There is more than £200m in the bank but I’m glad Arsene Wenger didn’t buy Raheem Sterling, says director Lord Harris
- Arsenal were restricted in the market when they moved into the Emirates
- But the club now has £200million sitting in the bank ready to spend
- Arsenal director Lord Harris says Arsene Wenger could buy any player
- The club made funds available to buy Petr Cech for £11m from Chelsea
- Harris says he is pleased Wenger didn’t buy Raheem Sterling
- Harris wants Wenger to stay beyond the end of his current contract
Arsenal director Lord Harris has backed Arsene Wenger to break the club transfer record on a new centre forward, with the long-serving board member revealing funds are available to sign ‘anyone but Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’.
Real Madrid star Karim Benzema is understood to be top of Wenger’s wanted list and Lord Philip Harris, who closely monitors the north London side’s finances, has told Sportsmail there is a healthy balance of more than £200million in the club’s accounts.
The Carpetright owner, who left school aged 15 to become a salesman, admitted the development of the Emirates Stadium previously limited spending power but feels the Gunners are now in a position to cash in on their investment and challenge for major European titles.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has the transfer funds to buy almost any player in the world
The Frenchman has £200million in the Arsenal coffers that he can use to buy a new striker this summer
It is thought that Wenger is keen on bringing Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema to the Emirates
Harris does not think it will be possible for Tottenham to share Arsenal’s ground during the development
‘Money was tight when we moved to the Emirates but it’s a lot freer now,’ said the 72-year-old. ‘We could go into the market and probably buy any player in the world, apart from half a dozen who are un-buyable. In the accounts, there’s over £200million in the bank. You could say to Arsene we’ve got no money and he wouldn’t worry, or you could give him £100m and he might not spend it.
‘At the moment there are no plans to sign anyone, unless he finds a real superstar like Mesut Ozil or Alexis Sanchez. He’s looking for one of those but there aren’t many available. We would back him to break the club’s transfer record. If he wanted the man, he could have him. Apart from Messi and Ronaldo, he could have any player. We will probably have to break the club record to get the man he wants.’
Speaking in a rare interview at his office in Orpington, the carpet tycoon revealed that Wenger’s top target is keen to make the move to the UK. The Gunners have already signed goalkeeper Petr Cech – whose £11m arrival from Chelsea could open the door to a loan move for Wojciech Szczesny – and Lord Harris revealed that the first enquiries were made last summer when Thibaut Courtois returned to Stamford Bridge.
‘We get a list of the players that Wenger wants,’ said Lord Harris. ‘On the list is a centre forward, but I’m not going to tell you who he is. You’ve got to get the other team to want to sell him, but I think he wants to come. It basically comes down to whether the other team can find a superstar to replace him, because they don’t have to sell.
Arsenal director Lord Harris has said Arsenal would have to break the bank to sign the player Wenger wants
Arsenal brought Mesut Ozil to the club two years ago for £42.5m – the current club record fee
The Emirates club also splashed out £30m last summer to sign Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona
‘He also wanted a top goalie, so we went out and got him. John Terry said that Cech will gain us 15 points a year, which would have won us the league last season. Since Jens Lehmann or David Seaman, we’ve not really had a world-class goalie. We made enquiries about Cech last summer but Chelsea couldn’t sell him because they didn’t know how Courtois was going to settle in.’
Cech will shore up Arsenal’s defence but questions still linger over Wenger’s attacking options. The club looked at Raheem Sterling, who made his debut for Manchester City on Tuesday following his £49m move from Anfield, but decided against a possible agreement.
Sterling left Liverpool in bitter circumstances following drawn-out negotiations with maligned agent Aidy Ward, leaving Lord Harris, who also has a passion for show-jumping, with no regrets about missing out on the 20-year-old England international.
‘Sterling is a very, very good player but I’m very pleased Arsenal didn’t sign him,’ said Lord Harris. ‘He’s got a lot to learn. They were looking at him and the way he treated Liverpool wasn’t good. Arsene does a lot of work on the players before they get to us and he doesn’t take any nonsense.
The board have already backed Wenger by bringing in Petr Cech from rivals Chelsea this window for £11m
Cech holds the Barclays Asia Trophy after Arsenal beat Everton 3-0 in the final in Singapore
Wenger’s tolerance has been tested since he took over as manager in 1996. Now 65, the Frenchman has two years remaining on his contract but the board are keen for him to stay beyond the end of the 2016/17 season. The Champions League has been the elusive trophy throughout his career but the board still have full confidence that Wenger can lead the club to European glory.
‘I see no reason why Arsene shouldn’t stay beyond his contact, if he wants to,’ said Lord Harris. ‘I’m sure we will want him to stay, because he’s a good manager and the players respect him. Two or three years ago, when the crowd came after him, you could tell he was concerned but I wouldn’t say he came close to leaving. He’s exactly the same as what you see in the media – bright, determined and very conscientious about his players. He’s so fit and motivated that we hope he stays longer.’
While Wenger is left to his own devices with footballing decisions, Lord Harris has an active role behind the scenes involving business matters such as sponsorship and ticketing. His passion for the club stems back to the days of Dennis Compton – a former left winger and England cricketer – and he has a strong grasp of local rivalries.
Harris (centre) hopes Arsene Wenger stays on beyond the end of his current contract, which ends in two years
Lord Harris says he is pleased Wenger did not sign Raheem Sterling after the way he angled for a move
With neighbours Tottenham planning to develop White Hart Lane into a 61,000 all-seater stadium, there have been suggestions of a temporary ground-share with Arsenal. But Lord Harris revealed no discussions have been held and feels such proposals would struggle to get off the ground.
‘With the supporters being so different, I think it would be impossible to share a ground,’ said Lord Harris. ‘If either Arsenal or Tottenham won the league, the other team would be going bloody mad. I don’t think that could work. Tottenham are probably five years behind us now with their development. I don’t think we’re five years behind Real Madrid.’
Drawing comparisons with their north London rivals, Lord Harris uses Tottenham’ s post-Gareth Bale spending as an example of how money does not guarantee success. Arsenal’s hunt for a star striker will continue over the summer months, but the club are equally content to rely on their fruitful academy, seeing no reason to move away from the strategies laid out under American majority shareholder Stan Kroenke.
Tottenham are building a new 61,000-seater stadium adjacent to White Hart Lane
‘It’s not all about spending,’ said Lord Harris. ‘If you look at Tottenham, they sold a player for £80m and spent £110m and ended up worse off. Generally, Arsene doesn’t think you should fetch more than three first-team players in one season because it takes too long for them to link up. He knows how to produce players, too – we’ve got four or five very good youngsters who are coming through.
‘We’ve got a fantastic owner in Stan, who likes Arsene and lets you run the club. He wants to know the numbers and comes to every board meeting. We like to call it ‘The Arsenal Way’; even through our bad years, we always played nice football. Now, with a bit of luck around injuries, I think we can challenge strongly for the Premier League and the Champions League.’
Source : Daily Mail