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  • Writer's pictureArsenal Bengal SC

Raul Sanllehi : A Curious Case Of ‘The Peter Principle’?

Updated: Aug 23, 2020

‘The Peter Principle’ can be defined as the rise of an individual within an organization until they reach a certain level of incompetence. Hence, the question arises whether the former head of footballing operations, Raul Sanllehi was axed from his position due to his failure in adapting to his newly assigned duties or was he an unfortunate victim of cost cutting measures that the American billionaire owners decided on taking?

Raul was a man who could be seen wandering around the Hampstead Heath, living his regal London life just like any other highly appointed executive board member of a prestigious organization. He came in from the Los Cules to be a part of the trifecta who were the be all and end all of footballing decisions in Arsenal football club. Originally appointed to work alongside Ivan Gazidis, the former CEO and Arsene Wenger, the Spaniard found himself in dark waters when both of them were relieved of their duties.

Raul’s appointment was greeted with mixed reactions from the Arsenal fraternity. There was a faction who were happy with the appointment of an individual who had been involved with the best of the best in football and the other half didn’t know what to make of a Spaniard, who they assumed had very little knowledge about English Football.

September 2018, the long standing CEO of Arsenal FC, Ivan Gazidis makes his way to AC Milan and a long time employee, Vinai Venkatesham was called on to be at the helm of the affairs at the club. A few months later, the former Arsenal player, Edu had impressed the American ownership with his performance as a sporting director in Corinthians. Resultantly, he got appointed as the new head of technical affairs in the North London club.

A new trifecta was formed with the same goals but with tighter measures. The trio headed by Raul took charge of the operations of the club when the club was undergoing some of the most turbulent times in recent history. Raul who had majorly worked as a contract negotiator in Barcelona and was known for his extensive network of agents across South America, had now stepped onto a more blue-collar job. He had a portfolio that comprised more of management decisions than contractual. As a matter of fact, when Huss Fahmy, the former Sky Sports representative was signed on as a chief negotiator, questions were raised regarding the exact portfolio of Raul.

Raul stood tall in front of the criticism and made sure that the London Reds benefitted from his network of agents. In his first season as the head of operations, there were some slick signings which represented Arsenal’s financial crisis. The likes of Mendes and Joorabachian got heavily involved with the dealings within the club. Even Arsenal favourites like Cagigao were given their chances to present their players. The outcome would be William Saliba, Gabi Martinelli and the biggest grey zone of all of them, a 33-year old David Luiz on a hefty salary. Criticisms started pouring in with the signing of Luiz and to make matters worse, Nico Pepe signed for a club record fee which was termed as exorbitant and unnecessary.

Now every transfer dealing would divide the fan base, that’s taken for granted. But this was a fan base which staunchly believed that academy and scouting rivaled any form of other dealing in the market. The involvement of super agents started creating a sense of unrest and added to that the appointment of Unai Emery, who was personally recommended by Raul. Unai’s departure in late 2019 strengthened the confidence within the fraternity that Raul had done more harm than good. Possibly, the only decision that might have extended his tenure till the end of the season was the appointment of Mikel Arteta. But the damage was already done.

2020 had a pandemic, a terrible League outing and the only silver lining was a FA Cup. You could understand that he was under pressure. The cost cutting measures were executed, a pay cut for players and 55 staff members laid off. The post season seems gloomy with the departure of scouts and in midst of all this the sacking of Raul Sanllehi, the man charged with the duty of restoring the club to former glory.

Now the aforementioned information might leave you to think that there was a Gabi who is easily one of the brightest prospects, there is a manager who seems to be the one to turn it around, then why? Well, there were underlying issues that triggered the decision, the supposed money laundering in the Nico Pepe deal and the extensive power given to super agents.

Raul had very little professional experience in heading operations and taking executive decisions. He was, what we call a man of football who operated behind the scenes. The decision to appoint him to a post that had a fiery combination of footballing decisions and executive ones can be questioned as well. Hence, it leaves us hanging with the thought that had Raul been left to deal with only agents and contracts would he have had done a better job or was it his personal incompetence that led him to the axing.


Author: Souptik Chakrabarti

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