felt torn between my loyalty to the club and my loyalty to David.
"He asked me to stay but at first I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea.
"I didn’t understand why he had to go. But I knew as well that the club was going into a new stadium, the most sensitive period of its lifetime.
"I could have really hurt Arsenal had I left then. And I did have options.
"Real Madrid twice, Paris Saint-Germain two or three times, England two or three times. It was difficult.
"You want everybody to support you, and when they don’t it’s quite difficult.
"You do think, “Why am I here? Why am I doing this? What do I want to achieve?”
Wenger started his golden reign in North London back in 1996, revolutionising the English game by changing the diet of footballers and with a new passing style of football which was the complete opposite to the Gunners' direct tactics under previous boss George Graham.
But as Arsenal struggled to compete with the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea financially after they moved to the £390million Emirates Stadium, they started to lose their grip on their domination of the Premier League.
But Wenger remained in charge even though he was a target for disenchanted Gunners fans as their title drought dragged on.
Real Madrid were the team of my childhood. It was a dream, when you go every day to the field, that one day you were there with them
When Real Madrid came a courting a second time, Wenger admitted he considered the move strongly.
He said: "Real Madrid were the team of my childhood. It was a dream, when you go every day to the field, that one day you were there with them.
"But when it came I was so involved in getting Arsenal through this period, and today I am proud of that.
"Florentino Perez, Madrid’s president, still tells everybody, 'This is the guy who turned me down — twice'.
"And people must know, surely, that I was completely loyal to the club. I built it as a brand worldwide, as much as I could, and it is respected everywhere.
"So it’s always the titles that are talked about but what I think remains is your way, the values you carry through.
Wenger's interview has coincided with the release of his autobiography.
My life in red and white: My autobiography is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson at £25.
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