Managers come and go. However, in English football there are arguably three managers who can be considered untouchable at their respective clubs: Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United), David Moyes (Everton FC) and Arsene Wenger (Arsenal FC). The rest of their colleagues in the English Premier League are expendable (Harry Redknapp can attest to that). Nevertheless, out of this trio Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger is probably the likeliest candidate to vacant his post (a thought something utterly unthinkable just a few years back).
While David Moyes is working wonders with an invisible transfer kitty and Sir Alex Ferguson still competing for football’s biggest prizes on a regular basis, Arsene Wenger has come short in the last few years. Of course it would be unjust to single out the Frenchman for blame, at times his team has underwhelmed as well. Taking all into account, Le Professeur has done exceptional after Arsenal relocated from Highbury to the state-of-the art Emirates stadium…in regards to the clubs finances. Not many would’ve been able to hold onto a Champions League place after being forced to operate on a reduced budget, especially in light of the emergence of Sugar-Daddy clubs such as Chelsea FC and Manchester City FC.
One of the great clubs of English football, Liverpool FC, for instance, won Europe’s most prestigious club competition as recently as 2004/05 and progressed into the final in 2006/07, but are nowhere near a Champions League place at present.
In all fairness, the problems that have led to Liverpool FC’s current state were probably closer to the boardroom, ran by its then-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, than on the pitch. To provide an analogy, Arsenal FC is like a good solid share that doesn’t excel or deteriorate. For better or worse, it’s a steady performer, a sound long-term investment with stable returns.
The thing with ‘solid’ however – it doesn’t necessarily excite investors. Though the comparison is flawed, Arsenal are a bit like INTEL (INTC:US) to Manchester United’s Microsoft (MSFT:US) or FC Barcelona’s Apple (AAPL:US). I’m perfectly aware that Apple is more valuable than Microsoft (ManU is actually more valuable than FC Barcleona). Nevertheless, both brands (Apple and FC Barcelona) jump started their revival and ascension back to the summit with the introduction of a new product, or in Barcelona’s case a new player. Apple introduced their signature product, the iPod, in November 2001, while FC Barcelona signed Ronaldinho in the summer of 2003.
Ironically, he’s probably the only one of the aforementioned managers who actually understands how the stock market ‘works’, as he holds a degree in Economics.
In both cases it represented somewhat of a gamble. FC Barcelona hadn’t tasted success in years whereas Apple never really produced a blockbuster product. In the end both decisions paid off rich dividends. FC Barcelona has won 5 La Liga trophies, 3 Champions League titles amongst other things since then, and is lauded as possibly the best football side ever. Apple has gone on to, um, become the most valuable company in the industry, which is funny since they don’t have much of a diversified portfolio to speak of. Manchester United and Microsoft are the big constants in their respective field.
Somewhere along the way Arsene Wenger has lost the plot. Ironically, he’s probably the only one of the aforementioned managers who actually understands how the stock market ‘works’, as he holds a degree in Economics. One cannot help themselves but admire Wenger’s ability to find value in the market. He definitely knows how to flip a share. It wouldn’t come as a surprise if Arsene Wenger had earned a fortune in the stock market. He’s an investment banker’s wet dream: he buys cheap and sells dear.
Amongst his shrewdest investments: Nicolas Anelka. Originally bought in 1997 as a 17 year old for £500,000 (accounting for inflation: £676,000) and sold to Real Madrid in 1999 for £22,300,000 (£30,100,000). More recently he sold back Cesc Fabregas to FC Barcelona in 2011 to the tune of £35,000,000. Even accounting for the compensation Arsenal FC were forced to pay Barcelona in 2003 (believed to be around €3,200,000) and wages paid over the duration of Cesc’s stay, it’s a safe bet that the London side turned a profit in this particular operation. From a strictly financial perspective, even past summer’s sale of Robin Van Persie to league rivals Manchester United for £24,000,000 (signed in 2004 for £2,750,000 from Feyenoord Rotterdam) was a highly profitable undertaking.
In finance there are only three options: buy, hold or sell. I believe we can all agree that nobody is better at selling than Arsene Wenger. Without him Arsenal FC probably couldn’t have moved to the Emirates, not without losing their competiveness. However, while selling is one of Wenger’s biggest virtues, it’s also his biggest weakness. He doesn’t know when to exercise a hold option. Looking at the league table Robin Van Persie’s goals sure would come in handy, even if he would’ve moved on a Bosman at the end of the season. While the judge is still out on Oliver Giroud, and even though Marouane Chamakh scored in one of the most epic comebacks of late (against Reading), both are not in Robin Van Persie’s class. Same goes for Park Chu-Young and Nicklas Bendtner. Okay, who actually is in RvP’s class? Not many.
Sure, the manner in which the Dutchman departed the Gunners was not exactly desirable. If reports are to believed he asked for a £200,000/week salary, a significant bump from his £70,000/week deal. Unreasonable? Probably. Undeserved? That’s trick question to answer. By any standards – footballers are definitely paid good wages. Most people would kill for £70,000/week.
I believe we can all agree that nobody is better at selling than Arsene Wenger.
However, at Arsenal FC all first teamers are reported to earn around £40,000 – £60,000/week. That’s the reason why modestly talented footballers such as Chamakh, Park and Bendtner have become immovable assets on Arsenal FC’s books. Nobody is signing second tier talent on top tier wages – nobody except Arsene Wenger. In comparison, Real Madrid’s Angel di Maria earned a ‘paltry’ £28,000/week (roughly €1,800,000/year) in his first two years at the capital. Even after his contract extension (until 2018) over the summer he ‘only’ stands to earn €3,000,000 or £2,4100,000 (£46,000/week). Hmm, Angel Di Maria is an Argentine international, a starter for Real Madrid and he still earns less than Nicklas Bendtner!
Was Robin Van Persie right to demand £200,000/week from Arsenal FC? Probably not. Is Robin Van Persie a better player than Bendter & Co.? Yes, absolutely. Does he deserve to earn more than Bendtner? Yes.
It’s all relative. In the past some players have left Arsenal FC because of better wages AND competiveness. Ashley Cole automatically comes into mind. However, his request for a £100,000 – £120,000/week contract (in 2006) was not entirely unreasonable. He’s still going strong at 31 years and was/is England’s best left-back, one of the best in the sport. Furthermore, whoever is crazy enough to cheat on Cheryl Cole doesn’t plan ahead. Ashley Cole better earns a living while he can.
While the Frenchman’s stance on equality is admirable, socialism has no place in football, or any professional sport for that matter. Unless athletes unlearn how to have huge oversized egos, there’s no way socialism will succeed in sports. Arsene Wenger must reject the romantic notion that professional footballers will stay for sentimental reasons and not cold hard cash. Over the years his Arsenal side has come short in their quest for silverware. It wasn’t always due to lack of quality players, not mainly anyway, but his inability to keep the few world-beaters he had at his disposition. Some of the departures he sanctioned would make any Premier League XI: Patrick Veira, Ashley Cole, Samir Nasri and Robin Van Persie among them.
It’s also rather perplexing that Le Professuer is hesitant when it comes to big money signings but not to paying inflated wages to second rate talent. In 2008 David Villa damn near sold himself to Arsenal FC when he went on record saying he is attracted to Arsenal FC due to their football philosophy. Furthermore, he could’ve signed Juan Mata in 2011 at a fixed price of £20,000,000 before the Spanish international decided sign for the Blues. There are far worse gambles to take than buying either David Villa or Juan Mata. The combined wages of Chamakh, Park and Bendter are somewhere in the neighborhood of £150,000/week. Mind you, they are all on long-term contracts. Just these three players set Arsenal FC back £7,800,000/year, which adds up to £31,200,000 over the length of their contracts.
That’s more than £30m down the drain. The question should’ve been: One Robin Van Persie or three duds? Next in line is Theo Walcott, who is supposedly asking for £100,000/week. Honestly, that’s not an unreasonable request. Perhaps Arsene Wenger should be reminded of his Economist roots and realize that it’s not a buyers market. Quality signings are hard to come by. Arsene should know, because the current Arsenal FC squad is a testimony to that.
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