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Dick Law
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Club as Coach Arsenal negotiator
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2019 07 04 Retrieve

[Former Arsenal transfer negotiator Dick Law lifts the lid on Mesut Ozil’s move to the Emirates in 2013] It was an incredible deal to be a part of. That was the moment when all the work we had put together through the years in terms of acting as a unit, came together. But the story of Ozil, is actually called the story of Gareth Bale.

Real Madrid, for all of their firepower, really stretched themselves when they bought Bale. They paid an extraordinary amount of money for him and they gave him an extraordinary contract, what that meant was they needed to sell somebody. So it’s the Bale story that leads us to Ozil. We got signals from Madrid that they had players for sale, so I flew out to meet with Jose Angel Sanchez, the general manager of Madrid, and he said that the club would consider selling Karim Benzema or Angel Di Maria - and he gave me a number. So I called Ivan and Arsene. We were all very cautious and sceptical, but the one thing we knew based on that meeting was they had to sell someone

[And it was the following morning that Ozil’s name was first brought up] We sat down with Jose Angel, who said that Ancelotti didn’t want to sell either of Benzema or Di Maria, but he would sell Ozil. Long story short, Arsene was interested as we needed that type of player in midfield. But we didn’t know where Ozil stood. We asked to speak to him, but Madrid said they wanted to first. I don’t think that was a happy phone call for Ozil. We then spoke to him and his father and business advisor flew over to London where we met with them

[Tottenham’s chairman still hadn’t sanctioned the deal for Bale to move to Madrid and time was beginning to run out. The player was in Spain and Madrid were getting nervous. Arsenal, meanwhile, knew that their north London rivals couldn’t get wind of the fact they were closing in on Ozil] We had finalised a deal with Madrid. Ivan was there and I was now in Munich with Ozil - and this was literally the morning of the Tottenham match when Ivan calls me. He said that he couldn’t get back to London for the match because he was finishing up the agreement and that one of us needed to be in the directors’ box or else Daniel Levy was going to get very nervous. Jose Angel had told Ivan that Levy had called him and said the one last condition of the Bale deal was Madrid couldn’t sell any players to Arsenal. Ivan’s response was that Levy was bluffing because he’d already spent the Bale money. But he still said to me that we couldn’t take a chance and asked if I could get from Munich to London to be in the directors’ box because Tottenham were starting to think something was going down. So, I got a flight at 11am, changed on the way and when I walked into the directors’ box I saw Franco Baldini and Daniel Levy and they asked what I was doing. I said it was the derby, I wasn’t going to miss it.

[Olivier Giroud’s first-half goal ensured Arsenal took the bragging rights on the pitch that Sunday afternoon and later that day confirmation came through that Bale had finally completed his move to Madrid. Arsenal were doing their best to keep the transfer under wraps, but they ran into a problem when Law bumped into a familiar face at Ozil’s medical] He was taking it in the Wohlfahrt clinic in Munich and, of course, we were trying to keep it very quiet. We met him there and, as we walk in, over to our left is Lukas Podolski because he was getting treatment for his hamstring that he had pulled a couple of weeks before. That minute I called Arsene and said, this news is going to be out because Lukas can’t keep his mouth shut on a good day

The chairman then got news that Manchester United were going to try and cut across the deal. So Ivan called me and asked me to man mark Ozil’s father and business advisor in Munich. I had to sit from 10am to 10pm in the bar at the Four Seasons taking calls from the contract team with questions about this clause and that clause. They eventually drafted everything and sent it over for Ozil to sign. Of course, this was all happening while Ozil was with the German national team so our access to him was a bit limited. But, we got it done. It was terrific. Between the transfer fee and the salary, it was the largest deal in the history of Arsenal

2019 07 05 Retrieve

[Arsenal’s former transfer fixer Dick Law opens up about the Gunners’s failed move for Luis Suarez in 2013] What do you think they’re smoking over there at Emirates? That spring, news got round to us that Suarez wanted out of Liverpool. We got information that showed us what was negotiated between Liverpool and the player, and in our internal conversations decided that the clause was meaningless, that it was not a buy-out and it didn’t obligate Liverpool to do anything apart from have a conversation. So, whoever agreed to that clause in the Suarez camp was being less than clever because it was never a buy-out. What there was, was an obligation to discuss a transfer if a threshold was met and that threshold was £40m.

Now, we didn’t know if Liverpool received an offer of £40m whether they would say, ‘that’s not more than £40m’. We could have gone with £45m, but the point is we knew there was never a buy-out. So, it was never going to be a bid of £40m+1, it was always going to be the start of a negotiation

[So, looking back on things now, does Law believe Arsenal handled the situation badly?] We knew that we had to exceed a certain threshold and so we decided to throw another pound on it. We could have thrown £50 or £500,000, but it wasn’t going to make any difference to the final negotiation. The offer was just a trigger. Liverpool wanted to make a big deal out of it and that’s fine. When they received our offer they immediately publicised it. I think John Henry wanted to know what we were smoking, which I thought was a bit disrespectful. It was him having a bit of a go because he was getting ready to lose his star player. It was a good way to deflect attention

I always thought that the move to publicise it was counter-productive. One of the things we were always very proud of at Arsenal was working quietly behind the scenes. Ivan, Arsene and I always worked very hard on being discreet in all transfers. And I thought Liverpool shot themselves in the foot by basically saying they were now forced to entertain offers because of this clause, by publicising it they just made everyone aware and eventually they lost the player

[But Liverpool held firm and Suarez eventually backed off - deciding not to follow through with initial threats of taking the case to the Premier League to try and push through the transfer. And so Arsenal had to take their money elsewhere, eventually splashing out £42.5 million to sign Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid] It would have been one hell of a signing. But Suarez and his agent didn’t want to force the move when it just came down to brass tacks. I think he recognised that the Liverpool fans had been great to him and I think he was very grateful. He wanted to leave the club through the front door as opposed to the back door. So, I think when Liverpool really dug their heels in, he couldn’t go through with it. I think they said to him that he could go anywhere else he wanted, just not to a Premier League club - and certainly not Arsenal. He held out for a couple of weeks, but rather than bluff them he folded and said if I can’t go to Arsenal, I will go someplace else next summer. The upshot of the story is that Liverpool lost the player, the down shot is that we didn’t get him

2019 07 09 Retrieve

[Dick Law discusses the Alexis Sanchez’s renewal saga and the pursuit of a World Cup winner. Alexis Sanchez agreed to a new Arsenal deal and the contract was with the lawyers - only for the Chile international to stage a last minute U-turn] We had a deal. It was in December and we had been talking to his agent [Fernando Felicevich] throughout all of 2016, the whole year. We got to December, I flew to Santiago and we did the deal. The player agreed to it on a phone call from Fernando’s office. Fernando and I shook hands and discussed how difficult the negotiation had been and we had the deal done. The contract team drafted the new contract and sent it over to the lawyers representing Sanchez and in that space of time, while the documents were being proofed, he changed his mind for whatever reason. We don’t know who got to the player, or why he changed his mind. But the bottom line was, he did

[A formal offer didn’t arrive until deadline day itself, however, and in the end, the three clubs ran out of time to finalise the moves - with Arsenal unable to bring in Thomas Lemar from Monaco as a direct replacement] There were no formal offers for Sanchez until the end of the window when the Manchester City one came in. So then you run into a pretty simple calculation. It was the end of the window, literally the last day, and we wanted to be in a competitive position for the Champions League the next season. Were we more likely to compete for a Champions League position with Sanchez or without him? The decision was, we would be more competitive with him

We did try to get Thomas Lemar that day, but it didn’t get done. We thought we had Lemar and then that would have meant Sanchez to Manchester City. It was a simple operation of using the Sanchez money to pay for Lemar. We had a deal done for Lemar, Sanchez had a deal done with City. But Lemar had been called up for France and Monaco had played the thing out and they ended up playing it out too long. They didn’t send a clear signal to the player before he left for the national team and when they did send that signal, Lemar was already there with the French national team on the day of their international match and the deal fell apart. It was a shame because it would have been interesting to see Lemar at Arsenal, but you have to move on from these decisions and circumstances. You can’t sit and dwell on what might have been

[Sanchez eventually moved six months later, rejecting the chance to join Man City during the January window in favour of a move to Manchester United - who handed the Chilean a record-breaking contract believed to be worth around £500,000 a week] I don’t think Manchester United have got what they paid for with Sanchez. United drive a hard bargain for players, they don’t usually go crazy with wages - but for some reason they went crazy on Sanchez. We never understood the transaction and I think Sanchez was just pushing to get out the door, but in retrospect I think he miscalculated. Is he a richer man today than if he kept his word on our offer in December, 2016? Yes, he has earned a few more millions. But I don’t know that he is more satisfied and I don’t know where he goes from here

[Sanchez arrived at a cost of £35m ($44m), with Arsenal seeing off interest from Juventus and Liverpool to land the frontman just a year after signing Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid] It all started with [former chief scout] Steve Rowley at the Toulon tournament. Sebastian Rozental, who works for the agency Twenty Two which is owned by Sanchez’s agent Fernando Felicevich in Chile, walked over and said to Steve: ‘Sanchez is going to leave Barcelona’. All of us being natural sceptics, we thought there was no chance when Steve called us. So we went back to the agents and they said it was true and that Barcelona had even given them a price. So I flew out immediately to Santiago to just get a sense from Fernando about how serious this was. If we were just going to be a stalking horse for Juventus or Liverpool who knew that they were losing Luis Suarez, then we didn’t want to play that game

Off the back of that meeting I made the judgement that there was half a chance, but the closer on the deal was Arsene Wenger - he won that one for us. Arsene met with Fernando in Rio at the World Cup two or three times over the next 10 days talking about his philosophy, about where Sanchez could play, that sort of thing. Off the back of those conversations, Sanchez really took a liking to the notion of coming to London. Liverpool were throwing a tonne of money at him, but my understanding was that there was no real personal contact. My conclusion was that Sanchez felt like a makeweight in the Liverpool - Barcelona transfer negotiations for Suarez. It was more of a money deal than anything else and I think when you deal with South Americans, you have to throw a human element in there

2019 09 10 Retrieve

[Dick Law, who left Arsenal soon after Raul Sanllehi arrived, having spent close to a decade working alongside Arsene Wenger and Gazidis on transfers and contract negotiations] Raul is one of these rare figures in the industry who is so likeable and has so much charisma and emotional intelligence. Raul’s charming, charismatic and he’s got a great sense of humour. Even in conflictive situations, he doesn’t look to escalate the conflict. Those are valuable qualities. He’s pragmatic, a guy who is focused on finding solutions. His whole life has been sports and football. He knows the game; there is no question about it

Raul has become part of the premier management of European football. Remember, he came through three successive management groups at Barcelona. Anyone who can survive from Laporte to Rosell to Bartomeu has got some skills. When Ivan brought Raul in, the idea was to give Ivan some support because part of Ivan’s work with Arsenal was to make sure that the club’s seat at the table for the future of football was maintained. That’s why his work with the executive committee at UEFA, and part of his work with the ECA (European Club Association), was so vital to Arsenal’s interests. But you can’t be everywhere all the time and Raul was brought in to provide that support. The challenge for him now in this role - and it’s one that I know he has embraced very clearly - is to preserve the Arsenal ethic and everything that has been built on by prior generations. I think he personally believes that it is part of the DNA and identity of the club, and he is committed to preserving it because clubs without identity typically go south

2020 04 18 Retrieve

[Dick Law reveals Arsenal had deal done for Vardy in 2016 & missed out on Mata five years earlier] The deal with Leicester was done, the deal with the player was done. He came down to visit with his wife Rebekah, he sat on the couch in front of Arsene … and then he backed off. On his way back to Leicester I get a call from the player saying he wants to think about it overnight. At that point, you know it’s bad news.

[Law said of the World Cup-winning Spaniard, who left Valencia for Stamford Bridge in 2011] Juan definitely wanted to come to Arsenal, there was no question about that.

[Pressed on whether the Gunners were tempted to raise their offer after seeing Chelsea muscle in] I don’t think that calculation ever entered our equation. We didn’t have the money to say, ‘We’ll spend a bit more to block.’

We had to work the market hard, and try to find value in certain types of players. We just didn’t have the luxury of making a mistake. We didn’t feel like we could afford to blow £30 million or £40 million on a player and it not work out. While that thinking was limiting in one way, in was very empowering in another. It meant that you really pressed your scouting team to the limit