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Arsenal: Don Raul Is Acting Dodgy

Raul Sanllehi is the main reason why Unai Emery still remains head coach of Arsenal Football Cub despite his serial failures. The circumstantial evidence is overwhelming both from his history at Arsenal and a far much longer record at Barcelona.

Sanllehi is known for being a ruthless, single-minded wheeler dealer. If you are a target in his gunsights, he will get you sooner or later by fair means or foul. If you are opposed to his ways and means you are on the way out, double time. Ask Sven Mslintat. Here is the money quote:

“It had actually been agreed that I would become technical director, so then I would be around the team on a daily basis,

“But the new leadership had their own agenda and other candidates.”

Barely one month after Raul became Head of Football Operations Sven was through the door.

But Raul is standing-by Emery. This is despite a Twitter poll the evening after the Wolves match, with 43,000 votes, when a whopping 90% of Arsenal fans wanted Emery to be sacked immediately.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying a club should be run by poll numbers especially after a bad result. Fans are notoriously fickle. After twenty years of unparalleled consistency, always in the top-4 and competing in the champions league, two years later after coming 5th and 6th, said same fans were flying airplanes, bedsheets and A4 banners demanding their greatest ever manager be sacked. And they succeeded.

Image of a true Italian Mafiosi

After one transfer window of spending those same fans were proclaiming the triumph of Don Raul for his wheeling and dealing.  And Sanllehi was loving it. Away at Liverpool, he was caught hamming it up with fans, milking every ounce of their praise and adoration for having spent £137 million on new players. (Btw it was net £89 million, while losing Aaron Ramsey on a free, but why let a few inconvenient facts get in the way.)

But when it comes to Emery, Raul is not as fan-friendly as he tries to appear. Right after the thrashing at Leicester, the club, i.e. the execs, briefed David Ornstein for a tweet he did for @TheAthleticUK. The message was very clear:

When you unpack the statement it reeked with total arrogance and conceit. There was neither acknowledgement that results had been poor nor that the coach bore any responsibility. To the contrary fan unrest and uproar was dismissed as “noise” and that the club was on the “right path.”  That path, ever since April 2019 and continuing into the new season, has been one of letting leads slip, scoring very few goals and conceding even more, while sliding downwards in the table.

So furious was fan reaction, by November 11th the Board itself had to release a statement to the media, where Raul was contrite and apologetic:

“We are as disappointed as everyone else with both our results and performances at this stage of the season.

“We share the frustration with our fans, Unai, players and all out staff as they are not at the level we want or expect.

“Things need to improve to meet our objectives for the season, and we firmly believe Unai is the right man for the job, together with the backroom team we have in place. We are all working intensively behind the scenes to turn things around are confident we will.

“We never take our fantastic support for granted. We hope we can all stick together and get behind the team in this challenging period, as together we are stronger”.

Instead of Arsenal heading in the “right” direction, he admitted to both the poor results and performances as well as sharing fan frustration and disappointment. To show how much his position with respect to Emery has changed and aligned with the fans, his support for him has gone from 100% to “firmly”.

That, my friends, is the definition of a “disguised pass” benefiting Emery. Not even Ozil could surpass that.

Apparently those pious platitudes by Raul have quelled the anger because the frothing and raging on Twitter has subsided since then. Additionally the international break has eased the pressure considerably removing Emery and the club from the firing line.

Dissing David O’Leary

But no sooner had one crisis passed did another rear its destabilizing head for the Don. Mid to late week came news that he is in opposition to the Board chairman Sir Chips Keswick and fellow board member Lord Harris of Peckham who want legendary David O’Leary to formally join the senior board in an official advisory capacity. One wonders why Sanllehi is so desperate to not have a football person as well as a very long serving Arsenal man from being in a position to advise the Board on football matters.

Truth is Sanllehi has never been a football man. His background is in sports marketing and was fortunate in the early 2000s to be the General Manager responsible for Nike’s marketing and sales activity related to Barcelona merchandise. Because of this connection he eventually became the marketing executive at Barcelona. In 2008 Txiki Begiristain, now at Man City, who had been Director of Football at Barca was appointed Vice President of Fooball and he promoted Raul to be his successor. This came as a surprise to many as the Director of Football position was traditionally filled by either former players or people with a stronger background in football than Sanllehi had.

Wheeling and dealing at Barca

From his earliest days being the Director of Football Sanllehi was renown for his frenetic activity in the transfer market in contrast to Barca’s tradition of promoting from within.  Many of his big transfers earned big headlines but they eventually turned out to be big busts.

  • Eto’o sold to make way for Zlatan comes to mind.
  • Success signing LB Jordi Alba for €14m must be contrasted with spending €19m Alex Song who would barely feature at the club.

Treating loyal players like shit once they had an injury was a defining episode during DOF’s Sanhelli tenure. Case in point is Eric Abidal.

  • Abidal had made his mark at the club during his early years at Barca but in 2012-13 stunned the world by his diagnosis of liver cancer which would ultimately result in his needing a liver transplant. Abidal would return to the squad and his presence had an uplifting effect on the team. However, in April 2013, Abidal was reportedly summoned into a meeting with Sanllehi and was essentially told his level of play was not at the level it needed to be and his contract would be terminated at the end of the season. Abidal reportedly pushed back stating he had one year left on his deal. In response he was reportedly told the club would pursue legal action to terminate the contract. Abidal confirmed a lot of this in an interview on French TV.

No wonder Laurent Koscielny was willing to destroy his hard won nine-year reputation at Arsenal to get out once the club refused to agree to a lighter work load in his final year.

Most troubling of all is the Don’s reputation of cutting corners and breaking rules to make deals happen.

  • Raul would oversee the transfer of Neymar, the Brazillian wunder-kind, to Barcelona in 2013-14. The Neymar move would later dominate international headlines for all the wrong reasons. There was a court case by the Brazilian tax authorities who argued that the size of the deal was in the range of €112m and not the reported €88m. This was backed up by evidence which showed that Neymar’s family had received around €40m on top what the selling club received as well as agent fees. The case could’ve resulted in severe consequences for the club (around €197m in fines) with both senior club executives, Raul and the president, Sandro Rossell, facing jail time. Ultimately the case was settled out-of-court with Barcelona agreeing to pay a fine of €5.5m and Sandro agreeing to step down.
  • Even more perplexing was the bit of business, overseen by Raul that same year, which would see the return of Bojan, who was sold in 2012 for €12m. One year later he was bought back from Roma for €13m, and immediately loaned out to Ajax. It was a move widely considered as a way for the club to circumvent FFP rules and Spanish tax laws.

It was the cumulative impact of all these dodgy deals and Barcelona eventually facing a six-month transfer ban at the beginning of the 2016 season that marked the beginning of the end of the Sanllehi era at the Catalan club.

That is how by the fall of 2018 he came to be appointed Director of Football Relations at Arsenal. The lucky devil, despite his lack of knowledge and experience in how to organize and build a football club, months later, by default, became the Arsenal’s chief executive for football.

In light of his history of dodgy wheeler-dealing, surely it is prudent for Sir Chips and Lord Harris, as part of their fiduciary duty as chairman and director of the club respectively, to have a proven football man advising them on the pros and cons of Raul’s proposed deals. If they fail to do so, then they must be held personally responsible for any repeat of the shady practices that became rife at Barcelona while Raul was Director of Football.

How long will Arsenal fans put up with Sanllehi?

As for the Arsenal fans, how long will they be satisfied with Don Raul’s equivalent to the Mafia tradition of free distribution of turkeys during Christmas and Thanksgiving? In our case he is using the transfer window as a way to pump up excitement for a time while hanging on to his failed, discredited policies.  In the case of Emery, how long will Raul remain loyal before he dumps him for his own survival? In the case of Sir Chips, will he stand by this druthers or fold up like a cheap suit?

So many questions, so little time.

Hat Tip to youaremyarsenal.com for their research into Sanllehi’s history at Barcelona.

 

10 Comments

  1. Great read Shotta.

    For me I wouldn’t say the club’s, specifically Raul’s, public “vote of confidence” has quelled anything regarding Emery. It’s just a combination of ‘it is what it is’ , international break boredom and waiting out the inevitable. But Raul is a sneaky one, he got cornered in a meeting with supporters and had to say something. He always knew the next few winnable till December are winnable and would have quite down the noise. It’s gonna be open season though, knowing our fans, after the Mancity game and he better strap in.

    Re Mislantat; we all know Edu is technical director and all but what exactly is it that he is doing? Because for me, and this is just my opinion, he looks more like decor at the moment. A legend, Invincible, “a football man”, to keep the natives in line, when all he is is seemingly just another of Raul’s men.

    Anyway, I’m just gonna sit back and enjoy the next few weeks, the proverbial quiet before the storm.

    Reply
    • Excellent points Labo. Raul is rolling the dice on these so-called winnable games. Watford and Sheffield were supposedly easy games. They were anything but. We struggled to turn over Aston Villa; it took an impressive rearguard action. I suspect Raul thinks most fans are fickle and will forget the past if we defeat Southampton and Brighton upcoming. If not, he can throw the book at Emery and said same fans will ignore his sordid role in our current decline. Heads or tails; surely Raul thinks he will end up the winner?

      Reply
  2. Shotts

    One very weird thing I have noticed from Raul’s “I really like Raul” PR team:

    The keep referring to him as a “football man”,
    when a simple glance at his record tells anyone otherwise.

    Why is that?

    Most strange. And just a little bit sinister, but I’m going to err on the side of craven stupidity as I don’t want to think the worst of people.

    However it’s clear people out there have identified the source of the club’s recent vindictive and vile conduct and have called it out.

    Every week there’s a new low and this week we have the undignified spectacle of our nutured board members trying to revolt against the owners appointee and his attempt to block them bringing in O’Leary, something they could’ve done long ago which means they’re at the point where for them it is: anyone but Raul.

    Leaks to the Mirror via Cross?

    “The DNA that made ­#Arsenal the club it was has slowly but surely drained away. Appointments have been made – both before & after Wenger’s departure – that either didn’t work out or aren’t working out”

    “Some staff fear Emery now faces an impossible task to ­revive a club that has lost its heart & soul since Wenger’s ­reign came to an end. Just 18 months after leaving the club, insiders claim Wenger’s legacy has been destroyed by a string of disastrous high-level ­appointments.”

    Appointments. Plural. More then one.
    Absolutely no doubt that these alleged quotes wherever they be coming from are directed at one person and that is not the discredited coach who’s rep in now trash but the person keeping his gimp in the job.

    If a board who have no power are revolting like this against Josh Kronke then yes this week was another low as it shows that even the old board members are distraught at what is happening to the club.

    This is:

    The Emery Degeneracy.

    The latest shiny stage production brought to you by Raul The Cowboy. His sequel to Neymar and the Death of Brazilian Football (7-1 + Brand Neymar) and Barcelona you’d have thought he’d have to make an effort to top that effort.

    Well…Luiz is now the shepeard of our defence (7-1)

    Reply
  3. I think this article perfectly highlights Arsenal’s journey from Classenal to town’s cheap little dirty trick where the focus is just on selfish things and not on football.

    Raul is anti-Arsene in every way. No class, no loyalty, no idea of the thing the right way and frankly no ambition to make Arsenal one of the best in the world.

    After Arsene, at least there was a sense of reason in the whole setup. The idea was to dominate through our scouting network now headed by Sven Mislintant while people like Raul will only be limited to non-technical decisions like negotiations and behind the door decisions. But Sven left within 6 months, recently we sacked our Head of Youth Scouting and looks like we are well set for being swindled by agents at will.

    There is no clear transfer policy at the club and there seems like no clear way in which we want to build our team for future. Don’t know what we are on football pitch apart from just trying to finish in Top 4. We are now a club that has nothing to fight for and look forward to apart from the end of the season position and transfer market. And what else we really expected when the man making decisions is a marketing guy who only knows how to play with agents in transfer windows and tell his manager where he expects him to finish.

    Don Raul is turning out to be the death of Arsenal we loved and cared about. Now, this Arsenal doesn’t even give a **** if his Legend gets a top job in FIFA but make sure it puts out a video of Ian Wright participating in a reality TV!

    Reply
  4. Thank you for this article, and for pointing out that Raul came into his position by default.

    I blame the big bloggers for entrenching the idea that Raul is a qualified DoF, not just now, but even when he was first appointed as ‘Director of Football Relations’, they mocked Wenger saying Raul is only given that title because Wenger came out against working under a DoF model. They neglected to mention that he was basically a replacement for Dick Law. Maybe he feels he has to live up to Mr Law’s name?

    He was supposed to bring his hard nosed negotiating to deal with agents. What we find instead is that he rubbishes the players and relationships we have, while he buckles to agents for transfers. 72m for Pepe, 25 for Tierney. Basically just pay asking price. If he had managed to get Ozil out, he would have used the funds to pay 100m for Zaha as well, I bet.

    The one guy who was a football man, the one who was supposed to identify targets, was pushed out for wanting to scout players rather than simply rely on agents contacts. It doesn’t take much thought to figure out why. Nor why the board members who did act as custodians of Arsenal values now want to bring in a footballing opinion not connected to Raul.

    Until Sanllehi is here, Arsenal will continue to struggle in living up to its values. He’ll fire Emery and hire Luis Enrique instead, and on it will go.

    Reply
  5. a fine article shotta

    Reply
    • Thanks Eddie. Please share it with other concerned fans. The usual suspect hardly ever provide any info about Raul. I wonder why?

      PS: Nuff respect to YouAreMyArsenal.com and DaAdminGooner who in February published some wonderful research on the activity of Sanllehi when he was DoF at Barcelona.

      Reply
  6. Excellent post Shotta – I am really worried like has been mentioned that Wengers legacy has been lost in just such a short time.I fear the worst as the rot has set in the highest of places so that does not bode well for the rest of the body.

    Has there been a shady time at Arsenal?

    GG was a bit of a bad boy but no-where near this mafioso don.

    Reply
  7. […] the comments to yesterday’s blog, Don Raul Is Acting Dodgy, Finsbury suggested  the Board of Directors may be revolting against the policies of Raul and […]

    Reply
  8. Emery now has a little problem though, in that he seems not to want to play Rauls flagship summer £72 million signing, I am amazed Emery is surviving this.
    Equally amazed the Kroenkes are letting Raul a free hand at the club if he is as destructive as he appears to be. Josh is supposed to be more hands on than his father according to popular myth, but you would think that even if they don’t know so much about the game, they would have advisors warning them that Emery is running valuable assets, sorry ,players out of town unabated by Raul.
    But, all that aside, still cannot believe Emery is still in post, and as far as we know, will be until the end of the season. If so, as the article says, that is down to one man in reality.
    Genuinely baffling times, doesn’t reflect well, right to the top. Only hope this inaction is due to a proper manager arriving in the summer who is not available now, personally, I would be on the phone to roberto Martinez, or at least consider it ,if I was Josh, but do they actually have a plan, unless it involves Rauls ideas?
    Unfortunately for the Kroenkes, things have changed, no more easy street, it seems they can no longer just leave the club, reportedly, in one mans safe hands. They need to keep a very close eye on those who succeed Wenger. I just hope they realise that, if not , this club is in the sort of trouble that will go way beyond a manager out of his depth and the odd vampire sucking the lifeblood

    Reply

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