Reports today suggest that Manchester United are not following up their initial rejected bid for Marko Arnautovic with another offer. The Bologna striker had been keen to make the move, apparently requesting a three-year-deal, but the Italian side turned down the opening £7.6m bid.
The Bologna director, Marco di Vaio, had claimed he was proud their player had captured the interest of United but they didn’t plan to sell him. Erik ten Hag and Steve McClaren, who had both worked with the striker at FC Twente, had been insistent he should be a consideration for bolstering the attack.
While the fact he is 33, and has a poor scoring record throughout his career, should have been reason enough for him not to be considered, his character should have ruled him out long before any formal bid was made.
From a list of wrong-doings, the better known incident occurred during a Euro 2020 game for Austria last year. After scoring against North Macedonia, Arnautovic celebrated by making a ‘white power’ hand gesture.
The striker, who is of Serbian descent, was also accused of shouting racist insults at North Macedonia players Egzon Bejtulai and Ezgjan Alioski, who both have Albanian roots. Serbia does not recognise the independence of its former province Kosovo, and there is historic tension between Serbia and North Macedonia. North Macedonia recognised Kosovo’s independence and signed an agreement to re-adjust its border.
Serbian media claimed Arnautovic shouted, among other insults, “f*ck your Albanian mothers!” and had to be physically restrained by captain David Alaba.
Alioski confirmed the racist insults after the game and revealed that UEFA were investigating the incident.
We had some arguments during the game and I think it’s a normal thing. The problem is that after he scored he said something to me and UEFA have the videos. It’s difficult for me to repeat what he said.
After the game, Arnautovic took to social media to deny he was racist.
There were some heated words yesterday in the emotions of the game for which I would like to apologise – especially to my friends from North Macedonia and Albania. I would like to say one thing very clearly: I am not a racist. I have friends in almost every country and I stand for diversity. Everyone who knows me is aware of that.
Arnautovic was banned for just one game, missing Switzerland’s 2-0 defeat against the Netherlands.
This wasn’t the striker’s first known incident of racist behaviour though, and, the more worrying aspect of this, is that Ten Hag and McClaren will be well aware of that fact. In 2009, McClaren was the manager of FC Twente and Ten Hag was his assistant, with the 19-year-old Arnautovic playing in his third season for the club.
Following a game between Willem II and FC Twente, defender Ibrahim Kargbo, from Sierra Leone, accused Arnautovic of calling him the ‘n word’ in his post-match interview.
I think this guy is a very rude player. I’m disappointed in him. He called me a n****r on the field. And Twente, there are five Black players in their team, and he called me a n****r, you know. I think the Black players in their team have to take action against him. I’m mad at him. To insult me, to call me a n****r, and then he said so many stupid things against me which I couldn’t say on camera. It’s life, but he’s going to get it one day.
After the game, McClaren said he wasn’t accepting of racism and hadn’t spoken to the player about the incident yet.
I can’t say anything about it because I don’t know what happened and because I haven’t spoken with Marko yet. I could only speculate. But let one thing be clear, I don’t accept racism in general. Not in my team, not in the club and not in my surroundings.
The local reporter questioning McClaren showed the manager the television images to try to force an immediate opinion of the incident, but none was forthcoming.
Arnautovic released a statement where he denied the accusation.
Everything has been called to each other back and forth, but I absolutely did not use the word n****r. I really don’t understand why he says that. I think it’s a shame what’s happening now and I have the feeling that everyone now thinks negatively about me. I don’t want anything to do with racism at all. In addition, they say that I spit at a person. I did spit after the game, but not at a person.
The KNVB (Dutch FA) spoke to both club captains, McClaren and the two players involved, but nobody else was close enough to hear what was said. At least two pieces of evidence are required to presume guilt so the the case was dropped.
Arnautovic’s most recent spell in England ended under a cloud when West Ham were so keen to move him on they took a hit on his transfer fee, allowing him to leave for half the value of his £40m release clause.
Claire Rafferty, who played for West Ham’s women’s team, wasn’t surprised to see him sold after she had felt the brunt of his attitude problem. She revealed he would disrupt the women’s training sessions, shouting disrespectful things at them as he made his way back from the men’s training.
Arnautovic’s West Ham teammate, Pablo Zabaleta, claimed the Austrian created a “bad atmosphere” in the dressing room. His time at the club ended with him repeatedly being booed by West Ham fans and on one occasion he reportedly told a supporter to “shut the fuck up”.
United’s chase of Arnautovic may now be over but the fact we were ever interested in someone like him is incredibly embarrassing for the club. I e-mailed CEO Richard Arnold yesterday, as did many other fans, to voice my anger, with reports now suggesting the unhappiness of fans swayed the decision. But on Sunday, after the defeat against Brighton, it felt like things couldn’t get much worse for United, and yet somehow they managed to sink even lower. This transfer story asks serious questions about the integrity of the club, the manager and the assistant manager.
Kargbo suggested that karma would work against Arnautovic one day. His racism has cost him the biggest move of his career. Kick racism out of football.
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