Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira allegedly told Ashley Cole he should not “settle for less than £80,000 (€118,000) a week” in his new contract negotiations, it has been revealed.
The claim was made by Cole’s agent Jonathan Barnett, who showed a text message purportedly from the French midfielder to Gunners’ vice-chairman David Dein.
It came to light after the independent commission into the Cole ‘tapping up’ by Chelsea published their full decision behind the punishments they dished out to all parties earlier in the week.
In January, Barnett was trying to renegotiate a new contract for his client and, after Dein said £55,000 (€82,000) a week was Arsenal’s final offer the agent produced the text message.
According to the commission: “Barnett stated they could get £80-90,000 (€118,000-€133,000) a week and that they could sell Ashley Cole for £20m (€29.6m).
“He then gestured to his phone saying ‘Do you want me to make a phone call, this is take it or leave it time’, from which Dein inferred (and, as we find, Barnett intended that he should infer) that there was another club that was seriously interested in signing Ashley Cole.”
Vieira has said in a statement released by Arsenal that he denied sending the text message to Cole.
“I categorically deny sending any such text message. It simply is not true,” he said.
Given Barnett’s reliance on Vieira’s text message it is ironic that Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon claimed Cole had told the meeting between himself, manager Jose Mourinho, Barnett and ‘super agent’ Pini Zahavi that Arsenal was run by its French contingent and his relationship with Arsene Wenger was not as solid as it should be.
“He was concerned that the relationship with the manager was not good, that there was definitely a series of cliques and the team was primarily run by the French boys,” Kenyon told the commission.
“He was also concerned that he did not feel that there was a team spirit and it was clear from the outset, obviously from being on England duty with some of our boys, that he felt there appeared to be a very good team spirit at Chelsea and that was why we were doing so well.”
On Wednesday, Chelsea were fined £300,000 and hit with a suspended three-point deduction after being found guilty of an illegal approach for the England left-back.
Manager Jose Mourinho was ordered to pay £200,000 (€296,000) and Cole £100,000 (€148,000) for their roles.
Barnett and Pini Zihavi, the ‘super agent’ who ‘fixes’ deals for clubs, were criticised by the commission for “engineering the meeting” but Barnett has vowed to clear the names of himself and his client as the Arsenal defender’s legal team finalise an appeal against his fine.
“We are not prepared to accept what has happened and we will do what it takes to clear our names,” Barnett told the Press Association.
Barnett and Zahavi were previously labelled by the commission as “two of the most involved participants”, with a recommendation that they should be investigated by the Football Association and FIFA.
“This is the most important thing in our lives at the moment,” Barnett added. “The easiest thing now would probably be to accept the fine, but we feel so strongly about this that we will appeal and fight on. We will not stop.
“I am actually more determined to clear Ashley’s name than my own. But I have always maintained that I am innocent of any wrongdoing.”
While it is up to FIFA to take any action against Israeli Zahavi, Barnett, who first made his name in the entertainment industry before moving into cricket and football, comes under the auspices of the FA.
If he were found guilty of wrongdoing by the governing body, he could then face a range of potential penalties, from a warning to a suspension or even revocation of his agent’s licence.
Chelsea, meanwhile, are considering their own appeal and it is believed they feel the full decision of the commission has actually strengthened their case.
The club feel they have been harshly treated with fines totalling £500,000 (€741,000) when it was they who were approached by agents – who have come in for the most criticism – at the beginning of the affair.