Patrick Vieira believes Arsene Wenger has earned the right to decide his future, amid a firestorm of criticism from Arsenal fans.
The Gunners have been on a terrible run of form in the Premier League, losing their last four encounters, but defeated Milan 2-0 in the first leg of their Europa League knockout encounter on Thursday.
Arsenal, who lie sixth in the table, 13 points behind fourth-placed Tottenham, face Watford on Sunday, looking to build on their midweek result.
It remains a banana skin for Wenger's men, though, as they have been beaten by the likes of Brighton and Ostersund in recent weeks.
Vieira, who is one of the greatest players ever to play under Wenger, has sympathy for his former manager, but he believes that he should be allowed to control his own future, regardless of how bad it may get.
"I think if it's the end of the story, he'll be the first to recognize it," he told L'Equipe. "And I would still like to add that in relation to everything he has done for the club, in relation to what he has built and what he has won, he is legitimate enough to decide for himself when he will retire.
"He has the right to make this decision himself."
Vieira is carving a path in management himself and is the current head coach of American side New York City FC.
And he believes that he can empathise further with Wenger due to his own career path, though he has pointed out that Wenger has rejected numerous advances to stay in north London, such is his love for Arsenal.
"If there really is someone who loves this club and wants this club to succeed, it's Arsene," he added.
"Then we can discuss how the team plays or something else, but I find that the criticisms that fall on Arsene on a personal level are difficult to accept. It may have been becoming a coach myself that makes me feel differently. I remember very well every time he refused the biggest clubs to stay at Arsenal.
"I know what I'm talking about, because the same clubs contacted me and told me, when I met them, that their number one goal was to bring in Arsene. He said no to everyone to stay at, and today people forget about it."
Numerous former players have been touted as possible successors to Wenger, including Vieira and Thierry Henry, and the former Gunners captain, who won three Premier League titles at Arsenal, has not closed the door on a possible managerial return.
"Let's say that someday it might interest me. But one day," he said.
"I cannot say anything more because there is nothing to say about it and I do not want to offend Arsene, whom I adore and for whom I have a lot of respect. Because I know that he suffers a lot from the current results, even more than hearing what his former players say."