Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Arsenal transfer policy is helping club's rivals, says Alisher Usmanov - The Guardian

The Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov has said he is concerned that the club's difficulties in hanging on to their best players has helped create great teams for their rivals. He also claimed that Thierry Henry has urged him to take over at the Emirates to stop the trophy drought.

Arsenal have not won anything since the FA Cup in 2005 and in recent years have sold the striker Robin van Persie, the midfielders Cesc Fábregas, Samir Nasri and Alex Song, and the left-back Gaël Clichy. Manchester United signed Van Persie; Fábregas and Song went to Barcelona; and Nasri and Clichy won the Premier League with Manchester City last season.

In an interview with the sports daily L'Equipe, Usmanov said: "The greatest achievement of Arsène Wenger is to have created two teams: the one that now plays for our rivals and the one that is trying to be among the best in the Premier League.

"That's why I say it's not enough to merely flatter the coach, but to give him the possibility to buy the best players, superstars. But not just stars, but those chosen by Wenger."

He added: "For me, he's one of the best coaches in the world, but it's not easy for him. I think he deserves that players are brought in at Arsenal when they're needed.

"The best players, and not being satisfied with selling our best players to our rivals. If that happens, we can ask everything of him. But, today, he's sacrificed. Because of the policy and we're all to blame. Everything's in [the Arsenal majority shareholder] Mr Kroenke's hands and I hope he succeeds, even if he doesn't go along with my ideas.

"It's unthinkable that the shareholders get well-paid while, for small clauses in contracts, we lose key players, symbols like Robin van Persie, Mathieu Flamini or Patrick Vieira. We should have increased their salaries when they started to be courted, started to look elsewhere. I don't know why we didn't propose that to them."

Usmanov owns just under 30% of Arsenal, less than the American businessman Stan Kroenke. But Usmanov claimed Henry wants him to take control of the club.

"I like many footballers and I'm in contact with some of them. Perhaps my favourite of the last 10, 15 years is Thierry Henry. He's pushing me to buy all of Arsenal's shares, but I cannot predict the future," he said.

"When I had the chance to buy some shares and become one of the main shareholders in the club, I didn't hesitate for a second. I was even ready to take total control. That wasn't possible because certain people preferred to make a profit and create, using me, an outside enemy. I remain portrayed as a pirate, an enemy. They have won that game."

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