What emotions did you have to see two big names associated with Arsenal Football club this weekend? Most sensible Gooners will taken the reports in the tabloid press of Arsenal preparing to bid for Franck Ribery of Bayern Munich with not so much a pinch but a handful of salt. Given the financial aspirations of the ex-Marseille player who was supposed to have joined Arsenal four seasons ago or thereabouts, what would have changed since going to Bayern and turning down the prospect of champions league in favour of Euros? With the pound losing ground against this European currency together with the prospect of a 50% minimum tax take, the personal terms for foreign players just got more difficult. In fact, I would say that there was more chance of Arsenal signing the first extraterrestrial being to land on earth before Ribery signs for the Club.
The quote saying that a source close to the Club described it as a done deal makes me wonder if Mickey Mouse was doing a London tour last week. Real Madrid will be the destination for Franck Ribery or Chelsea if Real run out of cash, as these are the only two clubs in the Champions league that the player will consider ( having rejected Manchester United), that can afford his wages.
The reports about Karem Benzema are intriguing only to suggest that agents are again causing mischief. To invite a bid from North London on the grounds that the player prefers Arsenal is fanciful. Arsenal do not have the cash for such a deal and until Adebayor is sold, nothing concrete will happen. Man United on the other hand having cash to burn, seem likely to acquire their long term target only if they are willing to outbid Real Madrid who have just offered 32 million Euros.
Real Madrid have already spent 150 million pounds and if they land Benzema for £27 million and pay Bayern £35 million for Ribery the final spending of this Spanish giant will be close to £215 million, 90% of a years turnover for them. These are astonishing sums and I think that the long term consequences will be accelerate any moves by UEFA to bring in means of capping such expenditure based on increasing the debt of a football club. The reports that Manchester City are offering Samuel Eto’o £250 thousand a week have been denied by sources close to the club, however the deal on offer to him is described as “Strastopheric” by his Catalan owners. Something has to give one would think, but as long as there are oil rich arabs in charge of football clubs, the only way to create a level playing field is for UEFA to step in.
Talk of Arsenal competing in the transfer market and witness the revival of Alisher Usmanov who is persisting with his attempts to divide and rule. This is an excellent strategy for soon the Arsenal Board will have to explain why a rights issue to pay off the club debts is not the way to go if Usmanov is the sole underwriter and ends up becoming the largest shareholder if the other shareholders do not buy up their qualifying percentages. These moves will further embarrass the club if in the spate of intense transfer speculation, Arsenal as seen as having failed again to secure a decent player merely upon the lack of finances, especially with Manchester City coming into the frame as serious contenders for a top four place by virtue of the likes of Tevez and Eto’o coming to Eastlands.
Then if this were not bad enough imagine the backdrop of a fragmented Board with Stanley Kroenke appearing unwilling to commit immediate funds to the shareholdings that he has negotiated to buy, and Lady Nina’s stake of 15% becoming increasing less valuable as the momentum builds for a rights issue. The off the field developments will become an increasing distraction. There are reports that Ivan Gazidis is taking advice from the banks, yet Bankers are mercenary. They only want to see the colour of the money, and money laundering apart, really don’t care from whom it comes.
Which leads me to ask all of you out there, after all of the efforts to maintain the independent status of Arsenal football club by preventing one single shareholder taking over the business. have we now reached a point where commonsense dictates that we should now negotiate with Usmanov who appears only intent on reducing his losses rather than taking over the club?
The problem would not arise if the other mainshareholders were to match Usmanov in the rights issue, but we all know that for some of the key players, the long term interests of Arsenal Football Club are now of a lower priority than their own personal financial interests. Even an Usmanov takeover would probably see him sell the club again quickly to try and recoup his losses in his mining portfolio.
Without this proposed Rights Issue, the Club could be faced with more turmoil among it’s supporters as this is a make or break season. Further failure to be compete with our rivals will not well tolerated. My view for what it is worth is not to blink at the threat from Usmanov, but equally we should question the credentials of the other large shareholders. Instead of telling Usmanov where to go, we need to understand his weaknesses and exploit them by urging the Board to use it’s vast intellectual resources to find a working compromise which will serve the interests of all involved. A properly funded rights issue underwritten by the banks with all shareholders buying up their allocated fractions would do for a start…

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