Last February, David Dein took time away from tanning to appear on Sky's 'Footballers Football Show'. Alongside helicopter enthusiast David Gold and former Liverpool Managing Director Christian Purslow, the former Arsenal Vice Chairman discussed financial fair play, before the topic inevitably turned to Arsenal.
This is not the re-cycled, template plea to bring back Dein on the back of the latest embarrassment. For all that Arsène might his good friends input, Dein is far from the faultless saviour that the failures since he sold his shares might illuminate.
Would Arsenal fair better with Dein still involved? Perhaps. But why would Dein have prevented the sale Robin Van Persie when he lost Ashley Cole for the sake of an extra £5k per week?
I digress. Whilst Dein inevitably shied away from answering the questions of real interest, there were moments of note which make the podcast worth downloading.
Both Purslow and Gold were full of admiration for the way in which Arsenal are run, and the platform they find themselves able to build from. Purslow is enthusiastic as to the "brave" decision of the Arsenal board in the mid-nineties for pushing ahead with the stadium move, patting Dein on the back whilst ignorant to his preference to rent Wembley from the FA.
So why have Arsenal failed to win anything since Dein's departure?
"It's harder now, but I know that Arsène is more focused than he has ever been to bring success to Arsenal Football Club." Dein cites the billionaire emergence Man City and Chelsea changing the footballing landscape, and providing Arsenal with more than 'just' Manchester United to compete with for players and honours.
The emergence of billionaire owned clubs whilst Arsenal are paying off the stadium was most untimely. The simple symmetry of silver-less seasons since moving home is lost on too many. Stay at Highbury then? No, bless her, we'd have even less chance of competing now.
Purslow presses Dein on two points. Stadium debt is now at a manageable level, TV money is about to go through the roof, and increased sponsorship deals will soon top up match day revenues of £93m. With revenue "exploding", will Arsène Wenger ever spend the going rate for a world class player? Dein's answer suggested no.
"Arsène is a teacher. He takes a good player and makes them excellent, he takes an excellent player and makes them world class."
This doesn't explain what he does with Squlliacci, but of more concern is my interpretation that Arsenal will me never financially match City, Chelsea or Manchester United whilst Arsène Wenger is in charge and the board are happy to do it on the cheap whilst Champions League football is obtained. It relies too heavily on Financial Fair play restricting the expenditure of others and expects Arsène to be continually turn the good to world class.
This is too difficult now. See Juan Mata for an example. The player himself thought he was an Arsenal player, until Roman's roubles decided otherwise. Not only are Arsenal and Arsène not prepared to spend the money to sign the world class, we are also squeezed out of signing the next tier of players. Santi Cazorla is a recent exception to this by way of Malaga's difficulties, but would Arsenal would have signed Henry, Vieira or Pires, for Arsène to turn into world class players, in todays landscape? Once Manchester City or Chelsea catch wind of our interest and offer both club and player more, we lose out.
Referencing the "exploding revenue" once more, Purslow asks Dein why Arsenal were on the wrong side of the Robin Van Persie transfer when they themselves could comfortably afford both the transfer fee and the salary. Missing the simple answer 'because the player wanted to leave and made sure he did', Dein uncomfortably mumbles "well that's another issue, too political for me to get into".
The sale seems to rankle Dein as much as it still does the fans. My feeling is that Dein's disgruntlement also reflects that of his good friend. How angry must Arsène still be, having to sell one of his good signings just as he turned world class? Would it be any different with Dein at the club? I doubt it, but Dein almost certainly thinks it would be if Usmanov was allowed to invest in the playing side as he has to acquire 30% of shares.
Dein introduced both Stan Kroenke and Alisher Usmanov to Arsenal Football Club, aware of the changing landscape and fond of cashing in his own shares. Arsenal have two billionaires, one won't talk to the other. One won't spend that which defines the label 'billionaire', the other isn't allowed to prove his talk isn't cheap.
"I hope that at some point there is a dialogue between the two. He (Usmanov) virtually owns one in three seats in the stadium, but doesn't have a seat on the board." Dein would say as much. A seat on the board for Usmanov would surely renew his own involvement."