By Sami Mokbel
- Arsenal are drawing up the paperwork for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s deal
- Aubameyang verbally agreed a three-year contract worth £250,000-per-week
- The club are also working on a switch to sign Lille defender Gabriel Magalhaes
- Arsenal’s transfer business is taking place after head of football Raul Sanllehi left
Arsenal are drawing up the formal paperwork for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s bumper new contract. The Gunners talisman has verbally agreed to sign a new three-year deal worth upwards of £250,000-per-week.
And now the finishing touches on the deal are being prepared by Arsenal chiefs ahead of the striker’s return to pre-season training. The club are moving on without head of football Raul Sanllehi and are also working on a deal to sign Lille defender Gabriel Maghalhaes. All in all, it’s gearing up to be another summer of change at the Emirates Stadium. But Mikel Arteta’s revolution will be conducted without the hugely influential Sanllehi.
The famed football administrator arrived in 2017 to sizeable fanfare. Fresh from Barcelona’s boardroom, Sanllehi’s contacts would open doors for the club as whoever Sanllehi didn’t know probably wasn’t worth knowing. Two-and-a-half years on, Sanllehi has quietly slipped out of the Emirates backdoor.
Arsenal’s announcement on Saturday morning that Sanllehi was leaving arrived without warning, despite the decision to make 55 redundancies the previous week. But to those in the know at the Emirates, the 53-year-old’s departure barely made a ripple.
The arrival of corporate lawyer Tim Lewis to Arsenal’s non-executive board in June appears to be a pivotal appointment. Lewis, a partner of respected law firm Clifford Chance, has a long-standing relationship with owner Stan Kroenke and son Josh.
He has the trust of the club’s American owners, with the Kroenkes leaning on Lewis significantly in recent weeks. Lewis has analysed a number of the club’s transfers over recent seasons to ensure the club – and the Kronekes – have received value for money.
While Arsenal insists there has been no official investigation, last summer’s club record £72million capture of Nicolas Pepe has been analysed. While the Ivory Coast winger’s talent is largely undoubted, there was a feeling that Arsenal overpaid for Pepe.
Nonetheless, a deal was structured whereby Arsenal would pay £20million up front with the rest pain over five years instalments. Sanllehi believed he’d struck a good deal with Lille director Marc Ingla – who’d worked with the now departed Gunners supremo at Barcelona.
Pepe enjoyed a decent first season at Arsenal, but for £72m supporters and – more pertinently the Kroenkes – probably expected more. Sanllehi has a way of working that was a significant removal from Wenger’s principles. The Spaniard has strong relationships with the planet’s top agents, who in turn had connections with the world’s best players.
Wenger was never completely comfortable operating in those circles fearing the club would be taken for ride. But Sanllehi’s links with the likes of Arturo Canales, Kia Joorabchian and Jorge Mendes would, at least it was hoped, add a layer of protection for the club.
To a degree, that’s proven correct. The latest signing Willian, who arrived on a free transfer from Chelsea last week, is a Joorabchian client. The fact Blues boss Frank Lampard was desperate for Willian to stay at Stamford Bridge – and indicated to the club’s board as such – points to the sizeable coup Arsenal believe they have in signing the Brazilian on a relatively low basic wage of £100,000-per-week, though that payment structure increases substantially if all bonus triggers are met.
Indeed, Arteta is known to be be fully on board with Willian’s arrival, believing his team will benefit from the forward’s history of winning football’s biggest trophies much like David Luiz – another Joorbachian client – did for his team last season.
So, what now in the post-Sanllehi era? Well, Edu’s work will be thrust into the spotlight. The Brazilian has kept a relatively low profile since his appointment as technical director in July 2019. But with no immediate plans to replace Sanllehi, Edu’s power base at Arsenal will burgeon significantly. Time will tell if he can have the sort of sway with the super agents Sanllehi had, though Edu is known to have strong connections with Joorabchian.
Edu will now work closely with Arteta in identifying and delivering potential new signings, with talks over a £30million swoop for Maghalhaes well underway while Aubameyang has verbally agreed to sign fresh terms. The pair are understood to enjoy a good working relationship; the fact both ran the Arsenal midfield during stages of their playing careers means they certainly have a common ground.
Indeed, the Kroenkes are hoping the Arteta and Edu axis – as well as hugely popular managing director Vinai Venkatesham can propel Arsenal back to Europe’s elite. That is, though, what they had hoped for when they appointed Sanllehi.