How Chelsea sneaked in Willan, but Man U failed with Rojo

By Tony Attwood

10 August 2013: In a somewhat unexpected result Arsenal beat Man City 3-1 in a friendly.  Sebastian Perez Cardona  appeared for Arsenal, and the AAA and their journalistic allies made much of the fact that the player did not have a work permit.

He came on as a sub in the 67th minute wearing number 32 and played the rest of the match.  He got praise for “natural abilities” in the game and indeed during the week he spent with Arsenal.

But Perez was unable to get a work-permit as ‘he had yet to play at least 75% of Colombia’s international matches’. 

The AAA howled that this incident showed how pathetically disorganised Arsenal were, and how it was no wonder that every other club got the players they wanted when they wanted when we couldn’t even sort out the issues of something as basic as work permits.

It was of course obvious that no one writing this stuff had ever made an application for a work permit (and probably never a visa) in circumstances where one doesn’t meet all the requirements, but meets some.  But uncertainty is the name of the game.  Believe me, I know.  I worked in Algeria for a year.

But on to more weighty matters.  Take Alexis Sanchez -he didn’t train in Austria ahead of the season because he was in Paris getting his visa and work permit.

More Arsenal cock-ups?  No, the paperwork was just taking time, and you can’t apply for a work permit in the country you want to work in – it stops people coming in and working and then applying retrospectively.

And that was all really a small matter when you compare it all to Marcos Rojo who has missed two matches with Manchester Untidy and might not actually play their game this weekend.  He’s been a Man U man for a week or more, but is now back in Spain at the Argentine embassy.

So while other players are working on their fitness Louis vG said, “Marcos Rojo is working on his work permit.”   I am not sure if that was a joke or not.   But King Louis did make the point that “He must go abroad for it.”   He must indeed.

I wanted to write about what this is all about because it is going to happen again, and when it does the AAA will rise up once more, and at least then I can point them to this.  Here’s the basics…

For a non-EU player to get a work permit, he must have played in more than 75% of his country’s matches in the last two years, and that country must be in the top 70 nations in Fifa’s ranking.

Argentina qualifies as a top nation, and Rojo has 28 caps in the last four seasons, but the only games counted are World Cup qualifiers, the Copa America and other significant tournament matches.

It is all set up to stop pesky little countries exporting their players and big countries putting on silly matches to help some of their nationals play overseas.   It also explains why clubs are willing to let players go overseas to play for the national team – because when they come to sell the players, the players will still be free to move around – assuming they haven’t taken UK citizenship en route.

Dual nationality is handy – especially if one of the passports is from within the EU, because with that you can work anywhere in the EU.  Although of course if Ukip come to power in the UK, all that will end and we will once again be watching a Premier League made up of British and Irish players.  Ah, the good old days.

But the EU system isn’t perfect.   In 2013 Willian went from Aznhi Makhachkala to Chelsea having only two Brazil caps.  Chelsea came up with the nifty argument that Willian would have won more caps if had he not been Brazilian because Brazil has so many talented players and is such a big country that few get the chance to meet the criteria.


And wouldn’t you know it, the FA fell for it and supported the application, so the Foreign Office in the UK said “righty ho”.

Now not every EU country has the same set of rules.  Holland and Spain and to a degree France are regular stopping off places for players who can’t work in England because the regulations make it easier for them to stay.  Think of Joel Campbell – whose country was not big enough to qualify as a top Fifa country.  I wonder if Arsenal appealed with the same sort of appeal that Chelsea made, only this time saying “it isn’t fair, Cost Rica is too small a country to get into the top Fifa rankings.”   If it works for Chelsea and Brazil it ought to work for Arsenal and Costa Rica.

But in the end Joel did his time in the EU and (I think) got dual nationality in Spain.

The fact is, clubs can’t go round doing hypothetical applications for players to work in Britain – they have to have a job offer on the table first – which is why these things happen.

Still, as I say, at least when the AAA blame Wenger again, I can always point them to this little piece.


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20 Replies to “How Chelsea sneaked in Willan, but Man U failed with Rojo”

  1. Costa Rica were not ranked below 70th. Campbell didn’t get his work permit because at the time he hadn’t played 75% of games over the last two years (he had only broken into the team that year).

    And he never got Spanish citizenship. Arsenal reapplied after he became a mainstay in the COsta Rican national team, thus making him eligible for work permit.

  2. Also, Chelsea applied for the “special talent” work permit for William.

    I’m not sure if we applied for it with Campbell but I know both Ryo Miyaichi and Alex Song were given special talents visas. So Arsenal were aware of the possibility of apply for such a permit.

  3. Tony,
    You make the basic errors that the AAA will be able to follow your piece and that even if they do they won’t just ignore it and blindly repeat whatever they are told to think by journos and stupid people called Jamie.
    On behalf of the rest of us though, many thanks for the article.

  4. Tony

    Some real basic errors in this article.

    First Costa Rica have been ranked 70th or better in FIFAs rankings since 1996

    Next I don’t know if it was an error or whether it suited your argument but when you said the following quite simply it is not correct

    “For a non-EU player to get a work permit, he must have played in more than 75% of his country’s matches in the last two years, and that country must be in the top 70 nations in Fifa’s ranking”

    On appeal a work permit(its not actually a work permit its a visa)can be granted to a player who has exceptional ability and Chelsea arguments weren’t just about the limited number of caps gained it was also that the fee would not have b

  5. Are the ‘the ignorant’ the only ones who do not like to admit they are wrong?

    Those with a stand to make on any given position will always refuse to admit they are wrong. The likes of the anti Arsenal brigade are never going to admit they are wrong (at least openly).

    The media cannot admit it is wrong, if it did, it would risk the danger losing its credibility with its non thinking believers.

    So we battle on speaking the facts in a world that for the most part only wants to know its own agenda. The blind leading the blind.

  6. Tony,
    This kind of article is the reason I keep coming back to this site. All people have the right to believe what they want and have their opinion. Of course reading a blog where most people express their opinion on my club often could be interesting. Turning to this site give readers something more. Not only opinions, but great insight to transfer dealings, economics of football (FFP), and now the delicate issue of getting a work permit. It is far too easy just to sit back and expect our club to go to the footballplayer supermarket, pick one falcao, one khedira, pay and walk out. This is not how it works.

    Keep on writing!!

    Ps: my bet for the next couple of days is we get one more player. A defensive minded one who is able to play in midfield and defense. I also believe we might get a striker. You never know, if a special player gets available we might go for it, but not necessarily because we are in need. AW has been saying this all summer after all. I guess it is not of interest to media what he actually say, so they make their own story.

  7. Sorry for the mistakes – about Campbell. I really must learn to stick to the subject I start out on which was Perez and Rojo. Trouble is when I write things like I get carried away and then add some extras from memory because I’m running out of time.

    But at least the errors get corrected, and I’ll be able to get it right next time I write about Joel.

    Thanks and apologies.

  8. Tony I guess you have taken the Independents article as Gospel.

    When a player applies for a visa to work or play in say England the FA is asked to endorse the application. The criteria that is applied to gain this endorsement is indeed around the 75% of competitive international games.
    There is no way the Home Office will be grant one without FA endorsement so the application is going to fail.
    The club then appeal to the FA who then factor in what some say is the exceptional talent.

    Despite what the article in the Independent says a player with an EU passport(De Maria with an Italian passport) does not require a visa they require the transfer to be granted International clearance part of that process is examination of the players status.

  9. @ Tony

    We all get things wrong and in truth the subject matter of this article is a minefield

  10. Educative indeed. However, how I wish all journalists will be humble enough to accept their mistakes as you have done.

  11. Tony,

    As an immigrant, I find it easy to forgive the few errors in the piece. The UK immigrations laws are convoluted to put it mildly and it is understandable for one to get it wrong especially if one isn’t CURRENTLY affected by them.

    A friend who is making his Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILTR) application next month went to the Home office website to get the current application form and found out that new rules (including price hikes) have been introduced since he last checked a few months ago. Things have been made more difficult for applicants and they weren’t easy before. There are also a lot of discretionary decisions that are up to the minister.

    Those of us who have navigated the UK immigration maze with all the high costs and stringent conditions are always puzzled and indeed troubled when we turn on the news and hear about the hordes of immigrants flocking into the UK and ruining the country in the process.

    I appreciate your regular calling out the bigots who hide behind the ‘threat’ of immigration to rail against those who are different from them.

  12. Nice one tony . Atleast you do accept when your wrong .which makes you more credible than our so called fellow fans the aaa

  13. Agree Bootoomee. Even a simple task like finding their contact number is not that easy.

    Anyway, back to the main point of discussion, Willian is supposed to have got his permit on the basis of his exceptional talent… what talent? 🙂

  14. AL,

    Of course.

    The part that I don’t particularly like in the immigration laws are the ones about the “minister’s discretion”. This is subject to all sorts of randomness. And by randomness I mean partiality and possible foul play. I am not making accusations here but when the player of a Billionaire club who never shy from paying for whatever they want gets a visa as “exceptional talent” when he hasn’t done anything exceptional in the game and another player from Arsenal or Man United, who are more traditional when it comes to spending, does not; then one might begin to wonder what is going on.

    I like the Point Based System. At least the rules are clear and issuance is fair. I am not sure if the players are on PBS.

  15. I may be wrong in this, but wasn’t Willian “expected” to join the Spuds, with the deal reasonably advanced, until Chelski stepped in?

    If so, I am not sure if that had any influence either way on Willian’s work permit.

  16. bjtgooner,

    Signing players and getting them work visa are not the same thing. Chelsea beat Tottenham to the player’s signature but they must still apply for a work visa for him afterward. To be fair, Tottenham might been able to successfully make the same application but then they might have failed. I don’t think that the fact that Tottenham wanted to sign Willian before Chelsea hi-jacked the deal negates this point.

  17. Spot on again Bootoomee. A work visa/permit is employer-specific. In other words if I applied for a permit to work for company A, I’d need to apply for a new one to work for company B if I decided to change jobs, even before the first one has expired.

  18. AL
    “Willian is supposed to have got his permit on the basis of his exceptional talent… what talent? :)”

    Check out Seb Coates: debut for Uruguay June2011; Liverpool buy him in August 2011 for £7m; visa no problem – plays first game in September; in total has 12 appearances for Liverpool in three years and is now back in Uruguay.
    Exceptional talent? Who at the FA endorsed that?

  19. Didn’t we lose out on Yaya Toure because we couldn’t get a work permit for him or am I mistaken?

  20. Mike T,special talent premit in football is granted to people under the age of 21,get ur facts right………..willian was way over 21 wen he came to chelsea.

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