• Arsenal's second largest shareholder calls for key Henry role
• Wenger expected to re-sign Red Bulls player on loan deal
Alisher Usmanov has told Thierry Henry not to return to Arsenal for a second loan spell next month. The club's second largest shareholder would prefer Arsenal to appoint him to a permanent post that could support the manager Arsène Wenger.
Usmanov feels that club ought to have plans for Henry in a non-playing capacity and he does not want them to allow him to slip through their fingers on retirement, as another Arsenal legend, Patrick Vieira, has done. Vieira works at Manchester City as the club's development executive.
Usmanov, who has been refused a seat on the Arsenal board due to his ideological differences with the majority shareholder Stan Kroenke, is a supporter of Wenger but he believes that the manager needs more football people around him. It is unclear whether Wenger, to whom delegation is not a strong suit, would agree with the notion.
Wenger is expected to re-sign Henry from the New York Red Bulls on a short-term contract for the second successive January, as he seeks to stabilise after enduring the worst start to a Premier League season of his 16-year tenure, which was compounded by the Capital One Cup elimination at League Two Bradford City on Tuesday. Usmanov, though, offered a fresh take on the old maxim about never going back.
"The presence of a champion can radically change the soul of a team, that's what Thierry Henry showed last year when he came back to Arsenal. But I think that comebacks only succeed once," Usmanov said. "That's why I think the decision to come back belongs only to Thierry."
"I don't have any powers in terms of decisions at the club but there are a few players with whom I am in contact," Usmanov told the French newspaper L'Equipe. "My favourite is probably Thierry. He should be involved at 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 with Thierry."
Henry has known Usmanov for several years and he sometimes socialises with him, which could lead to raised eyebrows, given Usmanov's status as the bitter rival of Kroenke, the chief executive Ivan Gazidis and the club's other directors. But Henry has a connection to Usmanov through his agent Darren Dein, who is the son of David, the former Arsenal vice-chairman.
Dein Sr sold his shares in Arsenal to Usmanov in August 2007, making £75m, four months after he had left the club, citing "irreconcilable differences" between himself and the rest of the board. He favoured Usmanov taking over the club and funding it with his personal fortune.
Meanwhile, Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith, the former Arsenal director and the club's honorary vice-president, has criticised Kroenke via her Twitter account, accusing him of caring "very little" about Arsenal.
"Why he wanted to be part of AFC I do not know," she wrote. "If making money was the motivating factor, surely there are better ways. Football is a business of passion and SK [Kroenke] has no passion for AFC."