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Jose Mourinho: Arsene Wenger and I share 'respect' despite rows

Mark Ogden and Alison Bender reflect on Arsene Wenger's managerial legacy as he prepares to leave Arsenal after 22 years.
Journey back in time to soak in Arsene Wenger's finest moments at Arsenal during his nearly 22-year career with the club.
Jurgen Klopp said Arsene Wenger was and still is an influencer in football after Arsenal announced the Frenchman will step down at the end of the season.

LONDON -- Jose Mourinho insists he always had respect for Arsene Wenger even during their heated run-ins.

Wenger announced on Friday that he will step down as manager of Arsenal at the end of the season after 21-and-a-half years at the club.

Mourinho has been critical of the Frenchman in the past, previously labelling him a "specialist in failure" and a "voyeur," but the Portuguese coach insists he never lost admiration for his adversary.

"If he's happy I'm happy, if he's sad, I'm sad," Mourinho told a news conference in London on Friday ahead of Saturday's FA Cup semifinal against Tottenham. "I always wish the best for my opponents.

"You don't know the way we respect each other even when sometimes it doesn't look like we don't.

"Players that get yellow cards and red cards by aggressive actions against each other -- the manager is the same thing but the ones that respect more each other are the ones with the problems.

"It's power and ambition and quality against each other but in the end it's people from the same business and we respect each others' careers."

Mourinho will go head-to-head with Wenger one more time when Arsenal visit Old Trafford next weekend.

Wenger, 68, is yet to reveal his plans for the future.

And Mourinho hopes the former Monaco and Grampus Eight boss will continue to work in football following his Emirates exit.

He added: "I know what it means, three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups, what he did in Japan and France, what he brought to French football and what he gave to Arsenal in the period without Premier Leagues, the transition from stadium to stadium, we know what he did.

"If he's happy with the decision, I'm really happy and I hope he doesn't retire from football."

Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger have had many heated exchanges down the years.

Pep Guardiola, whose Manchester City side were confirmed as this season's Premier League champions last weekend, said in his prematch news conference: "All my respect for what he has done. The Premier League is the Premier League because of huge personalities like Arsene.

"What he has down since he arrived for his vision and for his respect for the football. I wish him all the best.

"Hopefully he can be involved in the future in world football because always these people are necessary for his experience.

"Either here in the Premier League -- with Arsenal, or UEFA or FIFA, I don't know. Of course it was a pleasure when I was at Barcelona and Bayern Munich and here to compete against him."

"It's difficult after what Sir Alex Ferguson did at United and what Arsene Wenger did now, I think it's so complicated. Now with social media and opinions are so fresh, we feel a lot of pressure the managers because staying in the Premier League is worth a lot of money to the clubs.

"Presidents and sporting directors don't have a lot of patience right now all around the world not just here. Now it depends on results. It will be so difficult to find a person who will will stay 20-22 years at the same club."

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists he will not be patrolling the touchline into his old age like Wenger as he does not need football to be happy.

Klopp, who has a six-year contract which runs until 2022, has no intention of staying on anywhere close to Wenger's tenure.

In a television interview this week the 50-year-old said he did not want to die on the touchline and when asked to expand on that he said: "Because of age.

"I love what I do and I enjoy it but it's intense -- but most jobs are intense. The big difference is we are constantly in the focus.

"Do I need the fact that I am famous? No. I don't need it a bit. It's not that I feel that special but it happens and I'd be really happy if it stops one day.

"If no one remembers me, that's not a problem. That's a dream for me.

"We get really well paid so that's OK, we can have the life we never dreamed of but I don't want to have this life and I cannot walk any more.

"I have back problems in the morning and neck problems when I wake up but life is not only for that.

"I don't need football to be happy. At the moment I love it but I don't need it.

"There will be a moment -- and I don't know when -- when I say 'Thank you very much.' There is always the next guy who can do the job.

"I love what I do. It's not too intense to deal with it. At one point it's enough and then another one has to take over."

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte -- who, like Wenger, also won the Premier League title in his first full season in English football, said: "I think we must pay great tribute to Arsene Wenger for his career in Arsenal. Him and Ferguson, we're talking about the last two managers to stay in a club for such a long time.

"He worked 22 years for Arsenal. I think it's great, a fantastic story. He won a lot with this club and for this reason I think he deserves a great tribute for his career.

"I think Arsene is one of the managers that had a great influence in football. In every moment he tried to play in his idea of football, to play good, creative, offensive football, and I think he deserves a great tribute also for this.

"He deserves great respect for not only Arsenal supporters, but also from the whole world of football. We're talking about one of the best managers in the world with an important career with Arsenal. He deserves a great tribute for his career.

"It will be very difficult to see in the future another manager to stay in the same club for such a long time. I think Ferguson and Wenger were a really good story for football. Now it will be very difficult to see again another situation like this."

Rob is ESPN FC's Manchester United correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @RobDawsonESPN.

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