By Sir Hardly Anyone
Arsenal have agreed a deal with Lille for Gabriel Magalhães. And yet he has not arrived. So what is causing the problem?
One issue is that other clubs have an interest, and all seem willing to pay the fee quoted variously as betweeen £22m and £24m. But it is not just between the clubs.
And the problem is not with Lille who have already signed Jonathan David from Gent. Rather, although it is easy for fans of any team to think that of course the player will want to come to our club, because we are great, and who wouldn’t want to play here, players and their agents have a much deeper knowledge of the way clubs can differ and what it is like in different clubs. Just as anyone who has worked for several employers in the same industry will learn: each employer has his own way of doing things, and some are far less pleasant as employers than others.
So what exactly is it that makes a player go to one club rather than another?
1: Salary, bonuses and extras
The salaries may seem extreme to us mortals but when there is a chance of getting an extra £10,000 a week, well, why not take it if that is what is on offer? But the salary is only part of the deal. There are the image rights, sponsorship arrangements, promotions etc. One particular issue is often how easy it is for the player to deal with a sponsor in another country. Will the club co-operate with the sponsor’s demands?
As for bonuses and extras, the current round of cost cutting and redundancies does not give Arsenal a good image in this regard. We are seen as a club in retreat, and will continue to do so until the club shows that it is making real progress.
2: The country and the language.
Arsenal under Mr Wenger always had a huge benefit with his ability to speak half a dozen languages, and his easy availability to the players. Not all managers have that reputation, but we are fortunate with Arteta. His recent comment about slipping from English to French to Spanish when giving instructions to players, both to help them and to confuse a rival manager (especially if English), boosted his reputation among players.
Most European players come to the club with some English; it is some of the South Americans who struggle, having grown up on a continent where Spanish and Portuguese are the two languages spoken. Again Arteta is a bonus here.
3: Players relatives
How easy is it to bring relatives to the country? This is a major issue at the moment for the UK since no one knows what the regulations will be like from the start of next year when the transition period of leaving the EU comes to an end. Already there is a tightening up of the rules, and quite simply the uncertainty about the ability to bring the wife’s family and others to England from Europe can scupper a deal when others are available. No one really knows what the new regime is going to be like – not even Mr Gove, and he’s seemingly running the show!
4: Club’s position
The FA Cup showed Arsenal haven’t lost the knack of winning, but the slippage to our worst league position since 1993 is not a solid advertising point – especially given double change of manager.
5: Is the player an obvious first choice?
The problem here is Pepe – at a cost of around £72m, and then having him not play in every game, and looking out of place on occasion, does not help. Media talk of him being ditched after one season has not helped either.
Players want to play in front of never-say-die fanatics, and that’s not the image of Arsenal around the world. The pictures of the planes with their messages, the cardboard signs, the black scarf marches, and above all AFTV (which is of course available world wide) has made Arsenal a club to avoid.
Under Wenger the lack of a title since 2004 didn’t matter while we were second only to Real Madrid in terms of consecutive years in the Champions League, but all that has slipped away. Again, the FA Cup was a real bonus, not just as a trophy but a route to Europe, but the player needs to be convinced that this year will at the very least mean replacing one of Liverpool, Man U, Man C or Chelsea in the top four.
This is a real problem. Players immediately lose 50% of their salary in tax, and the old loophole of image rights is being aggressively attacked by Revenue and Customs who are not known for turning a blind eye. The expectation that the club will “get around the tax issue” is normal in some countries, but it doesn’t happen that much in England.
9: Accommodation and lifestyle
This is where we do score. There are some beautiful luxury houses in and around north London, and the nightlife of the city is much prized among those with the money – once the virus goes away. Our position in that regard is not good – we are not seen across Europe as having been as successful as some countries in dealing with the virus.
Arteta is highly regarded as a tactician, and that is a help.
11: Training facilities, the stadium, the training
The first two of these are again, positives, but it is noted just how many injuries Arsenal players get. The old notion that it was all down to Mr Wenger, was not widely accepted outside of the UK media, and now that the high rate of injuries has continued after his departure that notion has been swept away. But leaving the high rate of injuries unexplained means players worry about it.
12: The media
This is one of our biggest problems. Players don’t normally read the media from other countries, but given the choice of going to Arsenal or clubs elsewhere, their agent might well give comparative reports. And then we can be scuppered. My own view is that in a number of cases of prospective purchases from overseas, the agent of a player has thought that Arsenal is simply too high a risk, from a reading of the newspapers and blogs. Too much turmoil, too many negatives, not enough positive.
Overall Arsenal have a lot to do in all transfers of players from overseas to overcome these negatives. Just because a deal looks to be on, it can easily slip away.
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