Wenger reveals he was one of the last people to speak to Houllier

Arsene Wenger reveals he video-called Gerard Houllier just HOURS before he died aged 73 as he pays tribute to ex-Liverpool manager for showing ‘so much courage’ to insist on heart operation after vowing ‘I am going to come out of this’

  • Former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier died on Monday at the age of 73
  • Arsene Wenger has revealed he spoke to Houllier just one day before his death
  • Wenger said Houllier was ‘optimistic’ and ‘courageous’ for having heart surgery
  • The former Arsenal boss added that French football had ‘lost a great voice’ 

An emotional Arsene Wenger revealed he was one of the last people to speak with Gerard Houllier before he died as he paid tribute to the former Liverpool boss’ immense courage for undergoing heart surgery. 

Houllier, 73, who had a long history of medical issues, most notably a heart problem and high blood pressure, underwent aortic aneurysm surgery in Paris three weeks before he died on Monday. The exact cause of his death remains unknown.

The Frenchman reportedly admitted to a journalist In his final text message at the weekend that he was ‘struggling’ but vowed: ‘I am going to come out of this’ after having an operation on his heart.

Former Liverpool and Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier, pictured at an awards ceremony in Monaco just seven weeks ago, died at the age of 73 on Monday

Arsene Wenger revealed he was one of the last people to speak to Houllier before he died

Wenger and Houllier were close friends and are pictured here together at a Euro game in 2016

Wenger was a close friend of Houllier’s and said he was feeling ‘optimistic’ after speaking with him via video link just one day before his death. 

Speaking to L’Équipe, the ex-Arsenal manager said: ‘We did it regularly, with David Dein (ex-Arsenal VP) and Gerard, to speak via video conference every Sunday. 

‘That is why we were happy on Sunday that we got to speak to him. The Sunday before, it was not possible because he was too weak, and we were forced to cancel it at the last moment, although Gerard was very keen to have a conversation.

‘But on this Sunday, we met for our discussion, which has become a ritual since the start of the first lockdown. We shortened it a bit. Often, it was almost an hour, but this time, we only did fifteen minutes.

One of Houllier’s greatest managerial achievements was winning treble with Liverpool in 2001

Former Premier League managers Houllier (L) and Wenger (R) were awarded OBEs in 2009 for exceptional achievement of service to British interests

‘He (Gerard) was optimistic. There was a manager’s optimism. That is why [this news is such] an injustice… He had so much courage to have the operation, and he was not rewarded for this courage.

‘It is difficult. He insisted to do the operation at the end of November, whilst we were worrying about the second COVID-19 wave. But he was so determined to undergo the operation, after having lived with this threat above his head for such a long time.’

Houllier had suffered with health problems for some time and had a heart attack while managing Liverpool back in 2001 – with former Reds player Danny Murphy revealing he had ‘died on the operating table’ and had to be brought back after he was rushed to hospital.

Danny Murphy revealed his ex-boss Houllier had to be brought back after his first heart attack

Wenger admitted that French football had ‘lost a great voice’ after Houllier’s death

The Frenchman will be best remembered for his successful spell in charge of Liverpool where he won numerous trophies, including a historic treble in 2001. He also managed Aston Villa, Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon during his career.

Tributes around the footballing world poured in after the sad news of Houllier’s passing and Wenger admitted that French football had lost a ‘great voice’.

Wenger added: ‘He was extremely intelligent, he passionately loved football, and was of a generous nature. He understood things very quickly, he had the ability to synthesise things incredibly well. And he was positive, he liked people. That is why his passing is such a shock. 

‘French football is losing a great voice. He was a great manager, but, in the wake of Georges Boulogne, he also continued to perfect the foundations of French football, which we still enjoy today.’

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