Some questions in the media...https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/moshiri-latest-rich-owner-to-struggle-with-his-new-toy-cx8kn8dpz
The first time I met Farhad Moshiri was an odd encounter. It was October 2007 and a group of journalists were being taken out to Moscow, on a private jet (not mine), to meet Alisher Usmanov to discuss his reasons for purchasing a stake in Arsenal.
Moshiri was on the flight, though it was never really explained why as he ushered us on board. We gleaned that the one-time accountant was deeply involved in Usmanov’s company Metalloinvest, and also a football fan, but the idea that we were sitting next to a future Premier League club owner rather than a very over-qualified travel guide never occurred.
It was a strange introduction, not quite knowing what Moshiri was about. And the more we have seen at Everton over recent months the more my curiosity has returned.
What on earth is happening at Goodison Park? The fans — and more than one rival club who have dealt with them over business — have asked the same question with a growing sense of bewilderment at the league table and a chaotic managerial search compounded by last night’s Europa League embarrassment at the hands of Atalanta.
The simple answer is the very familiar teething problems of football club ownership. Everton are definitely not Queens Park Rangers, but seeing Moshiri reminds me a little of the early years of Tony Fernandes; promising the world — including a new stadium, global ambitions — but first delivering some expensive mistakes.
Both are eager to please, working media contacts in the hope of popularity as well as points, having built vast personal fortunes through graft and clever networking. They possess plenty of charm.
Both are undoubted enthusiasts, with big dreams and a child-like thrill in their train sets, but the main question that fans are right to ask is: what do they know of football? This especially matters when these owners are extremely hands-on over some key decisions while also trying to juggle their many businesses and investments, with the inevitable result that a few balls are dropped, damagingly.
They want the thrill of being involved, mixing with football people which is so much more interesting than the price of oil, but where does that leave a club’s experts, the professionals? We may well ask when Moshiri has personally led a managerial search that, more than a month after the sacking of Ronald Koeman, appears to be back where it started.
This week Everton received a cease and desist letter from Watford’s lawyers, demanding that the pursuit of Marco Silva be immediately called off — or else. But it should not have needed such a threat.
Did Moshiri really think that Watford, even if offered £10 million or more, could afford to let their manager walk out in November? Who does he think he is, Watford may well ask, looking down from the top half of the table at a club such as Everton who were wrong to take the side of the “big six” in the recent argument over sharing broadcast income.
Four points in the past two games have lifted Everton out of the bottom three but, especially after last night’s 5-1 capitulation, league fixtures against Southampton and West Ham United will be approached with very fragile confidence when the caretaker manager, David Unsworth, lurches from game to game.
Where to turn next? Steve Walsh was recruited from Leicester City as director of football but there are those at Goodison Park who question the accuracy of that title. Directing what, exactly?
Walsh is understood to have wanted Sam Allardyce, but that hardly fits Moshiri’s early proclamation: “For our club to compete in the northwest of England, which is the new Hollywood of football with [Pep] Guardiola, [José] Mourinho, [Jürgen] Klopp, we needed a star to stand on the touchline, so I got Koeman.” To reject Big Sam, then to have to go back to him, is not exactly the glamour that Moshiri had in mind?
Bill Kenwright, the chairman since 2004, will have his own thoughts but it is Moshiri who, these days, expects to call the shots. A rich owner grappling with his new toy, struggling to assert the control that he is used to in business, is not a new phenomenon. To glance down the road on Merseyside is to recall Fenway Sports Group’s false starts with Damien Comolli as director of football and Kenny Dalglish’s brief return to the dugout.
But it still comes as a shock at Everton, given how so much money was spent, the £75 million fee for Romelu Lukaku and much more besides, as Moshiri sought to demonstrate his ambition this summer. Everton had everything but a strategy (and a new striker).
Long-term, fees for Jordan Pickford, Michael Keane and Ademola Lookman may come to look decent value, but on a checklist of classic owner mistakes — overspending (Gylfi Sigurdsson at £45 million), gathering a bloated squad (Davy Klaassen at £25 million) and signings of heart over head (Wayne Rooney on big wages) — Moshiri ticks every box.
They want the thrill of being involved, mixing with football people which is so much more interesting than the price of oil.
Having a big squad of senior players makes even less sense at a club that, rightly, tries to take great pride in developing its own.
Beginner’s mistakes? Moshiri once held shares at Arsenal, selling them back to Usmanov to fund his purchase of Everton, and he has been at Goodison Park since March 2016, with his 49.9 per cent stake bought for £87.5 million.
He is still working his way to full ownership of the club, probably in the next 18 months, according to insiders who say that he is determined to see through his grand plans, including a new stadium.
There are assurances that his wealth, including the Everton investment, is independently established. This came under questioning with the announcement at the annual meeting in January that USM, the investment company for Usmanov’s vast holdings in Russian mining and metals, and digital corporations, would sponsor the Finch Farm training ground.
Questions over the depth of his business ties with Usmanov were reawakened through the recent leak of the Paradise Papers. Long before our trip to Russia, Moshiri had worked principally with and for Usmanov, managing the investment of his fortune, but there is an insistence that respective interests in Arsenal and Everton for the two men are entirely separated.
While frustrated for years over opaqueness in the ownership, most Everton fans will simply hope that in a billionaire owner who has also covered the club’s debts, they have a man with the means to take them higher.
Moshiri has certainly shown a commitment to spend but, as a wretched campaign has demonstrated, throwing money around is the easy part of ownership for a rich man. The harder challenge is to know your limits not in wealth but knowledge. If he had asked around, someone could have told Moshiri that sacking your manager without a clue what happens next is not a great plan.