Pires left Arsenal in 2006 after only being offered a one-year contract by Wenger.
Wenger revealed: “Personally, I wanted to keep him.
“It’s not easy to take. You look behind you and you see what’s coming behind is strong.
“It’s an everyday challenge from the young boys who are ready to give 100 per cent to show that they are better than you.
“So I believe that he decided to go. He was aware that he would not definitely be automatically first choice.
“I can understand that. He was at the stage of his career where he wanted to play regularly and, at 33, to come in and out, it’s difficult.
“Don’t forget, he’s almost 36 now.
“But he is someone who I would have loved to have stayed longer.
“He was such an example, him and Dennis Bergkamp. They were quite similar.
“You give them a ball and they could have stayed out there on the training pitch the whole day.”