HEAD OF FOOTBALL RELATIONS
When Raul Sanllehi and Sven Mislintat arrived at Arsenal as heads of football relations and recruitment respectively last year, the writing was on the wall for Gunners autocrat Arsene Wenger.
Once Sven has identified someone he wants to bring to London, it’s Sanllehi’s job to ensure the deal goes through and finalise details with the selling club and player’s agent. He’s a transfer fixer.
The 49-year-old Catalan had done the same role at Barcelona since May 2008 as director of football, 18 months after first moving to Camp Nou, and was the main mediator in sealing mega-money moves for both Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool.
Ex-barça president Joan Laporta knew what he was getting when he promoted Sanllehi to transfer dealings. He headed up Nike’s operations in South America for five years, alongside Sandro Rosell who later followed him to Catalonia, and formed a wealth of contacts that came in handy for the signing with which he’s most associated.
Neymar’s 2013 switch to Barça would have been impossible without Sanllehi’s Nike connections. The Brazilian’s transfer from Santos has since been the subject of tax fraud investigations and resulted in Rosell’s departure as Barça president, but it was Sanllehi who’d brought all of the relevant parties together.
Nike’s continued relationship with the club also owes a lot to Sanllehi, though there was a feeling his days in Catalonia were numbered after the Neymar affair, especially after he failed to convince the Samba star to snub PSG.
A ruthless negotiator who tends to get what he wants, Raul has already made his presence felt at Arsenal, persuading Mesut Ozil to extend his stay and signing Swiss right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner.