“Money has a wonderful habit of flowing where it feels comfortable.”
—Patarkatsishvili, modern sage
I love an intrigue-laden cosmopolitan thriller as much as anyone and more than most, and I must say this beats the most feverish imaginings of John le Carre or Alan Furst. A pair of young Argentine superstars; a certain ambitious East End “firm”; enough shadowy Russian “entrepreneurs” to field a five-a-side squad or, alternatively, loot the natural-resources base of a mid-sized Central Asian state; one of whom has a UK passport in a false name derived from a film loosely based on his life (!); a delightfully cynical Georgian operative; an Iranian political exile with two distinctly different birthdays (!!)….it is enough to make one’s head spin.
The question that lingers over the murky dealings at West Ham—which seem designed either to deliver the entire club into the hands of some opaque transnational cartel or flip Tevez and Mascherano like they were Soho condomiums, or (preferably, I’m sure) both—goes like this: Are we seeing the zenith of Syriana-style neo-film noir dealings at the top level of international club football, or merely the end of the beginning? Football has always been populated my mountebanks and chancers, but the mounting involvement of characters like Roman Abramovich over the last few years built to this exceedingly baroque moment. Will the game’s authorities, who are not exactly known for compunction in such matters, be forced to intervene? Or will we, the almost-innocent and largely powerless supporters of the game, simply have to watch in awe as a hyper-feral form of globalization sweeps all semblance of sense away?