Tottenham Hotspur yesterday suspended their sporting director, Frank Arnesen, after claiming he had been the subject of an illegal approach from Chelsea. Spurs said that the Premiership champions had contacted Arnesen "in direct breach of FAPL (Football Association Premier League) rules".
However, the case - although hugely damaging to Chelsea's already tarnished image - does not, just yet, appear to be an exact rerun of the Ashley Cole "tapping-up" incident, with Spurs admitting that they had held discussions with Chelsea over Arnesen's departure. It is understood that Spurs are pushing for compensation of up to £4m for the 48-year-old, who joined last summer and has two years left on his contract at White Hart Lane.
Both clubs agree that Chelsea made an official approach two weeks ago, and that negotiations, amounting to two sets of talks, have taken place. But Spurs are angry that the letter to their chairman, Daniel Levy, requesting an approach was copied to Arnesen. "By definition, Frank was therefore approached prior to the club having had any chance to refuse permission," a statement on their website said. They claim that Arnesen had already decided to accept the Chelsea offer before the approach was officially made.
Although Spurs insist that they want the Dane to stay, he has made it clear that he wants to leave, and has been offered a role at Chelsea similar to the one he currently holds. He will not have as much power at Stamford Bridge, especially over transfer negotiations. Instead he will concentrate on a job as head of youth and scouting.
Spurs have yet to make an official complaint to the Premier League and it remains to be seen whether they do. Chelsea sources said last night that although negotiations between the two clubs over Arnesen had broken down on Friday they were still open to talks and hoped to conclude an amicable deal. "It's about pay, not principle," one Chelsea source insisted.
There is also some belief that Levy may have acted in a fit of pique. It is also thought that Spurs are trying to capitalise on Chelsea's vulnerability following the Cole affair, in which the west London club, their manager, Jose Mourinho, and Cole himself were found guilty of the Premier League rules on making illegal approaches. Fines totalling £600,000 were imposed, with both Chelsea and Cole appealing against the decision.
Chelsea last night dismissed suggestions that if they are found guilty of having made an illegal approach it will activate the three-point suspended sentence handed out by the inquiry last week. That would mean Chelsea starting next season with minus three points, but it appears that the sanction only applies to breaches of the K rules (K3), about approaches to players, rather than the Q rules (Q10) in the Premier League handbook, which cover management.
Even if Chelsea have gone through the official channels it does, though, appear rem-arkable that they made such a controversial move at a time when they were also awaiting the inquiry verdict over their meeting with Cole. Indeed, once more Chelsea find themselves not only at loggerheads with their rivals but in danger of doing further damage to an already tarnished image.
The revelation is a severe blow to Spurs and in particular Levy, who had staked much of his reputation on appointing Arnesen and making the system of sporting director and head coach work. That had not functioned under Glenn Hoddle and David Pleat, and when Jacques Santini left part-way through last season it seemed to be floundering again.
But the appointment of Martin Jol has been an unqualified success, and his relationship with Arnesen - who was regarded as the key employee for Spurs' future - is a good one.
Sources also claim that Chelsea had tried to explain their approach by insisting the rules did not cover Arnesen as he was a sporting or technical director and not a manager. It is thought he has been asked to carry out similar duties at Stamford Bridge, where he will work alongside Mourinho.
The Portuguese has been kept fully informed of developments and is happy for Chelsea to appoint Arnesen. The club have been looking for someone to fulfil the role for some time, and there had been some talk of Louis van Gaal being appointed. Mourinho, who used to be the Dutchman's assistant at Barcelona, would not have liked that.
It seems Arnesen will not have as much direct power at Chelsea as he does at Spurs, with the terms of Mourinho's new five-year, £5.2m-a-year contract dictating that he has a greater say on transfers than had been previously allowed.
Chelsea are undoubtedly keen to exploit Arnesen's unrivalled network of contacts and ability to spot young talent. He will be given much freedom in deciding how the club organise their scouting and academy systems and be asked to create a smoother operation - something that the owner, Roman Abramovich, has insisted upon.
Arnesen, a 48-year-old former Denmark midfielder, has a formidable reputation, having honed it over a decade at PSV Eindhoven, where he was responsible for signing Ronaldo, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Jaap Stam and Arjen Robben and Mateja Kezman, who are both at Chelsea.
It is believed that the arrival of the urbane Arnesen will also do much to improve Chelsea's image - both within football and with the public - and may also take the chief executive, Peter Kenyon, further out of the firing line.
Arnesen has been extremely busy in his season at Spurs, with a huge turnover of playing staff and an investment in young players. He has also impressed with his management style. Unfortunately for the rest of the Premiership, that now appears likely to be transferred itself to the richest and most powerful club.Reuse content