Alisher Usmanov has given a rare interview to CNBC (they call it a global exclusive) in which he’s touched on everything from his stake in Facebook to the recent Megafon IPO. Naturally he also took the chance to talk about the 30% shareholding in Arsenal and how it is his ‘dream’ to take full control of the club one day.
Below is a transcript of the interview [it can be watched here in full]. Where possible I’ve transcribed it word-for-word, but you’ll notice that with English not his first language there are plenty of idiosyncratic turns of phrase.
You can make your own mind up about the line of questioning and the manner in which they’ve been phrased…
Interview doesn’t begin with a lead question…
I not hear that Arsene Wenger [is] against me [being] on the board. Directly, I not hear about this and I am surprised if it is like this. Second, always I tell Mr Wenger is one of the best coach in the world and football manager.
I openly want to tell he have many, many difficulties. Of course today less [so], but before in the last five years he not have enough support to provide his conceptions of his game in Arsenal from board; his resources for transfer and for keeping players etc. This is my view.
Question: He has let some great players go, it’s a tragedy when you let someone of Robin van Persie’s skill walk out of the door.
This decision [by] Mr Wenger also a mistake. If I’m in his place I [make him] stay to the finish. But he explains this [by saying] Robin wants to go to win trophies.
Question: What about the other players that Arsenal could have signed like Hazard, who has gone to Chelsea? That’s another mistake isn’t it?
I never interfere with activity which I’m not responsible. This question [is] to Wenger.
Question: Imagine that you have the controlling stake and are able to help finance the club in a more fulsome way. What would Arsenal be like if you ran it?
In this case I need to demonstrate that I am asleep. It is my dream. In my dream I never, never ever give instruction to Chief Executive of my plans. I only ask; you need my help or not? Second, if I had a big stake in Arsenal of course I have my opinion about what must do to our team. For example, on the commercial side; I think there are many questions about effectivity [think he means effectiveness] of today commercial management at Arsenal. We will see and we will wait, maybe when I wake up some day I have this Arsenal club.
Question: Would you compete with the Manchester clubs to outbid them for players? Could we see players like Messi come to Arsenal? Would you pay £100 million for a player?
For Messi? I think any club would pay any money for Lionel Messi, now particularly today. But you cannot pay enormous price and not realistic price. You need to give this to hand of professional people, like Wenger, or his successors.
Question: But you would be prepared to use some of your £18 billion wealth?
This is strength of this business…the strength of this business, like we speak about super-cycle before [when talking about other business interests]. Now there’s a cycle of big money, tomorrow maybe this destination changes in football.
Question: So you think transfer fees are going to come down, that football is going to become less lucrative?
Everything has limits and after it comes down. Everything has this cycle, for development and trade.