Given the drama and speculation flying around Chelsea last week, you could have been forgiven for thinking that Oliver Stone was orchestrating events rather than Peter Kenyon. Football’s armchair pundits, well known to be fond of a conspiracy theory went from Parker Knoll to grassy knoll quicker than you could say ‘Abramovich’.
The conclusion of the Cole saga was only part of the story. Some twenty months after Chelsea introduced ‘tapping up’ to the nation, Mr. Tweedy signed on at Stamford Bridge as representatives and officials looked nervously at their watches in the expectation that he would become a diamond encrusted pumpkin at the witching hour.
Not since Lyon’s nutter-in-chief Jean-Michel Aulas bellowed belligerently for several months about Michael Essien being worth £20-30-40 million and a couple of marmosets has there been a deal so protracted (or as bloody dull). Odds on the name of the next player to become embroiled in a marathon Chelsea transfer will be available from your bookmaker soon. Carlos Tevez, perhaps if the conspiracy theorists are to be believed? More of him later.
As Cole receives treatment on the rack in order to meet Mourinho’s strict height requirement for defenders, William Gallas will be conversing in his mother tongue with old pal Thierry up at the Emirates, having presumably realised that his Oyster card wouldn’t take him as far as Milan. In the absence of other offers, Londres du Nord became his preferred destination.
In what can be best described as a win/lose scenario for both clubs, Messrs Dein and Kenyon haggled and bargained, eventually coming away minus a considerable thorn in their respective sides and plus a world-class player. Or vice-versa, depending on your viewpoint. In addition Arsenal pocketed just £5 million, causing delight amongst the Blue faithful at the apparent climbdown by Dein on his original asking price. Despite this, it didn’t take long for the rumour mill to churn with stories of further payments being due should Ashley and his bouncer-bothering wife appear in ‘Hello’ magazine with winners’ medals and scripted platitudes about how wonderful life is on the Kings Road. Nothing concrete by way of evidence has been forthcoming, but it is not entirely implausible given Arsenal’s sudden and dramatic revaluation.
Now the dust has settled, both players will presumably be happy men with no reason to moan to the press as they have done in the past, given that they are faced with fresh challenges and piles of filthy lucre. All that remains to be seen is which one kisses their new badge first. But on reflection, a reasonable result all round. Unless you’re Wayne Bridge, that is.
Meanwhile, over in the East End a spot of juicy Roman-related gossip arose from an apparently unrelated occurrence. After several months of fevered speculation, Argentine stars Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano shocked everyone (themselves included) by pitching up at West Ham.
Yes, West Ham. The pull of jellied eels, Marlon Harewood and the UEFA Cup? Little wonder that their chosen destination has raised an eyebrow or two. That several other Premiership clubs reportedly turned down the chance to take the players only added fuel to an already heated debate.
The alleged Russian involvement (Abramovich and other oligarchs known or unknown, dependent on who you believe) in Media Sports Investments, owners of the players’ registrations has long been denied by Kia Joorabchian, MSI’s founder. Its shareholders may have many reasons for wanting to remain anonymous, unscrupulous or otherwise and it isn’t difficult for them to do so either. A few shrewd lawyers and accountants with the right offshore contacts can easily disguise the identity of publicity-shy backers (just ask Ken Bates); holding companies in exotic locations often hide a multitude of sins and sinners.
Joorabchian, whose own role in MSI remains unclear has made a few less-than-cryptic quotes about the “complex nature” of the deals. The news that West Ham are now involved in takeover discussions and the Iranian businessman’s effusive suggestion that the club could be title challengers and ‘the biggest in England’ suggest that whilst he sounds completely Barking, his real intentions lie further back down the District Line.
Where the Argentine duo will end up after their spell in the Premiership shop window is anyone’s guess: the only sure thing seems to be that Joorabchian is likely to make a handsome profit on any subsequent deal. The arrangement, which appears uncomfortably close to people-trafficking, is something which is becoming increasingly common in football as South American teams in need of capital cash in on their biggest assets – the players.
While the Argentines attempt to settle into their new home, UEFA’s rent-a-quote communications director William Gaillard has suggested that the UK government has a responsibility to investigate the foreign investors throwing their cash at English clubs. FIFA is already pondering proposals to ensure that the identities of a team’s owners are disclosed: rather hypocritical coming from an outfit whose own internal machinations are somewhat murky, but Sepp Blatter has always been one to lead by diktat rather than example.
Away from all the boardroom intrigue, Cole and Gallas return from international duty later in the week and head to their new homes, eternally grateful that they can now concentrate on facing Charlton and Middlesbrough respectively. They certainly aren’t the only ones.