Full transcript of Zenit CEO’s interview + Everton Preview

You might have forgotten, but we have a game today.  Quite a big one, in fact: it’s fifth against sixth as we face strikerless-yet-dangerous Everton.

The reason such a telling fixture has been overlooked is principally the continued speculation over Andrei Arsharvin.  Arsene Wenger and Arshavin’s agent have both refuted claims that a fee has been agreed, but unsurprisingly it is the Russian club making the most noise.  Many thanks again to Dublin Adam for translating Zenit CEO Maxim Mitrofanov’s interview with Sovsport:

Zenit CEO Maxim Mitrofanov: “Arshavin Holds the Key to His Future”

It is completely possible that the soap opera entitled “Andrei Arshavin’s Exit to Europe” could soon be near its long-awaited end. Zenit, along with the London club Arsenal, are doing all within their powers to complete the transfer of their superstar forward to the Gunners. The only obstacle, it would seem, is the financial demands of Arshavin himself, who in the words of the English, are twice as high as his wages currently are in St. Petersburg. Yesterday the CEO of Zenit, Maxim Mitrofanov, told Sovietsky Sport about the last few chapters in the Arshavin story, and also outlined the possible departures of Anatoly Timoschuk to Bayern Munich and Pavel Pogrebnyak to Blackburn Rovers.

Sovietsky Sport (SS): Late on Monday evening Zenit released a press statement, in which it was confirmed that an agreement in principal had been reached with Arsenal regarding the departure of Andrei Arshavin. “What is therefore delaying the deal?” was the first question to the CEO of Zenit:
Maxim Mitrofanov (MM): Initially, we had wanted to get £20m for the transfer of Arshavin; however we understand that we had to lower our demands as Arsenal had started the bidding at £12m. There then began a series of compromises, which are now basically complete and agreed. A necessary condition of sale is obviously the interest of the third party, i.e. the footballer.

SS: There had been talk that the issue was the return of half of a signing-on fee in the region of €5m that Arshavin received from the club in 2006?
MM: I can’t discuss the sum involved. But I can say that Arshavin has 2 options. The first is certainly linked with the signing-on fee that he received 2 years ago. He didn’t just receive it for nothing; it was for his signature on a 4-year agreement with Zenit. The contract is only half-complete; therefore it’s logical that one-half of this sum should be returned to Zenit. That is the widely accepted practice in Europe, and we are sure that Arshavin understands this. However, he doesn’t even want to consider this option. You should also note by the way that Dick Advocaat has always respected the wishes of the player to play abroad.

SS: What’s the second option?
MM: Arsenal cannot increase their offer higher than £15m. For Zenit an acceptable transfer fee was £18m. Where can one find £3m? According to the English, Arshavin has asked for an annual salary of £3.5m net. Taking into account the huge taxes, that means Arshavin would need an annual wage of £6.5m – £7m. If he went to Arsenal and agreed a wage of £2.5m per annum, Arsenal would save £4m over 4 years and an additional £3m could be given to Zenit. We would eventually the desired £18m. But Andrei does not want to consider this option.

SS: But seriously, £2.5m is even more than the €2.2m that he earns in Zenit!
MM: Correct: But the question is what he actually wants: to play his favourite game or to become rich. In the past, Andrei hadn’t once stated his desire to play abroad, had respected the interests of Zenit and didn’t even want to meet with Arsenal. However, he now holds the key to his own future. He didn’t need to sign a contract with us and take the signing-on fee. But he did do and he did it of his own free will.

SS: According to out information, 2 years ago the agreement between Arshavin and Zenit was agreed in dollars. But at the request of the footballer the currency was changed to euros, but the amounts remained the same.
At the time it was already clear that the Euro was growing against the Dollar, but the club met with the player in any case. After that, by the way, we had no chance to refuse any similar request from any of the other players who wanted their contracts switched from dollars to euros. So, formally speaking, one can say that Arshavin’s contract has cost Zenit a lot, not just in wages and fees.

SS: Was the possible departure of Arshavin discussed at the board meeting on Monday?
MM: The decision about whether Arshavin was going to be sold was made long ago. All of the board members share this point of view. The question was personally answered to Arsenal by the Zenit President, Alexandr Dyukov, but the negotiations were carried by myself and Ken Friar.

SS: What role has Dennis Lachter played in this?
MM: He is fully within his rights to discuss the conditions of the player’s contract. However, and significantly, he has attempted to discuss with Arsenal on our behalf, but the Londoners immediately came to us and informed us of this and dialogue returned to being direct between the 2 clubs. By the way, as far as I understand, Arshavin still has an agreement with his previous agent (Pavel Andreyev) and Lachter simply represents his interests.

SS: Is it true that Lachter is demanding €5m if this deal goes through?
MM: That’s a question for Lachter. I can only say that in December at the request of Arshavin, he was given authorisation to carry out negotiations about his contract as part of this transfer. According to current regulations, the player does not have the right to discuss with other clubs, if he has more than 2 years remaining on his contract with his current club.

SS: This autumn he has the right to buy out his contract and become a free agent. In this scenario, Zenit will receive a lot less.
MM: Yes, according to the rules of FIFA, during this protected period, the player has the right to break the contract and pay the club compensation. In this case: the signing-on fee. But there is one small nuance: a group of the leading clubs in Europe in an effort to protect themselves against such situations, have agreed amongst themselves not to go after players who have released themselves from their contracts in such a way. This agreement isn’t formally written down, but it does exist. If Arshavin breaks his contract, none of the top clubs in Europe will want him. Therefore, it’s not in his favour to do this.

SS: Is it true that when the current contract was signed in 2006 with the ex-President of the club (Sergei Fursenko) it was communicated to Arshavin that if any club offered €15m for him, he could leave?
MM: Arshavin tells it like this. I can’t confirm or deny this as I didn’t hear those words myself. But in any case, any transfer must take into account many number of factors. Firstly, 2 years ago Andrei was not a UEFA Cup winner, a Supercup winner and holder of a Euro bronze medal. Secondly, only Barcelona offered €15m but the Catalans required a very quick answer as they were going to buy another footballer. But they could also not guarantee Andrei a place in the team. They said “Yes. He’s a good player and he has a chance. But we can only guarantee a place on the bench”. I don’t think this offer satisfied Andrei and he himself has said as much in interviews.

SS: It’s been said that Tottenham offered over €20m for Arshavin…
MM: Tottenham offered €16m and an additional €4m in instalments. That offer didn’t satisfy us, even though we thought about it long and hard. They even also offered us 5 different players. We, of course, declined. As regards Arsenal, who are the third team to have formally entered negotiations for Arshavin: on December 27th or 28th, I think, we received a fax from Ken Friar where they stated their price: £12m. Everything else since has been discussed verbally.

SS: How do you think the talks have gone?
MM: Tonight (Tuesday) Arsenal will try to reach an agreement with Dennis Lachter. I hope that this will conclude positively. The transfer window closes on February 2nd, but the London club need to receive a work permit for Andrei to play in England. But this takes a couple of days. Therefore, as we understand it, all the details need to be agreed at the very latest by midday on Wednesday 28th January.

Make of that what you will.  And note that midday on Wednesday 28th January has been and gone, and there’s been no news.  I actually managed to speak to Dennis Lachter about an hour ago, and he was perfectly pleasant, but (you won’t believe this) unwilling to comment.  In his own words:

“Any speculation now could jeapordise a deal.”

However, a pal in France told me that Arsene yesterday gave an interview to Canal+ in which he said that the transfer is “unlikely” to happen.

It’s increasingly hard to care either way, but I went into the transfer window insistent that Arsene should strengthen, and I’ve seen nothing to change that belief.  I will be seriously worried if, as looks likely, we have not made a signing come Monday afternoon.

Unsurprisingly, in his press conference yesterday Arsene was far more animated when talking about those players we already possess in the squad and who will soon(ish) be returning from injury.  The first bit of really good news is that Eduardo has been called up to the Croatia squad for their game against Romania on February 11th.  I’d be surprised if he plays for Arsenal before that date, but what a landmark it’ll be when he takes to the field for his national team again.

Another player on the comeback trail is Tomas Rosicky, who is back in light training.  If all goes well, he could return in eight weeks – though that is a gigantic ‘if’.  As Arsene puts it:

“If all goes well [he’ll be back in] eight weeks.  But that assumes he survives as we increase the intensity of training.”

Assuming the survival of any man in the treacherous wastelands of London Colney makes an ass out of you, me, and presumably Dupree.  Still, we wish Tomas all the best.

Arsene Wenger is confident that Theo Walcott will sign a new contract.  We should all hope it happens soon – slightly worryingly, Theo only has 18 months remaining on his current deal.  He’s not the only one: come the summer, both William Gallas and Kolo Toure will also be one year away from the expiration of their contracts.  It’s a little hard to see either signing a new deal, so maybe we’ll cash in on one or both when the transfer window re-opens.

So, finally, EVERTON:

Tonight’s game is a really tricky one.  Despite barely having a striker of note available, Everton have some top quality players: Cahill, Arteta, and Fellaini would probably all get into the current Arsenal side.  They’re built on a very solid defence, with Jagielka and Lescott at the heart of it, whilst Arteta’s set-pieces are a tremendous outlet for them to snatch goals.

William Gallas could come back into the starting line-up, though I myself might be tempted to leave him out.  You’d imagine that Johan Djourou will definitely play because of his aerial presence, so only one of Gallas and Toure is likely to start.  Gael Clichy is available after suspension, and Denilson should return after being rested at Cardiff.

This game is a real test for us and our recent unbeaten run.  If we can keep that run going, whatever the result, then we have to consider it a decent result.  Defeat, however, would leave us six points of adrift of Villa and bereft of reinforcements.

Come On You Gunners.

Arshavin: What the Hell is going on???

I am so, so confused.

First of all, let me just put a little disclaimer out there right now saying that anyone who claims to know what is going on in the Andrei Arshavin negotiations is almost certainly lying.  For the most part, it’s all guesswork.

The one concrete thing we do have is a statement from Zenit St. Petersburg, translated by the ever reliable Dublin Adam, which reads thus:

Discussions About the Transfer of Andrei Arshavin Continue

Discussions between Zenit and Arsenal about the transfer of Andrei Arshavin are continuing. An agreement in principal has been reached between the clubs on terms that are acceptable to both parties and represent the real market value of the player.

At the current moment, the main obstacle in completing the deal is the personal demands of Andrei Arshavin. The player and his agent are demanding from the London club wages which the management of Arsenal are not prepared to pay the footballer, and at present Arsenal have agreed only to his demands subject to the reduction of his transfer value.

For his part, Andrei Arshavin does not intend to enter into a contract that will mean a reduction and it is this that is delaying the process and adds doubt to the agreement that has been reached between the two clubs.

Zenit are not abandoning their intentions to sell the player, negotiations are continuing and Zenit have even offered a route out of this difficult situation. One possible solution to reduce the transfer price of Arshavin could be the payment of a compensation fee by the player to the club for failing to fulfil his 4-year contract. In 2006 as part of signing a new deal with Zenit, the player demanded a once-off signing payment in the region of €5m. If his contract was now to be cut short, Arshavin could return half of the sum (€2.5m) to the clubs and this could be considered as part of his transfer fee.

This article has led to speculation that Arshavin has asked for exorbitant wages of around £135,000 p/week, as well as being taken by the English press as confirmation that a fee has been agreed and the player’s demands are the only thing preventing a deal.

Well, I would imagine that’s exactly how Zenit want it to look.

In recent days, we have had both Zenit and Arshavin’s agent suggest that personal terms on the deal were already sorted – Arshavin has been authorised to negotiate directly with clubs since the Summer.

Throw in the fact that Arsenal this morning denied a fee had been agreed, and my guess would be that the situation has barely changed at all: the central dispute in the transfer remains the fact that neither club is willing to pay Dennis Lachter his €3m-or-so agent’s fee.

Zenit, knowing that we had set them a deadline of last night to agree terms, have released this hurried statement saying a deal is agreed “in principle”, citing the “personal demands” of Arshavin as the sole stumbling block.  They’re then asking him for about €2.5m in cash – a sum that would, handily, almost cover Lachter’s demands.

That’s my reading of the situation.  But like everyone else at this stage, it’s just a guess.  Zenit manager Dick Advocaat seems to be in the dark too, but he expects some news today:

“I think there will be news on Tuesday.  I am constantly in touch with (club general director) Maxim Mitrofanov and I look forward to the latest news.”

Arsene has a press conference today, which will doubtless tell us nothing.

The fact is that Arshavin is desperate to move, and whatever the demands of his agent, it’s worth remembering that his agent works for him – not the other way round.  This isn’t a Tevez/Joorabchian situation where the latter owns the former’s registration.  Lachter’s job is to get Arshavin what he wants.

It seems that in this transfer Lachter has been authorised to act on behalf of Zenit by negotiating directly with clubs.  Therefore any fee due to the agent ought to be paid by Zenit.  Not by Arshavin, and certainly not by Arsenal.

Personal terms are surely already agreed, and the finer details of that contract will be decided in person.  If a fee had been arrived at, Arshavin would have left Zenit’s training camp in the UAE and be jetting in for a medical.

Until that happens, the situation hasn’t really changed.

Less than a week left.  Thank God.

Victory in two winnable games will see us in the Quarter-Finals

Cardiff City 0 – 0 Arsenal
Highlights
here; Arsene’s reaction here

Apologies for my absence over the past couple of days.  Various technical issues hampered my ability to blog – normal service has now resumed.

There is, I feel, so little to say about yesterday’s game.  It’s not that nothing happened.  If I was feeling generous, I could even describe the first-half as “eventful”.  But almost all those events can be attributed to Cardiff’s endeavour, and their subsequent exposure to counter-attack.  When Cardiff tired, and the initiative fell to us to dictate the game, we failed to sparkle, and a draw, in the end, was probably about right.

In the first twenty minutes, our makeshift midfield was not even second best.  Booed throughout his return to his former club, Aaron Ramsey looked far from his best, and he received little support from the hapless Alexandre Song.  Song has been absent from the team in recent games, and it’s fair to say I had forgotten just how bad he can be.

However, he was made to look good by a terrible performance from Emmanuel Eboue.  The Ivorian’s display was dragged further into the mire by a dreadful dive and a head-shaking, shoulder-shrugging reaction to his inevitable substitution.

In the first-half, Cardiff had three or four presentable chances, but failed to significantly test Lukasz Fabianski.  At the other end, Nicklas Bendtner and Samir Nasri failed to capitalise on the gaps Cardiff occasionally left at the back.

One sensed that once the Welsh side failed to score in their good spell, the game could only go one way, and the second half was almost one-way traffic.  However, despite the introduction of Abou Diaby and Emmanuel Adebayor, we failed to break down a sturdy Cardiff defence, with our only significant chance being miscued by the Togolese striker.  The Championship team could even have nicked it when a fantastic free kick struck the crossbar in the dying minutes.

It wasn’t a stellar game, and whilst results have improved, we’re steadily becoming rather dull to watch.  I know Denilson was rested yesterday, but our midfield still looks painfully weak, and I really hope Arsene uses what remains of the transfer window to bolster that area of the field.

Inevitably, we arrive at the subject of Andrei Arshavin.  Arsenal reportedly told Zenit that today was the deadline for any potential deal, and it’s therefore unsurprising that the Russian club are still trying to get Arsenal to coalesce with their demands.  Maybe there’ll be something definite today one way or the other, but I now have a nasty feeling this one might run all the way until January 2nd.

Meanwhile, Charles N’Zogbia would rather join Aston Villa.  That’s funny, because I’d rather he joined Aston Villa too.

Anyway, we’re still in the Cup at least, and victory over Cardiff in the replay would see us in a winnable home tie against West Brom or Burnley.

A demain.

Zenit officially reject a £15m bid for Arshavin

As you all know by now, Zenit St. Petersburg’s board today convened to discuss Arsenal’s latest (and final) offer for Andrei Arshavin, which amounted to £12m plus £3m in bonuses.

Well, this afternoon Zenit’s own radio station confirmed that the bid had been rejected.

The Daily Mail had this morning run an oddly-worded and seemingly unsubstantiated article which suggested a deal had been agreed, but it appears they not only jumped the gun – they’re running an entirely imaginary race. 

You have to imagine that this is the final nail in the coffin of a deal that was dragged on (and on (and on (and on))).  Today is the final working day before the deadline of the 26th that we imposed upon the deal, and with the Arsenal hierarchy insistent we will not increase our bid and Arsene Wenger 98% unfussed, it seems as if Arshavin will remain a Zenit player. 

In other news, William Gallas is back to fitness, and Kieran Gibbs could start in place of the suspended (and evidently fairly relaxed) Gael Clichy.

Sorry for the bad news re The Russian, all.  Post mortem tomorrow.

Peter Hill-Wood confirms we’ve made our final Owly offer

Of all the publications in the world, Arsenal Chairman Peter Hill-Wood chooses to give his exclusive interviews to The Daily Star.  Odd.  Perhaps it’s what he reads.

In an article with the surreal and arguably misleading headline “I’LL BE SHAVIN YOU FOR £12m”, Hill-Wood confirms what Gunnerblog told you yesterday: that Arsenal will not be increasing their bid for Andrei Arshavin.

“This is our final offer – we don’t go any further. If we don’t get him, we don’t get him. There are other fish in the sea. There is a limit. We made an offer and have now increased it a bit, but we don’t do exactly what everyone wants us to do necessarily.”

So there we have it.  Zenit, meanwhile, have revealed that we have given them until Monday to reconsider our offer, whilst Dennis Lachter has labelled the St Petersburg’s club’s attitude “barbaric”.  The man stuck in the middle of this deadlocked tug of war, Andrei Arshavin, has turned to God for help.  I might suggest that getting his agent to reduce his own fee might prove to be more productive than pleading to any deity.

One can’t help but feel that it’s all a little… I don’t know… silly?  It looks like macho posturing on the part of two clubs who seem to be clinging to their principles to the point of a fault.  It would benefit both sides for a deal to happen, but inevitably it won’t as both parties wait for the other to blink first.  Still, the ‘deadline’ information does tell us one thing:

ONLY FOUR DAYS LEFT UNTIL THE END OF THIS NONSENSE.

I’ve promised that until the Arshavin story is well and truly out of the headlines, I’ll be furnishing you with other reasons to be excited.  Well, last night brought us two very very good ones:

The Reserves played out a 2-2 draw with Stoke, in a game which was notable principally for the fact that Eduardo completed his first competetive 90 mintues.  By all accounts he looked a little off the pace in the first half, but improved as the game went on, having a late goal disallowed after a neat finish.

Apart from Eduardo’s ever-nearing return, another thing to whet your appetite is yet more confirmation of the astounding potential of Jack Wilshere.  Just look at this goal:

Stunning.  There are so many players who wouldn’t even have the audacity to try that, let alone pull it off.  That was the first of a Wilshere brace.  He can’t be far from knocking on the first-team door, and perhaps that’s a factor in Arsene’s refusal to pay over the odds for a creative player.

Till tomorrow, Gunners.