By Graham McNorthbank
FIFA’s two year ban on Chelsea making any player acquisitions following their alleged poaching of French starlet Gael Kakuta from Lens may have prompted some smirks among us Gooners, but I wouldn’t go chortling too loud too soon.
Manchester United are now embroiled in a similar controversy involving the signing of Paul Pogba from Le Havre, while Manchester City have been accused of the same kind of shenanigans in their deal to land Jeremy Helan from Rennes and it looks like Liverpool and Everton might be heading towards identical accusations regarding some of their teenage transactions.
Much like UEFA’s banning of Eduardo for his evil plot to dupe the referee, FIFA’s stance against Chelsea may just be the hierarchy puffing their chests out to make an example of their favourite targets – an English Premier League club – but I somehow doubt it.
As opposed to the tapping up cases that the Spaniards, Italians and Manchester City are so fond of, the current campaign to thwart clubs from stealing promising young talent from other clubs overseas is particularly English – and was arguably started by Arsene Wenger.
Where Arsenal have done things within the books – at least in most of the cases we know about – is that they have agreed fees for young players with their current clubs, or have attracted players who do not have a contract, such as Cesc Fabregas and Fran Merida.
However, English clubs have an advantage here, as we can sign players as young as 16, whereas in Spain they do not have the same rights.
A number of the newspapers have concentrated on some of the Gunners’ youngest foreign talent in recent days – players such as Mexican Carlos Vela and Brazilian Pedro Botelho, who both moved to Spain initially to comply with work visa regulations. With these teenagers I don’t think Arsenal will have a problem, as fees were paid to other clubs in their home countries.
Neither should FIFA have any business to probe deals involving Havard Nordtveit from Norway or Dutch midfielder Nacer Barzite, who the club also secured fair and square from their former teams.
But FIFA moves in mysterious ways and much like their compatriots at UEFA seem to be on the warpath against the Premier League and in particular the Big Four who have dominated the latter stages of the Champions League in recent years. So who knows what they will be able to concoct against Arsene Wenger and his scouts in any investigations into enticing teenage talent to Arsenal.
Le Gaffer is famous for his anti corruption stance in football and goes out of his way to make sure that Arsenal’s transfer dealings are above board, but as I said before, maybe we shouldn’t be too quick to laugh at Chelsea’s transfer ban before we know we’re definitely in the clear – in the same way that other clubs are finding out they should not be too hasty to applaud Eduardo’s UEFA ban, given that their own stars are likely to dive more than they care to admit.