One thing I wanted to touch on in yesterday’s article on Arsenal being in the third tier of the transfer market is about transfer stories and how there is an incestuousness about the market that many fans seem to forget.
One of the most pernicious problems with transfer reports is that journalists are often given scoops which further the client’s purposes. Fans take these scoops and run with them as fact that their club was interested and when the player doesn’t sign for their club, fans feel like “their club could have done more” or worse, that management is inept.
But agents will often give journalists information about a club like Arsenal contacting them because they want to use that link to further their bargaining position with the club that their player is currently negotiating with. Arturo Vidal did this with Juventus, a few years back, eventually securing a larger contract with the Old Grey Lady and leaving Arsenal fans feeling like their club didn’t do enough to land the player.
The role that agents play in a player’s career and life is often gravely understated, as is the role that money plays in these transactions. A great example of that is the Morgan Schneiderlin transfer saga from the last two years. This summer Philippe Auclair tweeted:
Schneiderlin: told that that player favours AFC, but also told of problems between club and representatives of the player.
— Philippe Auclair (@PhilippeAuclair) June 26, 2015
You can read this tweet two ways: Schneiderlin genuinely wanted to come to Arsenal but his agents hate Arsenal and Schneiderlin listens to his agents or that his agents were feeding this information to reporters so that they could improve their bargaining position with United and get a larger pay packet and media rights deal. In the end, Schneiderlin signed for United, United paid £150k a week for his services, and Morgan Schneiderlin chose the club which will pay him handsomely, and which will increase his global marketability, thus leading to even more money in endorsements.
I admit I read Auclair’s tweet the first way this summer. That stems from the fact that Schneiderlin’s agents are Gervinho’s agents and we know that Gervinho and Arsenal don’t see eye-to-eye over his time at the club. But it also stems from my desire to want Schneiderlin to want us.
Schneiderlin is one of the cool kids. He’s a terrific player and he would help our club. I want the cool kids to want to be in my club. And here is the cool kid saying “I’d join your club, but my agent advises me against it.” It’s the perfect scenario: I still get to pine for Schneiderlin, because he didn’t do anything wrong, and I get to blame either his agents (which is where I would go) or the Arsenal management (“for not trying hard enough” which is where others go). But what if Arsenal were never really a consideration?
Remember when Robin van Persie left Arsenal because he “didn’t agree with the direction of the club”? And when he went to United, he won the League, and many people said he fulfilled his dream. But there was another side to that transfer that people just don’t want to hear: by his third year at United, Robin van Persie was making $75m a season – making him one of the highest paid footballers in the world. Not just in salary, but in Salary, endorsements, and all the other perks that come with being a star player on a club like Man U.
When I say that Arsenal are a third tier transfer team, that’s what I’m talking about. Did Schneiderlin go to United because he longed to play for the notoriously grumpy van Gaal on a team that was struggling in the Champions League? Or was it because his agents and Arsenal didn’t get along? Or was it because including pay packet and endorsements, Arsenal couldn’t really compete financially with what Man U offer? And do I change my story now, because he’s a United player?
Other times journalists are given inside information in order to further the agenda of a club. Oliver Kay’s article on how Chelsea stole Pedro is one of those times.
First Kay accuses United of having a problem with “Hispanic” players in a few uncomfortable paragraphs:
it is fair to say that Hispanic footballers are not exactly thriving in Manchester under Van Gaal. Valdés joined United in January as a potential successor to David De Gea but is now surplus to requirements after falling out with Van Gaal over his refusal to play in an under-21 match; Rafael da Silva and Nani were sold, along with Ángelo Henríquez and Bebé; Ángel Di María quickly fell out of favour after a British record £59.7 million move from Real Madrid; Radamel Falcao’s loan move from Monaco did not work out.
De Gea wants to join Real, as almost every Hispanic player does, and has left Van Gaal convinced that he is not in the right frame of mind to play unless he is still at United when the transfer window closes; Sergio Romero, Marcos Rojo, Antonio Valencia, Ander Herrera, Juan Mata and Andreas Pereira remain, but there is a certain disenchantment among some of the Spanish and South American contingent at Old Trafford.
That’s an incredible bit of journalism right there. I’m not one to take van Gaal’s side but citing Bebe, Henriquez, Nani, and da Silva as evidence that there’s a problem with “Hispanic” players and van Gaal, which then casts an almost racist tone over the whole dealings, is disingenuous at best. As for Falcao and Valdes, the evidence had long been clear before they signed that they were washed up. Di Maria is the only player who washed out at United under van Gaal, de Gea would be a starter if he hadn’t had his head turned by Real Madrid.
Kay’s lede, though, is the claim that Chelsea have a female “middle-man” (and Cesc’s girlfriend) who brokers these deals:
…a £21.1 million deal presented by Marina Granovskaia, the director, with a little help from Cesc Fàbregas and his girlfriend, Daniella Semaan.
For all the focus on José Mourinho and Roman Abramovich, it is Granovskaia, operating on the level between manager and owner, who has turned Chelsea from a club heavily reliant on agents to one who get their transfer business done quickly and, in many cases, far more privately and decisively than their rivals…
For Chelsea’s success in landing the player for what looks a reasonable fee, Granovskaia deserves much of the credit. The estrangement of Eva Carneiro, previously the first-team doctor, might have led some to accuse Chelsea of sexual discrimination, but this is a rare football club where, increasingly, a woman calls the shots.
It couldn’t be any clearer that this article was fed to Kay by Chelsea’s PR department. The story here is that United are “anti-Hispanic” and that Chelsea are “pro-woman.”
Chelsea have suffered the slings and arrows of their outrageous manager in the wake of his benching Eva Carneiro, who was promoted at the behest of Granovskaia, and along comes this story about the massive gazumping of their title rivals, which was conveniently brokered by Cesc’s girlfriend and a female executive.
Oliver Kay is the Chief Football Correspondent for the Times, a paper of record, and this article was his scoop. This is transfer journalism, folks.