Just a week after the club appointed Sven Mislintat as the new Head of Recruitment, Arsenal announced today the hiring of Raul Sanllehi, Barcelona’s former Director of Football, as the Head of Football Relations.
Sanllehi, who spent 14 years with Barcelona, including the last nine as the Director of Football, will join the club in February, meaning he won’t be involved in the January transfer window. Sanllehi worked for Nike before joining Barcelona, so maybe we’ll see Arsenal return to Nike, the club’s kit manufacturer from 1994 to 2014, in the near future?
In his role, Sanllehi will, “lead future player negotiations and work alongside manager Arsene Wenger, chief executive Ivan Gazidis, and contract negotiator Huss Fahmy,” according to the official release, and “represent and support the club with international and domestic governing bodies.”
Sanllehi, who apparently was crucial in sealing the complicated Neymar transfer to Barcelona in 2013, will be replacing Dick Law as Arsenal’s leading transfer negotiator. Let’s hope he didn’t have a part in the tax evasion, misappropriation of funds part of the Neymar deal.
Gazidis, reportedly close friends with Sanllehi, had this to say about the move:
In the past three years we have supplemented our team with more top-class expertise across every aspect of our football operations. Raul’s appointment is another important step in developing the infrastructure we need at the club to take everything we do to the next level. Raul has extensive contacts across the football world and has been directly involved in some of the biggest transfers in Europe in recent years. We look forward to him bringing that expertise to Arsenal.
The hiring of Sanllehi is another signal of Gazidis’ intent to revamp Arsenal’s front office around Arsene Wenger. Although Sanllehi will not be operating in that capacity for Arsenal, Wenger has openly bristled at working with a Director of Football. We don’t know how involved Wenger was in the additions of Mislintat and Sanllehi, but there’s no doubting these moves will limit his near total control over football operations as he gets closer and closer to the end of his run as manager. Will this hasten his eventual decision to step down? Ultimately, this looks like another huge win for Arsenal. They’re adding another well-regarded, experienced person to the front office that should be here long after Wenger leaves. Assuming Wenger is able to work with him, Sanllehi should have a sizable impact both in the short term and the long term.