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Abdalla M. Taryam: Uncle Fester does it again
January 04, 2011
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It’s 2002; I’m in a crowded Tokyo sport-clothing store trying to find a Brazil shirt for my World Cup travel companion. Although none of us were Brazil supporters, my friend was adamant on wearing a Brazil shirt for the Brazil-Germany final we were about to attend.

Aisle after aisle of football shirts we searched in vain. And then I spotted it, a discarded yellow and green top under a pile of Nigerian shirts next to the cashier.

‘Found one!’ I hollered at my annoyed friend as I seized it before the swarm of Japanese kids in the store can see it.

‘Is it a large, what number does it have?’ he screamed from the other side of the store.

‘Yes it’s a large, but its number 23!’

‘23? Who’s 23?’ with a frustrated tone he asked.

‘A kid named Kaka!’ I explained.

‘Who names their kid Kaka?’ he angrily chuckled as he snatched it from my hands and dropped it back on the unwanted pile. Maybe Adriano Galliani, AC Milan’s vice president, bought it that day.

Lets go back 15 years, to the summer of 1987 where another kid by the name of Marco Van Basten has just transferred to AC Milan from Dutch side Ajax. This guy wasn’t a Kaka of 2002 where people didn’t know who he was. Van Basten was already a European Golden Boot winner and scorer of more than 150 Ajax goals. Must have cost Milan plenty. Not really.

800,000 US dollars is the fee that Adriano Galliani agreed with his Dutch counterparts. Seems quite a hefty sum given its 1987 but comparing it to other European signings that year, you start wondering how this Uncle Fester lookalike pulled it off.

Glenn Hoddle moved to Monaco for 800,000 pounds. While Liverpool bought John Barnes for 900,000 pounds before breaking the British transfer record with a 1.9 million pounds purchase of Peter Beardsley. With all due respect to these great players, none of them would go on to win 3 Ballon D’Or awards and become a reference point to all future number 9s.

Fast forward to Japan 2002, my friend and I just witnessed Rivaldo help a rejuvenated Ronaldo score 2 goals in the final to win the World Cup. Ronaldo was soon to be on his way to Madrid but we were not about to see him go head to head against Rivaldo in Spain. Barcelona had infuriated Rivaldo by bringing back Louis Van Gaal to manage the club, which resulted in the player demanding a transfer.

Rivaldo, the 1999 Ballon D’Or winner, was in great form at the World Cup and a host of clubs were lining up to buy the disgruntled forward. Milan came into the fold with their temptations and Galliani’s charisma and somehow found a way to get Rivaldo to be released from his Barcelona contract. Barca’s All-time top scorer in European competition (recently overtaken by Messi) was heading to the Rossoneri for free.

Milan won their 6th Champions League title that year while Barcelona sacked Van Gaal midway through the worst season in their history.

‘Hey remember that Brazil shirt you didn’t buy with the name Kaka?’ I asked my friend a year later. ‘Yes, he just signed for AC Milan and he’s a world beater they say.’

A world-class player for only 8.5 million Euros? Didn’t Madrid just sign Beckham for 35 million?

Actually lets forget about Beckham and concentrate on players with similar value to Kaka like Helder Postiga. For that kind of money or ‘peanuts’ as described by Silvio Berlusconi, you tend to get monkeys. Not in the case of Kaka. No offense Helder.

With Galliani at the head of Milan’s administration since 1986, he has assembled 5 European Cup-winning sides. But after Milan sold Kaka to Madrid last year it seemed his magical ways of luring stars has waned. Not quiet.

He has a way of making the world believe that they have no money and that his boss, Silvio Berlusconi, is ready to sell the club but at the same time works behind the scenes with the agents and other club officials. He has a nose to seek out bargains like no other and it was evident in his deal for Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

One of the best strikers in the world, Ibra transferred to Barcelona only last year for a package exceeding 60 million Euros in value. Whatever you think of his season at Barcelona, the big striker is worth a pot of gold for any club. So how does Adriano Galliani get Barcelona to lower their demands from 60 million to 40 million and then 24 million Euros? Wait for the kicker though. Galliani convinced Barcelona to accept a 1-year loan deal and only start installments on the paltry transfer fee next summer.

I thought I’ve seen it all, with the Ibra deal. Never did I think Adriano Galliani will top this one, but he did.

Antonio Cassano has recently insulted his club President, and the Sampdoria owner has refused to forgive him. Sensing a bargain might arise, Galliani pounces at the chance to ensnare the troubled, yet exceptionally talented, journeyman.

Not only did Galliani persuade all parties that the right place for Cassano is in Milan, but also he convinced them to pay for it.

Let me explain.

Cassano had a sell-on cause that insured Madrid, his previous club, gets a 5 million Euro pay-off. So even though Sampdoria wanted his contract rescinded somebody had to pay Madrid if he was to move on.

Galliani gets to work and ends up coaxing Sampdoria in paying half that amount and managed to talk Cassano into reducing his wages to pay for the other half himself. Done deal, congratulations he’s a Milan player.

If there’s anybody in the world of football that resembles a certain fictitious mafia don, its Adriano Galliani with his power of making offers that nobody seems to refuse.

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