Frank Arnesen was on holiday in Puerto Banus when the call came on Thursday that Chelsea had a major problem with Fifa. And as far as we know Arnesen might still be in Puerto Banus because Arnesen never sticks his head above the parapet. He never says anything in public. But, my goodness, does he have a lot of influence at Chelsea.
This column has argued a few times already that Arnesen, promoted to sporting director at Chelsea this summer, is a very lucky man. Since he joined from Tottenham in 2005 he has spent an unprecedented budget on teenage players from all over the world. And among all those duds, Arnesen also acquired Gaël Kakuta, the 18-year-old French kid whose signing has earned Chelsea a transfer ban until 2011.
The right thing would be for Arnesen to admit that, yes, the department he runs for £2m a year has cocked this one up spectacularly. Maybe he should consider his position. But we know from experience that Arnesen is not that easily embarrassed.
As chief scout and director of youth development – before his summer promotion – Arnesen spent money, Roman Abramovich's money, on young footballers about as quickly as newly-struck oil gushes out of the Siberian tundra. Yesterday, the News of the World published the most comprehensive study yet of Arnesen's academy signings and it made for extraordinary reading.
You won't have heard of any of the players involved unless you happen to be an expert in Chelsea's academy teams. In fact, judging by Arnesen's track record so far, you may never see these players because not one of his young protégés have made it into the first team at Chelsea on a regular basis. What makes the list so eye-watering are the transfer fees.
Here is just a taster. Slobodan Rajkovic, now 20, signed in 2007 for £3.8m from OFK Belgrade, now on loan at FC Twente in the Netherlands. Michael Woods and Tom Taiwo, now 19, signed from Leeds in 2007 for £4m. Woods can hardly get a game for the reserves. Taiwo is on loan at Carlisle. Aliu "Kaby" Djalo, 17, cost £5m from Boavista.
Sergio Tejera, 19, was supposed to be the new Cesc Fabregas but if that is the case, he is keeping it under wraps. He cost £300,000 from Espanyol and having failed to get into Chelsea reserves, is on loan at Real Mallorca. Franco di Santo, 20, signed for £3m from Audax Italiano in Chile is now on loan at Blackburn Rovers. Does anyone seriously think he is the new Didier Drogba?
This is not a treatise against the young lads themselves. I feel sorry for them. This is a plea for someone to ask Arnesen just how he keeps getting away with it. In total, his entire expenditure on academy players in the last four years is estimated at £62m, four times Burnley's transfer budget this season. Chelsea might as well have spent it all on Franck Ribéry and just recruited the best kids from Hounslow and Acton.
But not only has Arnesen spent a lot of money, he has, with the Kakuta affair, also managed to undermine Carlo Ancelotti's chances of success with the first team and the club's credibility on a world stage. Perhaps he believes that the Kakuta deal was not his fault. That he was given bad information about the player's contract. That it is a conspiracy. He would be wrong.
The brutal truth is that this horrendous misjudgement took place on Arnesen's watch when he was charged with overseeing the recruitment of young players. What we are talking about here is the question of responsibility. Where, and with whom, does the buck stop?
Sporting directors, directors of football, meddlers-in-chief – call them what you will – have always had a problem with responsibility. At Spurs in 2007, Martin Jol was sacked while the director of football Damien Comolli survived. At Portsmouth, Harry Redknapp left while director of football Velimir Zajec survived. When Zajec took over as manager he proved worse than useless.
Let us consider Arnesen's two major achievements at Chelsea. He has spent £62m and helped to earn his club a transfer ban. Yet he still has a job and, at the last count, he had outlasted Jose Mourinho, Avram Grant and Luiz Felipe Scolari. If Ancelotti falters this season, and is unable to strengthen by buying players in January, will he be sacked too?
Once again we pose that question so fundamental to life at Chelsea: what does Arnesen have to do to get the sack? We're not expecting the criteria to be laid out in detail. Just a small piece in the matchday programme or a brief announcement on Chelsea TV would do. So we know where we stand. Otherwise you get the impression that Chelsea are going to be stuck with this man for a very long time to come.
Nani counts cost of family business with father-in-law
21 January 2009 West Ham sign Savio Nsereko from Brescia in Serie B citing the deal as a "significant investment". Informed sources claim it costs £9m, a club-record signing. Chief executive Scott Duxbury says Savio will "prove a valuable asset for this club now and in the years to come".
31 August 2009 West Ham sell Savio Nsereko to Fiorentina in return for what they claim is £3m and defender Manuel da Costa. Duxbury says: "Although not for the want of trying, Savio has struggled to make an impact for various reasons."
Brescia president Luigi Corioni is the father-in-law of West Ham's director of football Gianluca Nani. Nothing to see here folks, please move along.
Send this latest import back over the pond
"Please welcome back onto the pitch your England team," says the easily-excited Wembley stadium announcer with nauseating regularity. What does he mean? Our England team as opposed to who else's England team? Kyrgyzstan's England team?
I would hazard a guess that the " Your England" phrasing is a misconceived practice imported from a dreadful American sports marketing manual, probably from the chapter about "fostering brand loyalty". Will someone tell the Wembley announcer to stop.
Stories behind stars
Every famous, multi-millionaire footballer has the story of how he made it: threadbare pitches, borrowed boots, street football until midnight. Tom Watt's new book, A Beautiful Game, featured in these pages on Saturday, captures those stories lyrically and simply, told in the first person. Watt has got the big names too: Lionel Messi, Franck Ribéry, David Beckham and Iker Casillas are just a few of them.
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