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Arsenal sporting director: Who is Raul Sanllehi?

Gazidis could appoint former Barcelona sporting director despite Wenger’s objections

Arsenal sporting director: Who is Raul Sanllehi?

Arsenal are planning to bring Barcelona sporting director Raul Sanllehi to the Emirates in December, multiple sources claim.

The 48-year-old has already set the date for his departure from the Catalan capital to December 1, leaving just enough time for him to get involved with Arsenal’s transfer dealing as early as January.

According to the reports, Sanllehi will serve as Ivan Gazidis’ right-hand man and will be heavily involved in Arsenal’s recruitment strategy and negotiations.

The Gunners have not performed spectacularly well in the transfer market for years, and, should this deal happen, this could be a step in the right direction.

The Gunners are reportedly set to beat Manchester City for his signature, putting an end to rumours linking Ajax sporting director Marc Overmars with a return to Arsenal.

Who is Sanllehi?

Sanllehi has been a valuable long-term servant for Barcelona. He joined the club’s executive structures in February 2007 as a Director of Relations with Sports Bodies. After a year and a half on this position, Sanllehi moved up to the Director of Football position in May 2008. Prior to that, he has worked as a marketing specialist at global brand Nike.

In the more than 10 years he spent at Barcelona, Sanllehi has come to be known as a herald of impending transfer deals. Among his greatest accomplishments was the this year’s Neymar move to PSG for a world record fee of £200 million. He’s also been responsible for signing Alexis Sanchez from Udinese, Luis Suarez from Liverpool and Ivan Rakitic from Sevilla.

The transfer guru is not a completely unknown figure at Arsenal too, having engineered the moves of a number of Gunners to Barcelona: Thomas Vermaelen, Thierry Henry and Cesc Fabregas to name a few.

For all his reputation of a successful deal-maker, it is believed, however, that Sanllehi’s recent resignation comes in light of his failure to secure a move for Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona in the summer. Sanlliha similarly experienced failure in bringing in Fluminese’s 20-year-old attacking midfielder Gerson, losing him to Roma back in 2016.

The Spaniard is rumoured to have very strong connections in South America, and especially in Brazil. His appointment at Arsenal could potentially start a South American revolution that could see many young players from this continent travelling to the Emirates for their next step in development.

Will it happen?

Multiple resources have reported Arsenal’s interest in the transfer guru despite Arsene Wenger’s strong opposition to the concept of the Sporting Director position.

The French manager said in May: “No, director of football, I don’t know what it means. Is it someone who stands on the road and directs the players left and right? I never understand what it means, director of football.”

The recent reports of Marc Overmars returning to Arsenal for a chief position, however, reveal an embattled relationship between Wenger and Gazidis and that a new sporting director might be appointed despite the manager’s wishes.

It is believed that Gazidis’ close relationship with Salliha could pull the weight on the Arsenal side in their battle with Manchester City for his signature.


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