Do You Trust Raul Sanllehi? by Dan Smith
A week ago it was believed it was Unai Emery’s decision for negotiations to be ended with Aaron Ramsey. Yet our manager has since insisted the issue is between the player and the club, he will just worry about events on the pitch and judge Rambo like he would anyone else in the squad.
What we do know is Arsenal’s change of heart coincided with Raul Sanllehi’s promotion from head of football relations to head of football, putting him in charge of contracts. For months the Welshmen’s agent had been finalising a deal which all parties had shaken on. The person he would have been talking to …. Ivan Gazidis. Why was someone, knowing full well he is joining AC Milan, was making decisions that impact our future? This is the same gentlemen who was pictured walking on the Emirates grass telling our new boss how great this new direction would be. So it’s safe to say if our chief executive hadn’t moved to Italy, the Ramsey family would be toasting the birth of their twins with a massive pay rise.
It is kind of fitting to the old regime’s legacy though that as he starts his new role in Serie A, he just had to let one more contract run down to the point of almost no value being left.
Sanellehi was director of football for 10 years at Barcelona, so can handle himself. In one of his first public speeches with select gooners, he said one of his proudest achievements at the Nou Camp, was seeing how many stars graduated
from their academy. He explains this formula works because you then have 4 or 5 of your 11 with Barca in their blood, this infects the love of the badge to everyone else. Going by that criteria, he would much rather promote from our youth set up than put another 200,000 pound on the wage bill. Is this part of his new job description? Is he smartly telling his peers what they want to hear? Either way, it’s music to Stan Kroenke’s ears.
While the Silent One sits in the US counting his money, over in England, one of his most powerful employees has a vision which ensures the American doesn’t need to put his hand in his pocket. His first month in the role and he’s got an action plan where we save money by telling a player he can go and has managed to put a PR spin on it, making supporters think it’s good. He can even sell the commercial opportunities of British kids being promoted to the senior squad – that will sell even more shirts? His formula of course worked in Spain. But when he refers to that generation, it includes a certain Messi, Iniesta, Pique, Fabregas, Xavi, etc. Trust me, he had nothing to do with their development and it doesn’t take a genius to look at a 16 year old Messi and conclude he had talent. Find me a Messi in our under age groups and I’ll rip up our owners cheque book myself.
With the Catalans though Sanllehi was always under pressure to deliver. If he had to spend millions, sack managers, make the brand marketable, he would, or else those around him wouldn’t stand for it. At the great institutions, pressure gets the best out of people. Compared to that, his remit in London is a doddle. No demands to win titles or make impact in Europe, no list of targets you have to sign before certain deadlines. As long as the business is making a profit, he can put his feet up.
So, who is Raul Sanllehi ?
The man who stood up to an overrated midfielder, refusing to pay over the odds?
A visionary for giving the youth a chance?
Or …. Just another suit who knows ways to minimise outgoings on behalf of Mr Kroenke?