John W Henry's stance on Arsenal's Bid For Luis Suarez Was a Turning Point For Liverpool, writes Unibet columnist Iain Macintosh...
It’s hard not to admire John W Henry’s attitude.
Football is full of rich, self-confident owners who arrive in the game under the mistaken belief that it works like any normal business. But even the most rapacious, morally wobbly owners tend to be stunned by what they find.
There are lies, there are conflicts of interests, there are agents who act like gangsters and there are footballers who command the loyalty of millions, but would sell their fans down the river in a heartbeat if it meant a pay rise. Many owners realise their mistake and flee. Henry has decided to tear off his gloves and fight dirty.
Speaking at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Henry reportedly told delegates that the reason Luis Suarez had not been sold to Arsenal was not, as we had been led to believe, the ambiguous wording of an essentially meaningless release clause. No, Suarez had not been sold because Henry just didn’t want to sell him.
“What we’ve found,” mused Henry, “is that contracts don’t seem to mean a lot...it doesn’t matter how long a player’s contract is, he can decide that he’s leaving. We sold a player, Fernando Torres, for £50m, that we did not want to sell....since apparently these contracts don’t seem to hold, we took the position that we’re not selling.”
It’s a flawless strategy. It’s essentially a corporate version of sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting, “LA LA LA! I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”
Suarez has scored 24 goals in 23 games and Liverpool are second in the table. It’s worked out pretty well for Liverpool too.
Suarez can’t complain. He’s the creative force in one of the most entertaining teams in Europe, he has an outside chance of winning the title and he will almost certainly be back in the Champions League next season with his wages bumped up to £200k per week.
That’s everything he could have hoped for at Arsenal, with the bonus that he won’t have to room with Olivier Giroud which, by the sound of it, would mean sleeping in the bath most nights with his fingers in his ears.
But perhaps some kind of apology to the Gunners might be in order now. With all the disinformation leaking out of Anfield in the summer, there was a feeling that Arsenal’s behaviour was so classless that it was the football equivalent of wiping your bum on your host’s curtains.
The consensus was that the Gunners should have offered £45m or perhaps £50m, just to be polite. Now we discover that they acted entirely in accordance with the player’s contract. What were they smoking? Nothing. Arsenal are far too sensible to smoke. And besides, have you seen the price of cigarettes these days? There’s no way Arsene Wenger would sanction that.
The biggest loser in this story, however, is not Arsenal, it’s Suarez’s agent Per Guardiola. Not only has he been denied a transfer that would have made him a small fortune, but with all the disingenous leaks about that contract, he’s been made to look a fool as well. The entire world has been under the impression that he was outwitted by Ian Ayre. Never mind the ‘restraint of trade’ angle, I’d be calling my lawyers and suing for defamation.
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