This is it. Promise.
The picture above is from halcyon times. Theo Walcott – ” English teenager is going to be amazing!$*&%@” – had just signed with the Gunners. Arsene Wenger left his suit behind, preferring the more comfortable and spacious nylon material that he normally abhorred. On the right is David Dein – arguably the most important figure in recent Arsenal history.
1995. Arsenal legend George Graham is sacked by the board after an illegal payment scandal involving a Norwegian sports agent. David Dein, owner of 42% of the club’s shares by ’91, lobbied for Arsene Wenger to get the job. The Frenchman wasn’t a superstar at the time. Managing the J-League’s Nagoya Grampus doesn’t scream the next big thing. The board wanted Bruce Rioch – who led the club to a fifth place finish in 1995 but was subsequently let go. Dein finally had his way and Wenger was appointed boss in 1996.
Dein had used his clout before Wenger’s arrival. Ian Wright from Crystal Palace. Dennis Bergkamp from Internazionale. Huge. After ’96, Dein’s recruiting prowess led to the arrivals of Vieira, Petit, Overmars, Henry, Suker, Pires, Campbell, Gilberto, Clichy, Toure, Fabregas and Van Persie. No big thing.
Eleven years later Dein left Arsenal citing irreconcilable differences. He was hounded by conflict of issue claims – Dein was an architect of the current format of the EPL while also holding a position on the Football Association’s board. Upon his exit it was rumored Dein was looking for a major investor to help offset the costs of Arsenal’s new stadium – the rest of the board didn’t agree.
Dein sold his shares (around 14.5% ) to Red and White holdings, Alisher Usmanov and Farhad Moshiri’s money consortium.
Darren Dein filled his father’s shoes. By 2007 the younger Dein – a sports agent – was acknowledged as a rising star in the industry, representing some of football’s highest profile names. Here’s where it gets weird. The Daily Mail’s Neil Ashton:
Star names like Thierry Henry, Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy and Cesc Fabregas have all been represented by Dein, a qualified solicitor, on various levels over the past five years. They have all chosen to pursue careers elsewhere and the fear in Arsenal circles is that Dein’s latest high-profile clients could follow an established pattern.
Ashton wrote that in March. Those players are gone – all in stunning fashion. Dein also represents Robin van Persie, another former Gunner. Yesterday on French television Wenger stated his desire was to sell RvP to Paris St. Germain. “We wanted to avoid at all costs [selling to an English team], but we had no choice.” Alex Song – another Dein client – may be on his way to Barcelona today.
Here’s what I wanted to write: “Darren Dein, in cahoots with his father, conspired to coax Arsenal’s stars away from North London.” The fan in me wants to stew over this bizarre relationship that seemingly involves everyone at Emirates. The truth is money and trophies win the day. The players that left sought those two things – Adebayor, the exception.
However, after watching the X-Files last night I end with this: “The Truth Is Out There.”
In less cynical, tin-foil hat type news the BBC’s David Ornstein reports Thomas Vermaelen will be named Arsenal’s new captain in the coming days. Just keep Tommy V. away from Darren Dein and we’re good.