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March 2018
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What are you playing at Fran Merida

Let me make it clear that this is not a tirade against Fran Media.  If he goes, or if he has already gone, then I will be sorry, but I’ll understand.  It is what agents do to young players.  Get games every week, grass is always greener, all that stuff.

But if he is going, I am just wondering what the hell his agent is doing persuading Fran to go from the best run club in the multiverse to the most bizarre, eccentric and downright corrupt club in the history of time and space.   From a club which (we have learned today from the Arsenal Supporters Trust) is bursting with transfer money which is itself NOT used to guarantee the mortgage on the stadium, to a club that is so broke no one knows what to do about it.

If ever there was a football club at war, Atlético Madrid is it.  In fact it is not just at war, it is the war.   Atlético Madrid is the war zone, the bunkers, the trenches and the cemetery all rolled into one.

Consider the manger, the owner, the players, the fans.   On this web site we talk about us, the fans, supporting the manager and the players, and the status quo in terms of ownership.  At Atlético Madrid they all hate each other.  They really do.

We are a club that makes money and has well ordered  finances.  But Atlético Madrid where Fran is reputed to be going, everything happens the opposite way around.

The club is getting on for £300m in debt, with no possible way to pay any of it back.  The owner has been found guilty in the courts of fraud against (of course) Atlético Madrid.

What you have to realise is that this is not a minor club in the capital city, like for example the Tiny Totts, Brentford  or QPR.  If you don’t like the war zone analogy try this one: this is an asylum.  Inmates, doctors, janitors… no one can tell the difference any more.  They are all mad.

You may recall Jesus Gil who built blocks of flats without planning permission or even plans, and who, when they fell down, was pardoned for his crimes against humanity by  that great democrat Franco.   He was crazy, and ran the club until his death.  During that time they did once win the double, that’s true, but that was then, and now they are on the way down, slipping down the league and back to the second division if not this year then possibly next, and with no sign of any policy that will help them survive.

Indeed it is fair to say that Atlético Madrid are only partially in the control of the owner and/or the coach (whoever he is this week.)  They are also under the control of the neo-fascist Frente Atlético who have a lot of say in the running of the club.  Probably more than the manager most of the time.   If the owner doesn’t like the way the training is going he calls out the supporters club, and tells them to let the players have it.  And they do.

Part of the tradition of Atlético Madrid is the rough stuff.   Fraud against local authorities, threatening violence against one’s own players. actually being violent against club officials, and behaving with horses in a way more in keeping with the stories of a demented Roman Emperor than a club owner.

There is no youth academy at Atlético Madrid. Players come and go.  So do managers – usually at the rate of 3 a season.

In England we have clubs that always under achieve given their support – we might think of Newcastle as a prime examples.  But in England we have nothing remotely like Atlético Madrid – except perhaps Chester City.

Every year Atlético Madrid buy and sell players.  They had that Fernando Torres, so they sold him.  That’s what they do.  No one stays for too long.

This is the losers’ club. The joke club.  The club run by criminals for fascists and vice versa.

So I ask, what is Fran Merida doing?  If he were leaving us because he thinks that there are too many good players ahead of him, and he wants to be playing every game, fine.  He could go to any one of 50 clubs across Europe, and I would think, “really sorry he is going, and I think he is wrong, but I can understand a young player’s impatience, and the influence his agent undoubtedly has”.  But Merida is an articulate young man, articulate in at least two languages, with a fine grasp of the game intellectually as well as physically.

And he is going to Atlético Madrid?

From Arsenal?

It is like working as a pupil under Leonardo da Vinci, or Charles Darwin, or IK Brunel, and then going to work for Harold Shipman.

So for me it is not that the press are putting out stories that says he is going, it is where they think he is going.  It makes absolutely no sense at all.

(c) Tony Attwood 2010.

MAKING THE ARSENAL is available for dispatch to anywhere in the world.  Go to and choose one of the three icons showing the cover of the book.  One is for UK, one for Europe, and one for the rest of the world.

Read about Arsenal 100 years ago at Did you know we are the only club in Britain that has a blog about its history, week by week, in 1910?

PS:  It’s colder outside my house than it is in Tierra Del Fuego.

21 comments to What are you playing at Fran Merida

  • walter

    Very strange indeed. As long as I can remember and from the period that this Jesus Gil was in charge it always has been trouble in Atletico. Always huge debts, managers going in and out… and yet they seem to “survive” anyhow.
    But then again, maybe this belongs to the way of living in Madrid ? I never been there as I prefer the city of Barcelona, so maybe they just do things over there like that ?

    I can agree with what you say about being a young player and looking for first team football. At such age, 19 aahhh memory’s, you just want to start with the real life. And as football is his live he wants to play in the first team.
    If there was a team in Spain I had to chose I would go to Villareal. They are a little town and seem to work miracles in keeping a team at such a high level and mostly in a very silent way of working with no big upsets and in a great little stadium. The opposite of Atletico maybe ?

    As I really like Fran a lot I just hope he does the right thing for him and he doesn’t have regrets afterwards. Still hope for him to stay if possible. In 1 or 2 years he can become an important player. But maybe this is too long for him…

  • Toby

    Good one Tone! True to the letter.

    Could I just ask you to clarify what you mean with “From a club which (we have learned today from the Arsenal Supporters Trust) is bursting with transfer money”? Have the AST released a statement? Not that I think we’re in big need of strengthening (long or short-term) but it’s always nice to see we’ve got that money for emergencies.

  • Stu

    Now I am confused about all of this….. It was reported in Spain that he had signed for Athletico but Wenger said he knew nothing of this and his agent came out and said that he is only negotiating with The Arsenal and that the Athletico story was a fabrication. Has something happened again since yesterday? Has he come out and said he defo going Athletico? I am just a little confused and feel I have missed something somewhere.
    Tony: Just started reading “Making The Arsenal” which was bought for me for Christmas. Many Thanks Tony, I always enjoy reading your blog and this book looks fascinating, can’t wait to get through it!

  • Toby

    Never mind Tone, found an article in the Guardian about it! Cheers!

  • Some clarifications.

    I have no new knowledge about the Merida transfer and I would be very happy if it is all made up. If it is then it is a prime example of the “Arsenal to sign Peter Crouch” scenario – go down pub, get pissed, come back to office, editor says “I need story” and so make it up.

    You may well be out of your head with boredom about me mentioning my book “Making the Arsenal” but there is a real reason to mention it again here – because a central theme that runs through the book is the invented story. The sports editor of the Chronicle in the story is forever demanding that he football reporter goes off and covers utterly bizarre stories. The reviews have all mentioned this concept in the book as one of the highlights.

    Back to this story, and I will clarify the AST bit,even though Toby found my source.

    There is nothing on the AST site this morning, but the Guardian reports this…

    Wenger is in a position of relative luxury (compared with Man U, Liverpool etc), since the terms of his club’s loans demand he spends the bulk of the money he raises in transfers. All transfer revenues are held in a special account created during negotiations with lenders over the refinancing of the club’s £260m stadium loan and a minimum of 70% of this must either be retained or spent on transfers and contract renewals. Although the account’s millions are at Wenger’s disposal, the banks do hold a charge over it as security on the stadium.

    The Arsenal Supporters Trust, whose analysts uncovered the existence of the account, estimates that Wenger’s judicious transfer-market operations have generated huge sums. “The club itself confirms that ‘all proceeds from player sale transactions are made available to manager’,” it says.

  • Jonny

    It seems to me he is almost certainly on his way (in spite of the protestations of his agent orange). WHY? Well they have offered more money and it is the team he supported as a child. He’s a footballer I doubt he has done much due diligence into the nature/political history of the club he is about to join.

    To him, and perhaps especially to his agent, it is a no brainer – more money, more exposure, more playing time etc etc

    Back to Jesus Gil, what an extraordinary maniac and total bastard that man was. To me he is emblematic of the extreme levels of corruption in and between Spanish football & politics. He makes Robert Maxwell look like Nelson Mandela. His wiki page makes for amazing, horrifying and astounding reading – I urge you all to take a look – especially at the quotes section.

    They miss out however on his very best quote (this one is at least funny, as opposed to appalling).

    I think this came on the day he retired from Atletico, aged 70. He’d had a pacemaker fitted a few days earlier and a journalist was interviewing him.

    “There’s too many bloody passengers in this team! They’re not going to laugh at this shirt any longer! They are not going to make fun of me . . . They can die! I’m sick of people telling me to relax! They can stick my heart up their arses!”

    Ahh pictures with words, Jesus, picture with words.



    IN SPITE OF ALL THIS POINTS- One still outweighs every other – he gets to play- unlike what, we all think MERIDA, is highly rated in spain- in the just concluded FIFA under 21 world cup- frank was the heart beat of spain, scored a couple of goals,and he also matured in that tournament- which is what wenger has failed to realize.he doesnt even get included in the team.
    personally i rate merida,in the same category as rosicky, walcott, ramsey.

    It would be sad if he goes, but we have players ready to step in.

  • dg09

    Hello Tony,

    Off topic but did you see this piece on the Guardian website:

    What do you make of the Portsmouth news?

  • soulrebel

    Great post Tony.

    I’m wondering if the West Ham game was the last straw for him; being subbed off for Nasri/Diaby and witnessing from the bench how much it affected the rest of the match. It can’t have been good for the confidence for neither him nor Wilshere. Then again, it can’t have been great for Denilson when he was subbed off for Fabregas against Villa!

    Anyway, I like Merida too. I read another blog the other day which commented on his performance against West Ham, suggesting that he was constantly tring to find the perfect pass and how each time it failed you could see his confidence drop a rung until in the end even his short passes weren’t coming off.

    If you ask me this is what being a young player at a big club is all about. The attitude should be to stay and fight, have confidence in yourself. Why can’t he be as good as Fab one day? I hope he stays.

  • tim

    merida needs to honestly ask himself: has he finished his arsenal education?

  • brookessy

    I personally feel that he has nothing to offer Arsenal now. I think he is a fine player but look at who is ahead of him.
    the now Superb Diaby
    It is right for him to leave because there might never be a first team starter. Athletico are his team you cannot blame him for wanting to play for them for a bit even if it just to boost his career.

  • budock

    will merida takes us towards the promised land when we defend set plays and score from corners???

  • DG09 – I think I mentioned this in my earlier post, at about 10.30. As to Portsmouth – I may have missed something, but the news I’ve seen is talk of a player revolt, blaming the board for gross incompetence. Which seems fair enough.

    Budock – I would say Merida could help us towards the promised land if he can score goals like the league cup one against Liverpool.

    The point is it takes time for these players to mature. Look how patient Carlos Vela has been. Scoring great goals against Sheff United, but still only making the occasional appearance. But he was part of the key that unlocked West Ham – and very noticeably he remained for the whole game, and has signed a new contract.

    There will be a moment for Vela when he suddenly is an invaluable as Diaby seems to appear just now. Merida just has to wait and watch and learn. My surprise over him is that having seen him on Sky he was so articulate and knowledgeable, he doesn’t look like a person given to knee jerks.

  • LRV

    Well, Merida’s got to do what Merida’s got to do. I had very high hopes for this guy when he played for spain in that under 21 tournament. That he is now taking the easy option speaks volume for me. It tells me that he clearly thinks that he is not good enough to stay at Arsenal, otherwise, he would be fighting for his position no matter how good we perceive others to be. If he fails, he would be able to at least say with pride that he tried. Right at this point, he hasn’t even tried at all in my view.

  • Paul C.

    I think the point of all this is that Merida’s current contract is coming to an end. His next contract is a huge one in his career. It will take him forward into his early to mid 20’s, towards the prime of his career. He knows he is way down the totem pole at Arsenal, deservedly so. The players ahead of him are tried and trusted. He is still 12 months minimum away from breaking into the squad fully. He could go to Spain and probably get 1st team football NOW. What does he do? I think it is a tough decision for him. Everything you are saying about Atletico is true but if the rumours have some truth and they have promised him playing time, it is a tough one to turn down.

    Regarding the “transfer” money, the key in that statement is that the money should be used for transfer fees OR wages. When the new stadium was built the board went out of their way to keep stating that the new stadium would allow us to pay top wages. The board never once, never once, said that the new stadium would allow us to pay carzy transfer fees. I dont think AW will change his spots at all regarding transfers but you can see from the current wave of new contracts being signed that everyone is now seeing a bit more of the pie in wages. I would think Cesc is the next one who will have his terms renogotiated. And if he does sign an improved contract that should put the talk of him leaving to bed for a couple of years at least.

  • Flint McCullough

    Thanks for the info on A Madrid, very interesting read, Tony.

    I think it is a non story with Fran at the moment. The story has not been verified so who knows?

    Fran will be 20 in March, still young & at this age he is approaching 1st team football in the usual way. He has been a regular on the bench & is getting the occasional game. Maybe with cup games he can play around 10 games. We pick up plenty of injuries, so it is possible that he could get the run of games, where he makes the statement that means he has crossed over into ‘drop me now’ territory, as Ramsey is starting to do. That has to be his goal if he has confidence in himself. Sure there is competition ahead of him & behind, as there should be at a top club but it is up to him to seize the chances when they come.

    Arsenal are offering him a contract, if it is a good one then Fran will know they really rate him. Should it not be so good then then perhaps he will see that it is time to go somewhere that offers a quicker route to regular 1st team football.

    He was a bit unlucky at West Iceland (as was young Jack) because he was involved in the unattractive part of knackering the Irons, so they could be dismantled later on.

    This does raise an issue for the future though. How on earth does AW choose who stays & who goes?

  • Ian Trevett

    The Merida issue is something we may have to get used to.
    Our first team is very young and if they want to stay with the club, it means that the route in the first team gets even harder. On Sunday, we turned the game around by bringing on our experienced players from the bench. Their ages were 22 and 23. Usually bringing on an experienced player means a 27 or 28-year-old.
    If Cesc, Song, Denilson, Diaby, Wilshere, Nasri and Ramsey stay around for four or five years, where is the gap for Emmanuel-Thomas, Coquelin and Frimpong?
    There is a truism that players never leave Arsenal and go on to better things. That will inevitably change as we so many talented players coming through and not enough squad places.
    Though we will get the sell-on fees when they change clubs in the future.

  • Football Seer

    I disagree with point that that since our first team players are between 20 and 23 that merida would not have a chance to play regularly.
    What about injuries, congested matches, players being sold in near future? He is closer to being in the first 11 than most players only if he can concentrate and be patient.
    Vela is more matured and should be an example to him. Vela plays in the 1st team of mexico yet not at Arsenal but doesn’t complain. Vela is very valuable to us so is merida.
    If he leaves, I see him changing clubs away from Atletico madrid in 3 seasons. The grass is always greener on the other side because your vision is limited by the distance. You can make it at Arsenal!

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Great post Tony ,I just hope that he stays and fights for his place in the team, as do many of the regulars of this site. He has age on his side
    and there is no hurry to leave now just as many of the clubs are facing an uncertain future – A. Madrid being one.I hope he signs a new contract even it for a shorter term and then weigh his options on a later date.I have to agree with Ian Trevett’s observation about ex-Arsenal players -for me only
    T.Henry ,Cashly Cole ,Liam Brady ,Ray Kennedy and maybe Frank Stapleton [at
    Man Ure]have further advanced their careers since leaving.This is my view after following Arsenal for almost 40 years.I hope you can kick off a debate on this on a future post Tony.

  • jazbo

    He (Fran) should sign a new contract and then go out on loan for a season to get the experience and game time he needs.
    As said before the make up of our team was always going to cause problems for the younger players who are trying to break through into the first team squad, however with Rosicky and Arshavin in their late twenties we do have two places that will become available in a season or two, who will fill those? Ramsey? Merida? Coqulin? JET? lansbury? Wilshire(stil too young), Barazite?, see just way too much talent for the team to absorb at the moment and still some of those Blogs out there call for Arsene to Buy! Buy! Buy!

  • I think he will leave the club