How the Sun’s story of Arsenal incompetence and money wasting unravelled

By Tony Attwood

Either all the editors were out of their heads or they knew the story was nonsense, but chose to run it anyway.


“YOU CAN DAV IT ALL” said the Sun’s headline.  Followed by, “David Luiz’s one year at Arsenal will have cost club £24MILLION as ex-Chelsea defender plots Benfica transfer exit.”


The story is based on two concepts.  The first is that Arsenal did spend £24m on having David Luiz as a player this season.  The second is that he is leaving after one year.

It was a knocking story and so picked up by every grubby little outlet that likes to paint the football world as one in which everything Arsenal does is touched by incompetence, while everything everyone else does is pretty much straight down the line.

The story quickly escalated.   “£24MILLION” was the headline on TalkSport’s website, continuing, “David Luiz has cost Arsenal £24MILLION in one season since his transfer from Chelsea – including £6m in agent fees. David Luiz has cost Arsenal up to £24million for just one season, according to reports.”

Except… look at those little words tucked in there.  Words like “up to” and “according to reports.”   (Of course they don’t say reportedly any  more, not since we exposed what “reportedly” actually means, but according to reports is much the same.  Whose reports?  What reports?  Oh, other “news” outlets like Talk Sport).

The Metro however takes us a little further into the desperate sewers of anti-Arsenal reporting.

“The Arsenal hierarchy are still to make significant breakthroughs in negotiations over new deals for captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and this season’s breakthrough star Bukayo Saka. It will represent an enormous source of frustration for Arsenal fans, therefore, to learn that, according to The Athletic, the total cost of Luiz’s move from Stamford Bridge to the Emirates Stadium could ultimately represent an eye-watering £24million.”

Now we see why they want to push the story forward, because it is telling Arsenal fans to be upset.  All that money wasted on a defender when we could have spent it on two forwards.  Stupid idiot Arsenal.  (And as we shall see, stupid idiot The Athletic.)

So the Metro does have the courtesy to tell us where the figures come from – which means we can do a bit of digging to see if they stack up.   But even then they start this bit of their coverage by saying, “According to the report…”

In other words, they are not going to accept responsibility for a single word of this.  They haven’t bothered to check the story.   It’s a bit like “50 bent policemen extorting millions a week from old age pensioners” as a headline and then when the details are needed, “According to reports…”

If you saw that you’d be asking, “Whose report?  Where was the report?  Have you been bothered to validate any of it?”

All reasonable questions, but not ones that are answered here.  No validation.  No checking.  Just someone running the story and everyone else copying it.  So let’s do it for them.

Checking the David Luiz story step by step.

“£8m on the initial transfer fee, £6m to intermediaries and £10m on Luiz’s annual salary.”

Just consider that.  That would put Luiz on the same salary as Aubameyang.  Is that really likely?  Who would authorise that?

The Metro points out that Raul Sanllehi, the director in charge of transfer policy, and technical director Edu, “share a close relationship with Luiz’s agent Kia Joorabchian.”  That sounds bad, and quite possibly illegal.

But then quickly they snap away from that part of the story and tell us that  “Luiz has… made no secret of his desire to return to Benfica, the club at which he launched his European career. He told Record earlier this week: ‘I have already spoken with (Luiz Filipe) Vieira. It will happen if the President permits it and fans want me back. ‘To be able to wear that jersey again and enter the stadium is worth more than many trophies. Benfica doesn’t deserve me to come back without helping’.”

Of course he doesn’t say when that will be, and the Metro doesn’t run the story from the Mail which reads, “‘What he is earns is unthinkable for us’: Benfica president admits they cannot afford David Luiz’s £120,000 a week wages as he reveals defender IS about to renew his contract with Arsenal.”

But let’s look again at the allegation.  What the reports do is combine the transfer fee, the salary and agent’s fee into one lump and say it is all for one year.  All very unusual.

The salary could be right, so let’s leave that but what about the agent’s fees?  Clubs never reveal agents fees on an individual basis and when the media quotes a transfer fee they never quote the agent’s fee.  Yet this one is quoted here.  Why here?  Why now?

Now as it happens agents’ fees are shown in club accounts.  And when they are written about these fees are normally 5% of the transfer fee.  And when we read “£8m on the initial transfer fee, £6m to intermediaries” the only intermediary can be the agent.  But on an £8m transfer, the agent would get not £6m but £400,000.  That is quite a difference.  £5.6m difference.

And here’s the twist – none of the newspapers and blogs and head-in-a-bucket TV and radio journalists have questioned any of this.  None of them have asked, “what does £6m to intermediaries actually mean?”   No one has said, “What is an intermediary?”  Or “Blimey, if that is what an intermediary gets, I’ll be one.”  Or HOW DOES THAT COMPARE TO FEES FOR OTHER TRANSFERS?

Yes agents can be dodgy as we revealed in The first thing we do let’s kill all the agents,   If you want more background on agents our dear friend, so sadly missed, Adam Brogden, gave a good round up in this article.

But what is so noticeable in the allegation of Arsenal incompetence here is that the figures quoted are way out of line with other agents’ fees, and yet there is no explanation.  It’s as if the houses in one street cost £250,000 each, but one in the middle cost £6,5m.  You might expect to know why.  An agency fee of that size would be THE story of not just today, not just this week, but of THIS DECADE.

Now as it happened, continuing Adam’s work across the years, we have recently run articles on this, and looked in depth at agents’ work, including the issue of agents working as bankers, arranging to lend money to clubs so that the club can afford a transfer of a player represented by an agent.

But despite all these articles and all this research we have not come up with anything that suggests an agent’s fee could be 75% of the transfer fee.   5% yes, 75% no.

Given that no journalist whose work I have seen has questioned the fee, we must conclude the story is nonsensical and the journalists know it.  Any editor who was even half awake or had drunk less than five points or eight gin and tonics would recognise that.

Which means either all the editors and journalists were either out of their heads or they knew the story was nonsense, but chose to run it anyway because they hold their readers in utter contempt and hate Arsenal.

You decide.





5 Replies to “How the Sun’s story of Arsenal incompetence and money wasting unravelled”

  1. Just as a matter of interest, £24 per annum is exactly what Maquire is costing Man Utd (assuming he doesn’t get a pay rise) without taking into account the cost of “intermediaries”. So given we needed a centre back as cover until Saliba arrived and bearing in mind Holding was out for a year what’s all the fuss about? Sure Luiz is past his best (but at his best could walk rings round Maquire) but if I need to buy in someone on a short-term temporary contract for my organisation I expect to pay a premium. If I use an agency I expect to pay an even bigger premium. As you say, these people are idiots.

  2. Tony,

    120’000 per week ammounts to a little over 6 million. Their calculation is that the salary is 10 million….they do not want their math to add up, so they make up numbers

  3. Tony

    The original article is from the Athletic as you point out. The writer is Amy Lawrence, a long term Arsenal fanatic and I have seen her at many games. She generally has the best interests of the Club at heart and her articles are well researched.

    Are you classing her as anti-Arsenal?

    I find this hard to believe. Are you just engaging in a bit of Kremlinology here?

  4. Unravelled to who? By whom? I don’t see what is unbelievable in the article. That arsenal could have paid up to £6m in agents fees? How is that unbelievable?

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