Raul Sanllehi says Arsenal made a big mistake allowing Aaron Ramsey to enter the final year of his contract and paid the price by not being able to compete with the wage offers tabled by rival clubs who realised they could sign him on a free.
The Wales international, who signed in 2008 from Cardiff, was open to staying at the Emirates but after his representatives successfully delayed talks they manoeuvered into a position where they had the upper hand in negotiations.
Judging by Raul’s words, we could have matched the midfielder’s offer from Juventus but it would have further upset the salary balance in the squad. Ultimately, the club decided not to take that risk.
Speaking to Arsenal.com, Sanllehi said: “At the end of the day, the problem, the real essence of the problem, was that we had reached the last year of the contract.
“The only way to get to the end of a contract is when you are ready to release that player at the end of that contract. But if you really want to keep that player, you need to renew him before getting to the last year of the contract because you are putting yourself in a very weak position. We cannot get to the last year of the contract.
“If we cannot get a renewal before that, then we may have to sell. But the position of the club, of losing a player of the quality – and not only the football quality but the human quality and club identification – of Aaron, we have to avoid that. It’s not correct for us.”
With regards to the way they handled Ramsey’s situation in particular, he added, “Although I normally don’t like to personalise – and let me start by saying this – not only do we have the highest respect and esteem for Aaron, we also think he is a great professional and a great football player.
“For circumstances, whatever it was, we went to the last year of contract. That’s a problem. When you go to the last year of contract of a player because of the way this is designed, there are a lot of clubs who can get that player for free. Now, that player has a market value. A strong market value, in Aaron’s case. So, any club can project… the total investment of a player is always an addition of two factors: the salary you are going to pay him and the transfer fee you are going to pay for him.
“Now if you take out one of those two, and with Aaron arriving to the last year of contract, one of them was pretty much zero, you can really build up on the other one very, very much. Now, we have to be responsible on how we manage the club.
“One of the key things for me – and I’ve seen that happening in other clubs – one of the key things is to keep the rationality in the salary balance of the team. Because of our circumstances, because of not renewing Aaron on time we were in a situation in which Aaron had incredible offers building up on the salary.
“He was really keen on staying with us, he was ready to make the effort but at the end of the whole process we had to be responsible for ourselves and protect the interests of Arsenal. We realised we were going to cause an imbalance that would have been very harmful for the team’s sake in the medium and longer term.”
Due to injury Ramsey played his final game for the club in mid-April. He was given a send-off at the Emirates after the final home game of the season and cried. Arsenal meant a lot to Rambo and he kept his peace throughout the negotiation period. Basically, he was a real gent.
It’s good to get some clarity on how the situation panned out and for the club hierarchy to admit that they messed up. It’s easier to do that when the two men leading the talks, Ivan Gazidis and Arsene Wenger, have left the club. The key is not to let it happen again. Expect Raul and Vinai to be ruthless in the coming transfer windows.
As for being concerned about a salary imbalance. You can be sure the bean counters at the Emirates have already highlighted Mesut Ozil’s name in red in their Excel spreadsheet.