Translator:Nyoi-Bo StudioEditor:Nyoi-Bo Studio
With regards to Claude Anelka and Didier Anelka, the two brothers and agents of the French striker, Nicolas Anelka, everyone’s bad comments about them could go on for three days and three nights and still not finish. Almost all the coaches, club chairmen, and managers abhorred them. The French Football Federation officials treated the two Anelkas as if they were dealing with frauds and thieves, full of contempt and disdain. The English media were more direct and called them “parasites living off Anelka.”
In the football world, it was common for players to make their relatives and immediate family members agents, such as the French superstar players Zidane and Djorkaeff, the Brazilian star players Ronaldinho and Kaka, “The Flying Dutchman” Robben from the Netherlands, and so on. They had chosen their brothers or fathers to be their agents to handle the contracts with the club as well as to negotiate various endorsements.
In doing so, there were obviously cost savings. After all, even if there was no common saying in other countries for “keeping the money within the family,” the meaning was the same. But compared with those professional agents, the players’ families lack of experience and knowledge often led the players astray and ruined their future.
A living example was right in front of everyone’s eyes.
Starting from the transfer from Arsenal to Real Madrid in 1999 until 2005, there had been five transfers in six years with Arsenal, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, and Liverpool. Four of the powerhouses in Continental Europe had his footprints. However, being in so many big clubs had not helped Anelka’s career. His football resume was filled with glorious names, but the only honors he had won were double Premier League titles and a UEFA Champions League title. The lack of personal honors was not the most fatal. The most fatal was the string of frequent transfers that gradually exposed the greed of his two agent brothers. Now, almost no club dared to ask for Anelka. After the conflict with Keegan last season, no team would venture to take on such a player in the winter transfer period.
In the end, the Turkish Sper Lig team Fenerbahe S.K. announced the deal of seven million pounds to bring in Anelka at the last moment of the transfer window closure.
Seven million! Did it sound like a lot? It was not when Anelka’s several transfer prices were reviewed: when he decided to leave his training place, Arsenal, and his mentor, Wenger, Real Madrid paid twenty-three million pounds for him, which was the most expensive for a young player at that time. He was brilliant then and on top of his game. He was hailed as the only talented striker who was comparable to Ronaldo and the most gifted talent in French football in a decade. Later, he commented on his fellow countryman, Henry: “He’s playing at Arsenal now, which I, Anelka, did when I was nineteen years old.”
Later, he went to Paris Saint-Germain. Holding a high salary, he became a “cancer” that only caused trouble for the team. When he went to Liverpool, he had a brief recovery. However, due to his two elder brothers’ insatiable greed, Houllier dumped him. Later on, he settled in Manchester City for a price of thirteen million pounds. He thought he had finally found his base. He did not anticipate that he would clash with the manager again after one season. This time when he was leaving, his two brothers sprang into action and put him in touch with Arsenal, hoping to increase his price through speculation. But it did not work this time. Wenger and the Arsenal chairman came out to deny the rumor and that they did not intend to purchase the Frenchman. In the end, they could only go to Turkey with their tails between their legs. The price of being away from the center of European football and away from everyone’s line of sight was just seven million pounds.
“…And now, after being in Turkey for half a season, did they finally find something was wrong?” With this call record, Twain looked at the caller’s name, Claude Anelka, with disdain. “With their dear brother far from the center of attention, they can’t get more money, can they? I remember that just five days ago, the Fenerbahe club seemed to have rejected Newcastle United’s offer for him.”
Evan Doughty sat in his seat and reminded him, “It wasn’t a refusal. Newcastle United asked for the price, and they listed the Frenchman at twenty million pounds, which scared off Newcastle United.”
Twain shrugged his shoulders. “A covert refusal, just like us. You state that a certain player is not for sale, and everyone continues to attempt to an inquiry, testing your patience. Consequently, you give a price that the buyer can’t afford or is not willing to pay to so that the houseflies know to back off. Didn’t we give George a price of two trillion pounds?”
Speaking of which, Evan laughed. “Tony, you know what? In SI’s latest release of the FM series, the George Wood’s price is listed as two trillion.”
Upon hearing that news, Twain was momentarily stunned. He then shook his head and smiled. “Is that special treatment for a partner?”
Evan brought the conversation back to the point. “What do you have in mind, Tony? You’re the manager. Allan and I are still going to refer to you for any signings in the team.” As he said this, he glanced at Allan.
Twain put the call record back on the table, leaned back on the chair and answered simply, “Nothing. I’m going to reject this. I don’t want to deal with those bloodsuckers.”
Just as Evan nodded, Allan suddenly reached out his hand. “Wait a minute.”
In Evan’s office, there were currently only three of them: Twain, Allan, and Evan. Allan, who had been frowning and in contemplation since he had come in, suddenly spoke up. That attracted the attention of the other two men.
“Why not give it a try?” Allan looked up at the two men, and all three of them looked at each other.
“Give what a try?” Twain looked away first after looking at him for a while.
“Talk to Anelka’s brothers.”
Twain waved his hands, moving somewhat exaggeratedly. “Allan, do you think this is some kind of free Turkish shish kebab? Do you know what kind of people Anelka’s brothers are?”
Allan nodded. “I know. I studied the both of them before I came.”
His reply was somewhat unexpected for Twain. He had not even considered it when he received the news. He had already refused in his heart. He had no idea that Allan would look into Anelka’s two brothers, especially for this matter.
With his mouth agape for a moment, Twain could only give a forced laugh to dispel the awkward silence in the room.
Allan asked in return, “Tony, do you have any good candidates for the team’s forward line?”
Twain helplessly shook his head. “No, the forwards who I’m interested in won’t come, and those who would I’m not keen on.”
“If that’s the case, why don’t we give this a try? The new season is getting closer and closer. Instead of wasting time in the transfer market, let’s try to get in touch with Anelka’s agents. I think something must be going on since they took the initiative to contact us after they had just arrived in Turkey for half a season. Perhaps this is better for us.”
“What else can be going on? Not getting along with the manager? Or the club chairman? But five days ago, the Turkish chairman of Fenerbahe showed the close relationship between Anelka and himself.”
“Tony, do you know Figo and Redondo?” Allan again surprised Twain with his question.
“Yes… Of course, I know them. The former is a Real Madrid player, and the latter is recovering from an injury with AC Milan.
“Then do you recall the how they moved to their new clubs despite being satisfied where they were?”
The question stumped Twain. He frowned as he searched carefully in his mind, and then said uncertainly, “It seemed that Figo left Barcelona to move to Real Madrid because he had previously promised Real Madrid’s president that if he was elected, he would transfer to Real Madrid. As for Redondo, I heard that it was because he chose to stand on the wrong side in the Real Madrid presidential election. He chose to support Lorenzo Sanz instead of Florentino?”
Allan chuckled and said, “No, I’m not talking about that. I mean, do you know the attitudes and opinions those people and clubs had shown before and after the transfer?”
This time, Twain simply shook his head. “How am I supposed to remember that?”
“It was a coincidence that I turned to these old events yesterday when I checked up on the information about Anelka’s agents. On July 14, 2000, Figo, who had just performed well in the UEFA European Championship, publicly told the Barcelona fans that he would not transfer out of Barcelona, much less go to Real Madrid. His original words went like this” Allan rummaged through his own folder and read, “I’ve made an irrevocable decision. I will not be a member of Real Madrid. If the fans are disappointed and upset by the rumors about me, then I ask for their forgiveness. But they should believe what I said.”
After he read, Allan looked up at Twain. There was no need to say what happened next. He believed that as a professional football manager, Twain would know the ending of this matter better than himself.
“And ten days later, Figo signed a 56.1 million transfer contract with Real Madrid…” Twain continued Allan’s thread and soon after he sighed, “All right, I know what you mean. Both the club and player were good at lying. The thing is — the chairman of the Fenerbahe club said that Anelka now enjoys living in Turkey, perhaps to create a reason for their price increase. And they really wanted to drive that troublemaking Frenchman and his two greedy agents out of the club, but the Turks were just trying to get a little bit more out of Newcastle United. They had not expected to shoot themselves in the foot by scaring the Newcastle United chairman away.”
After he heard Twain’s story, Allan laughed. “That’s a possibility. It could also be those two greedy agent brothers using us as a cover to try to get a higher salary for their cash cow. All of Europe knows that Nottingham Forest is looking everywhere to buy a striker. In order to negotiate with the Fenerbahe club, they could be using this as a bargaining chip to ask for a sky-high price.”
Evan Doughty applauded after Allan had finished speaking. “Those are both wonderful stories. Which one is closer to the truth?”
“There are other possibilities, but that’s not the point.” Allan looked at the club chairman and his old partner. “The important point is that since they got in touch with us, we’ll talk to them, no matter what their purpose. We’re short speedy forwards now. Is Anelka fast?” He turned to Twain again.
“Since Anelka is the type of striker we need…”
Twain interrupted Allan’s words. “He is not necessarily what we need. A player like Anelka is very difficult to control. He’s recalcitrant and does not play well with others. Even managers like Wenger and Bosque could not take him. I think a manager who is able to train him well may not have been born yet. He’s a ticking time bomb in the locker room, a bad example in the training ground and a negative factor. He’s a risky investment and the club finance doesn’t know whether he will be a profit or a loss.”
Again, Allan interrupted Twain. “But we have you, Tony. Remember Rebrov? What did everyone call him before you came on board? A parallel import! And then what happened?” He beamed at Twain.
Twain scratched his head. “Do you really trust me that much?”
Evan also spoke. “Tony, honestly, Allan and I admire the way you manage the team. There have been no scandals or disputes in our locker room so far. The overall mood on our team is good, and we have a good rapport with the fans. I think that’s all to your credit.”
Twain had long been accustomed to such barefaced flattery. He was so impervious that his expression remained unchanged. “That’s because the players on the team have a good disposition.”
“George Wood is not an easy kid. Except for you, I’m afraid he won’t even listen to me.” Evan saw through Twain’s ploy.
Allan cleared his throat, “Look, we are in agreement on your standard. Very well, since Anelka is the type of striker we need, why don’t we try getting in touch with his agents just once? I feel that aside from his character and two brothers, Anelka is still a very powerful player.”
“Compared to him five years ago, it’s already night and day,” muttered Twain.
“But he fits your requirements now. He must think highly of us if he wants to come.” Although Allan still had a smile on his face, his stance was tougher. He was not going to budge.
Twain made a face. “I don’t want to deal with those two agents.”
“Don’t worry about it, Tony. I’ll take care of Anelka’s agents and be responsible for getting in touch with them. But you have to promise me that if I can successfully sign the Frenchman, you won’t refuse.”
Twain sighed as he conceded, “Okay, since you want to give yourself trouble, I’m not going to stop you, Allan. I promise you, as long as you can sign him, there will be a position for him in the team. I will not make things difficult for you. But there is a common saying in China: ‘Ugly words must be said first.’ Whether he can play the main position and be the core of the team or not, it all depends on him and his performance.”
Allan nodded with a smile. “Of course.” Then he turned to Evan.
Evan Doughty thought about it. “Selling Crouch will get us ten million. So, the target that I give you is that the transfer fee cannot be higher than that figure.”
“Seven million to buy him and ten million to sell after half a season. It’s already very lucrative for the Turks.” Twain grumbled next to him, “I’d still like to warn you, beware of those two agents … I get a headache when I think of them.”
Allan smiled. “They’re just two greedy pigs. Plus, they’re amateurs.”
Thus the plan to get in touch with Anelka’s agents was determined. Twain dumped all the hassle on Allan and was busy coaching the team and continuing with the job of bolstering other positions. Regardless of Allan’s progress, he had already made plans to rely on the three forwards till Eastwood returned from his recovery. Anyway, he did not have any hope for Anelka. Even if he came, there were still his brothers to consider. Twain could not count on anything.
Allan had just returned from the United States and brought good news to the Forest team. He had negotiated a sponsorship contract with Nike. In the next five years, Nike would be the sponsors for the team’s jerseys. Allan thought that it was fitting for the Forest team, which was stepping into the UEFA Champions League. If the team was still wearing the British domestic sports brand, Umbro, on the one hand, it was not international enough and, on the other hand, Umbro also gave less money than Nike.
In fact, Twain was more inclined to sign a jersey sponsorship contract with Germany’s well-known sports brand, Adidas. However, Adidas’s reaction to a collaboration with the Forest team was lukewarm. Twain was not willing to be snubbed when an overture was made. Both Evan and Allan were from the United States and favored American sports brands.
This contract brought a five-year income of twenty-five million-pounds to the Forest team, which had undoubtedly given the Forest team, competing for higher honors, a boost to their investment confidence and more clout in the transfer market.
There might be small disagreements like how to deal with Anelka, but Twain felt that the cooperation among the three of them was clearly successful. Allan brought him a lot of money, and Evan regulated the entire club’s business. In turn, he played various roles between Twain and Allan. He was a mediator, friend, and a listening ear. Most importantly, of course, he was the decision maker.
After he saw the new sponsorship contract that Allan had brought, Twain sometimes thought that maybe Allan could successfully subdue Anelka’s brothers. Just like Allan himself had said: One is a professional player; the other is an amateur player.