Just one day after it was reported that Arsenal were conducting and internal investigation into Nicolas Pepe’s transfer last season, the club announced this morning that they were parting ways with Head of Football Raul Sanllehi.
We are announcing today that head of football Raul Sanllehi is leaving the club and Vinai Venkatesham, our current managing director, will lead us going forward.— Arsenal (@Arsenal) August 15, 2020
It was about this time last year that fans were heralding “Don” Raul for his apparent influence in securing several of last season’s marquee transfers, especially Nicolas Pepe, who was heavily pursued by a number of elite European clubs. Fans were excited about his connections with powerful clubs and his directness in his approach. He appeared, at the time, to be the kind of executive who could get us a seat at the bargaining table with big-named players after years of middling transfer business.
But there were not those without their criticisms of the former Barcelona executive. His tenure at Barcelona overlapped with quite a few financial issues involving player transfers, and his role there was more as a deal fixer than on the technical side. As he accrued more power at Arsenal—it was Sanllehi, for example, who suggested the hiring of Unai Emery, represented by an agent that Sanllehi is close with—concerns about his contact-led approach and closeness with agents mounted.
Something has been rotten in Denmark for quite some time at The Emirates, and while performance on the pitch has begun to turn a corner with Mikel Arteta managing the players, things behind the scenes have only gone from bad to worse. Last week, amidst a flurry of furloughs following a financial windfall due to COVID-19, many key scouts were cut as the club announced an overhaul of scouting and recruitment, ostensibly one that is more “data-driven,” though given the connections and preference of Sanllehi and the technical director Edu, there is some concern that they were headed toward agent-driven recruitment. If you aren’t familiar with the name Kia Joorabchian by now, he is the super agent that Arsenal have been doing nearly exclusive business with over the last several months.
The decision appears to be amicable if you take Arsenal’s statement at face value, complete with the usual platitudes from the club and the departing executive praising and thanking one another for the opportunity and putting on the vestments on professionalism. With Raul’s departure, Arsenal have promoted Vinai Vinkatesham, who has been with the club since 2010, from Managing Director to Head of Football. According to James Benge, the plan is to keep things streamlined as much as possible with recruitment being handled directly by Edu and Mikel Arteta.
No job titles will change, transfer plans will remain in place with recruitment now headed up by Edu and Arteta.— James Benge (@jamesbenge) August 15, 2020
Stay tuned for updates as the story continues to develop.