Needless to say, the British press were all over the historic achievement that Arsenal had accomplished and were clamouring for interviews, gossip, any tid-bit of information they could get, just to fill the pages. All the players wanted to do was get packed and set off on their well-deserved holidays, including Bradley who wasted no time in calling Jessie to see if she was packed and excited yet.
She sounded much brighter as she confirmed that yes, she was absolutely ready and couldn’t wait. He told her that he would pick her up in the morning then off to the airport where a number of his team mates would join them on the flight to Malaga with their other halves and children.
There were enough of these to fill up an Embraer 190 so they had decided to club together and hire one for them all to travel together and not worry about going through Stansted or Gatwick with other holiday-makers. Once they landed at Malaga, the players all went their separate ways wishing each other a relaxing, pleasant break and looked forward to seeing them all again in a couple of weeks. At least this summer there were no tournaments going on so the players had a longer rest than usual.
Jessie and Bradley picked up their hire car and followed the MA-20 which became the AP-7 which was the main coastal road linking the resorts of Andalucia to the Costa del Sol. They passed Torremolinos and Benalmedina and turned off on to the A-387 towards Mijas. The whole journey took less than an hour, despite the heavy holiday traffic on the AP-7.
Remembering where their villa was situated in Mijas wasn’t going to be easy, but after asking a couple of locals the way they soon found they were driving up the gravelled drive to the villa where Carlos, who looked after the place when they weren’t there, was waiting to greet them with a smile and a glass of lemonade in each hand.
After the niceties, Bradley and Jessie headed inside to inspect the work that had been done since they bought it. They were grateful that it had all been completed and was definitely to their satisfaction. They thanked Carlos for keeping an eye on things and making sure the work was finished before they arrived.
Carlos was a friendly, helpful kind of guy. A local, he lived on his own since his wife died two years previously, and just spent his time looking after a few of the expensive villas for his other clients, some of whom were footballers, some were businessmen who had done extremely well in their careers. He was probably early fifties, had a huge bushy moustache and was a passionate Malaga CF supporter who had stuck with them through the bad times and was now enjoying their success in La Liga.
He liked nothing more than sitting by the pools with his wealthy clients talking about anything, especially football, so after he had made Jessie and Bradley some lunch, he took a bottle of Cava from the fridge and a bottle of Ginger Beer for Bradley and sat with them on the patio.
Jessie and Carlos enjoyed the Cava and they all talked long into the afternoon about everything including the state of the Spanish olive market. Eventually, he had to go and prepare another villa for one of his other clients who was arriving that evening.
He made sure everything was satisfactory for Bradley and Jessie and told them to call if there was a problem, before walking down the drive, cheerily waving as he went.
‘What a lovely man!’ Jessie exclaimed. ‘Where did you find him?’
‘The agent I bought this place through recommended him. He’s known him for years. That was a nice touch, for sure. Now, let’s try the pool out!’
He chased her through the villa out on to the patio and dived into the cool waters of the pool, hand-in-hand, squealing like toddlers as they jumped. As they surfaced, they continued holding hands as Bradley pulled her towards him for a passionate kiss.
‘Welcome to our new home!’ He told her.
They spent hours in the pool, just splashing about until the sun crept slowly down towards the mountains providing a beautiful sunset which seemed like the perfect end to a perfect day. As it started to turn chilly once the sun had set, they clambered out of the pool and cuddled up under a couple of huge fluffy bath towels as Jessie shivered. They were just about to take the cuddling a stage further when they heard the doorbell ring.
‘Damn! Who could that be? It can’t be Carlos.’ Bradley swore as he wrapped a robe around him and headed for the front door.
‘Senor Gardner? My name is Alvaro Gonzalez-Torre. I apologise for calling at this hour, but I represent FC Barcelona and I wondered if I could have a few words with you if it’s not too inconvenient.’
‘To be honest, it is a bit inconvenient. We’ve only just arrived and for me, the season is over. No more football for a couple of weeks. Why are you here?’ Bradley enquired.
‘I sincerely apologise, as I have said, but I have been told to act quickly about this so I drove all the way from Barcelona immediately. I, too, have only just arrived, and I wouldn’t be here unless it was urgent. May I come in? I will not take up too much of your time, I assure you.’
He seemed like a nice person and Bradley felt slightly sorry for him having to drive all that way so he couldn’t turn him down. It just wasn’t polite and Bradley hadn’t been brought up that way, so he invited him in and showed him to the lounge just as Jessie walked in.
‘Who’s this, Bradley?’ She asked.
‘This is Senor Gonzalez-Torre and he has driven all the way from Barcelona with something urgent for me. Senor Gonzalez-Torre, can I get you a drink or a coffee?’
‘Please, call me Alvaro, and yes, I would very much like a coffee if possible. It will help me keep awake after that drive!’
Bradley went into the kitchen and brewed some fresh coffee which Carlos had left for them while Jessie and Alvaro made small talk about the weather, the villa, anything they could think of to keep the awkward silence away while Bradley brewed up.
He re-entered the lounge with a tray carrying two cups of coffee and a cup of tea for him then placed them on the coffee table.
‘So, Alvaro. What brings you all this way so urgently? I’m intrigued.’ Bradley opened the dialogue.
‘Thank you for allowing me in, Bradley. I wasn’t sure what sort of reception I would get, but I will come straight to the point. Barcelona would very much like to acquire your talents and wish to know how much it would take to convince you to sign for them. We have already spoken to the Arsenal Chairman and he has given us permission to speak to you regarding a move.’
Bradley and Jessie looked at each other and noticed that neither one of them were surprised by this, just surprised that they contacted him this way first.
‘I have an agent who deals with this kind of thing, and frankly, after the treatment that was dished out to me in the recent game at the Nou Camp, I’m not sure I want to play with team mates like that. It wasn’t just strong defending, my legs were black and blue with all the bruises; it was a wonder I didn’t end up with a broken leg. Why would I want to play for a team that employs those tactics?’
’I obviously watched that game and I think we agree that it was a bit, how do you say, boisterous. That is not how they play normally though, and you are not a ‘normal’ player. They see you as the missing piece in their quest to emulate what Arsenal have done. I can assure you that you would be made very welcome by those players and fans. Can you imagine being hero-worshipped by over 100,000 passionate fans every week? It makes the hairs on the back of your head stand up. I can feel it, and I don’t even play!’ Alvaro said.
‘Have you spoken to my agent yet?’
‘Archie? Yes, we have spoken to him and he is excited by the possibility of you joining us. Of course, he would be as he is likely to get a very large fee for his troubles!’ Alvaro laughed. ‘So Bradley, as your club are willing to sell, your agent is keen on the move, Barcelona and their fans would be delighted, it is completely down to you. And Jessie, of course. Are you interested in opening talks with the club?’
Bradley thought for a few seconds before answering. It would do no harm to talk to them, he was very flattered by their interest and there was no doubt that Barcelona were a bigger club than Arsenal, but he was loving life at the Emirates and wasn’t sure how Jessie would react, especially after their dinner last week.
‘Alvaro, can you give Jessie and I a few minutes in private? We need to talk about it.’
‘Of course Bradley. Take your time, it is an important decision, but remember, it is only for talks. If after those talks you don’t like what we have to say, then we all walk away.’ Alvaro re-assured him.
Jessie followed Bradley into the kitchen while Alvaro went outside on to the patio to drink his coffee. He knew there would be obstacles to this move, but it was his job to remove those obstacles and get Bradley in front of the management team at Nou Camp where they can be very persuasive. So far, it was working like a dream, he knew he had Bradley hooked, but his girlfriend could be a problem. He needed to convince her that the move would be good for her also.
After fifteen minutes, they emerged from the kitchen looking not too unhappy which pleased Alvaro.
‘Well? What do you think?’ He asked the couple.
‘I’m happy to talk to the club, as long as the proper channels have been adhered to. I want evidence that the club has accepted a bid and has allowed Barcelona to discuss terms with me and my agent. If Arsenal do want to sell me then I owe it to myself to hear what they have to offer.’ Bradley replied.
‘Excellent! My board are willing to meet you here if that suits, or we will fly you to Barcelona in the club’s private jet, but they want to move quickly. Can I arrange this meeting for the day after tomorrow, Bradley?’
‘Fine. I’d rather the meeting was here if that’s okay. I’m knackered after a long season and I was rather looking forward to doing nothing for the next couple of weeks.’ Bradley replied.
‘No problem, Bradley. I will arrange it all. Here is my number in case you have any questions, otherwise we will meet here on Thursday, shall we say around two?’
‘That’s fine with me. I need to get my agent over here as well, so that gives me a little time. Let me write down my number for you.’
‘Actually, there’s no need, I already have it. Your Chairman kindly let me have it.’ Alvaro told him.
‘Well, seems like they can’t wait to get rid of me. Thanks for coming Alvaro, do you have far to go?’
‘Not at all. I am staying in Benalmedena for a few nights. It’s very close by car.’ Alvaro replied. ‘Well, Buenos noches Bradley, and Jessie, I look forward to seeing you both on Thursday. Oh, one last thing, this obviously must not go to the press yet. We must be very discreet until the deal is done, do you understand?’ Alvaro warned them.
‘Of course. Goes without saying Alvaro. See you on Thursday.’
Bradley closed the door and looked at Jessie dumb-founded. He couldn’t believe that Arsenal wanted to sell him after all he had helped them to achieve. Jessie was amazed as well. She had no idea that her club would act like this. The supporters will not be happy once they find out what the Chairman has done. His manager would also be outraged after what he assured Bradley on the way to Amsterdam. Maybe he should phone Silvio as soon as possible. He certainly needed to speak to his agent, so he picked up his phone and dialled Archie’s number, even though it was late.