Belfast Telegraph

Arsenal can afford £25m transfer fee for the likes of Lionel Messi or Wayne Rooney, says club chief Ivan Gazidis

By James Olley

The Arsenal chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, has claimed the club are now able to compete to sign the best players in the world and within two years will rival Bayern Munich as one of football's financial powerhouses.


Manager Arsène Wenger has in excess of £70m at his disposal this summer as the club finally emerges from the spending constraints created by building the Emirates Stadium. The Gunners have found themselves unable to match the lavish spending of their rivals, frequently being outmanoeuvred during transfer talks due to money.

With Wayne Rooney unsettled at Manchester United, Arsenal has been spoken of as a destination – such talk, though, is undermined by the perception the club cannot afford to shop at the high end of the market.

Although Gazidis was very careful not to mention Rooney or any other player specifically, when he was asked if the club could afford to pay £25m and £200,000-a-week in wages to one player – the kind of deal required to acquire Rooney – he said: "Of course we could do that. We could do more than that.

"We have a certain amount which we've held in reserve. We also have new revenue streams coming on board and all of these things mean we can do some things which would excite you. What excites Arsène isn't necessarily what excites you."

Wenger has always viewed the free-spending approach of Manchester City and Chelsea with disdain but Gazidis insists there is no philosophical opposition to spending big money, despite the club's record transfer fee standing at just £15m for Andrei Arshavin from Zenit St Petersburg in 2009.

"There is no ideological narrative at stake here," said Gazidis. "The ideological narrative is we want to have the best possible players, the best possible team and compete for trophies and Arsène will do what he thinks is right to do that. There is no philosophical line in the sand and I suspect that he would pay £25m for Lionel Messi."

Arsenal would view any spree as different to that funded by wealthy backers because it would be sourced by money the club has generated itself. The club are expecting to add a plethora of commercial and marketing deals in the next two years which are estimated to take their revenues surging towards £300m per year.

Bayern currently turnover €368m (£312m) and Arsenal believe the high profit margin increases they will make to their balance sheet could give Wenger an additional £70m to spend every summer, not even including the dramatic increase in income provided by the Premier League's £5bn television deal. "This year we are beginning to see something we have been planning for some time, which is the escalation in our financial firepower," Gazidis said. "That's going to happen partly into next season. It's part way available now in the summer but the following season as well. It's a progression over the next two seasons. It's quite significant for the club.

"My own view is we are moving into a new phase where if we make our decisions well, if we get the right chemistry, and if we do a variety of other things as well, not just the new players that come in but the right kind of things on the football side, that we can compete with any club in the world.

"We've seen two clubs this year in the Champions League final [Bayern and Borussia Dortmund] both of whom run responsible financial models and they're pretty fantastic teams and exciting to watch. There's no reason why we can't do that."

The club are also in the midst of restructuring their wage bill. Arsenal announced on Wednesday that Arshavin, Sebastien Squillaci and Denilson will all be released at the end of the month, freeing up around £180,000-a-week in wages.

"Our biggest expense is our wage bill," said Gazidis. "There is a massive amount of thought that goes into it. It will continue to evolve with a new financial capability behind it, which means we can do some things perhaps that we haven't been able to do while we have had one hand tied behind our back."

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