The Arsenal director Danny Fiszman, the most powerful man at the club, said yesterday that he would give Arsène Wenger £30m to spend on a single player if the Frenchman asked for it before the end of the transfer window on Monday. In a rare insight into the mindset of Arsenal's secretive board, Fiszman said that there was no limit placed on the transfer fees and wages paid by the club other than those set by Wenger himself.
A diamond trader who lives in Geneva and has the second-largest shareholding in the club, Fiszman rarely speaks publicly but at yesterday's Champions League draw he also attacked clubs such as Barcelona and Internazionale for making approaches to Arsenal players without permission. Along with the Italian team, Barcelona were responsible for unsettling Alexander Hleb, who eventually joined the Spanish side, and Emmanuel Adebayor who stayed.
However, it was the financial strength of Arsenal that Fiszman was keenest to defend. As the owner of 24.1 per cent of the club's shareholding the Arsenal director has led the board lockdown, the collective agreement not to sell shares to the Uzbek billionaire Alisher Usmanov who, with 24.9 per cent, has the largest shareholding. Fiszman said that Arsenal had sufficient funds to back Wenger whenever the manager needed the money.
"If he [Wenger] said to us 'I want this guy and he's £30m, can I buy him?' then the answer is 'Yes', absolutely yes," Fiszman said. "We totally back him. It's his decision. I'm unfortunately not good enough to be a manager myself but I'd love to be. It [spending money] would be no problem, no problem at all. It's not our decision who he spends money on, nor will it ever be our decision.
"We're not absolutely not [giving up on challenging for trophies]. We want to win but Arsène believes in creating teams the way he does. There is this constant thing that the Emirates is bleeding the club. It's total crap. Look at our accounts you will see our net payments are £20m and the revenue increase from the new stadium is close to £50m. Explain to me how that stadium bleeds the club if it's producing an extra £30m a year.
"Our wage bill is very similar to Manchester United and substantially above Liverpool's – it's substantially below Chelsea's but that's expected. We pay good salaries and pay them probably more evenly so we have less of the extremes. There is an ethos of a team effort."
Fiszman was the man whose boardroom putsch in April last year saw his former friend David Dein forced off the board and out of the club. Since then Dein has sold his stake to Usmanov, but Fiszman has held together the coalition of families on the board to prevent the billionaire seizing control. He said that certain clubs had acted dishonourably over Hleb and Adebayor.
"I have to say I'm personally deeply disappointed ," Fiszman said. "Within Europe there are 10 clubs going for top players. My background is the diamond business. There are no written contracts, everything is done on the shake of a hand. It's done on your word. I come from one extreme and now I'm in this industry where your word is not really worth too much and people do not act ethically."
The summer signing Samir Nasri has been recalled to the France squad for next week's games against Austria and Serbia after making a fine start to his career at Arsenal.