Bengaluru, April 27: Arsene Wenger's popularity extends well beyond the football ground and Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton is just one of his numerous admirers.
The Frenchman, who is ending his two-decade long coaching career at Arsenal at the end of the season came in for special praise from Hamilton, himself a die-hard Gunners fan.
"The loyalty which he has shown through all the ups and downs, through outside individuals saying positives and negatives, but to stay true to your values and continue to strive for what you believe in I think has really been awesome," Hamilton told media in Baku ahead of the Azerbaijan F1 Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton and Wenger at an IWC timepiece exhibition pic.twitter.com/NUDkvHEVh1— TRACE Sport Stars (@TSportStars) January 21, 2015
Arsenal have had a poor season so far. They are currently languishing sixth in the Premier League and look to miss out on UEFA Champions League for the second straight year unless they win the Europa League. In Cup tournaments too, their record has been patchy this season and Wenger has been at the receiving end of a lot of criticism.
There were even unconfirmed reports that Wenger was forced to resign rather than go on his own terms.
But despite all this, Hamilton, who claims to be an Arsenal fan since the age of five, has not lost his respect for Wenger.
The British four-time F1 champion even revealed that Wenger had once invited him to train with the North London club.
"I've had the privilege of meeting him a couple of times. He asked me to go and train with the team, which I haven't managed to do yet, but he was always really welcoming and it was cool to meet 'our team's' boss," the Mercedes driver recalled.
Arsenal are yet to announce a replacement for the departing Wenger. Front-runners to succeed Wenger at the Emirates Stadium include Carlo Ancelotti, Diego Simeone, Luis Enrique, Joachim Loew, Patrick Vieira, Mikel Arteta and Thomas Tuchel to name a few, but the club owners have so far remained tight-lipped about it.
Arsenal, who were held 1-1 in the Europa League first-leg semifinal at home on Thursday (April 26) have a mouthwatering clash lined up against Manchester United in the Premier League on Sunday (April 29).
(With Agency inputs)