I came across this quote today in my research:
The following July I was contacted by Arsenal. Patrick was in negotiations with Ajax and I called him from Japan to tell him to go and sign for Arsenal, and that’s how the transfer was done. It was a fairly straightforward one because the fee had been fixed by Milan at around $5m, pounds 3.5m at the time, irrespective of who the buyer was. I told David Dein he should not hesitate over the signing because if he wanted Vieira to come to the club he had to act quickly, otherwise he would lose him.
I also convinced his agents at the time, although they were happy for him to go to Arsenal rather than Ajax anyway. They had had a financial problem in Holland because the Dutch had flinched a bit when it had come to Patrick’s salary. At Arsenal, on the other hand, they had immediately got everything they asked for.
The quote is from Arsene Wenger and as you can probably guess it’s about the transfer of Vieira to Arsenal. Speaking on the evening of Vieira’s return to Highbury on March 28th, 2006*, Wenger not only talks about the transfer deal but also reveals much about Vieira’s unique mentality and how he grew as a player while at Arsenal.
It’s rare that Arsene allows us a glimpse into transfer business. He almost never mentions a fee and rarely tells us how the deal got done. Wenger made the Vieira deal happen even though he wasn’t manager of Arsenal at the time. But his connections to players like Vieira and his intimate knowledge of French football helped to secure Vieira’s signature. And the rest, as they say, is history.
I’ve been troubled by some of the trends I’ve seen in Arsenal’s transfer business. Just a few months ago Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang laughed off speculation that he would join Arsenal. Saying unequivocally “I do not want to join Arsenal.” This quote was followed up by a fan video showing a young kid asking Aubameyang if he will sign for Arsenal and the players saying no and laughing.
People will point out that the sources for these quotes is the Mirror and that’s fair enough but it follows a trend of recent Arsenal transfer failures. Luis Gustavo chose to stay in Germany and play for Wolfsburg instead of picking Arsenal. Some say because he wasn’t offered assurances of first team play while the Guardian simply stated that Wenger didn’t offer enough money.
People asked me yesterday who I want at Arsenal and I honestly can’t say. Not because I don’t know which players I would take but because I can’t tell who Arsenal can buy. Granit Xhaka? Sure! But there is stiff competition for the player and I wonder if Wenger is going to pay £30m to get a player this summer who has a £23m release clause set to go in effect in 2017?
As for forwards, if feels like Aubameyang won’t countenance a move to Arsenal. If he leaves Borussia Dortmund it will be for Real Madrid or something. It’s no surprise then that Higuain’s name has cropped back up. But Higuain was a failed bid during the Suarez debacle!
Higuain is the best striker in Europe right now, with 29 goals to his name but after the way Arsenal treated him it would be weird for him to join Arsenal. Is it any wonder then that Arsenal are linked to Zlatan Ibrahimovic? Zlatan is also killing it, scoring 27 goals and producing 11 assists for PSG in the French league. But he will be 35 in October and commands a salary of £1m a month.
The top players that Arsenal have signed over the last three years seem to be good deals. Özil for £40m was only done when Real Madrid dumped him, it’s not like Arsenal went out and pried him out of Real Madrid. Same with Alexis, Barcelona were offloading Alexis when Arsene bought him. And to a huge extent the Cech deal relied on the largesse of Roman Abramovich and on Cech agitating to make a move.
People will often say that “the Vieira days are over”. That the idea of finding unknown, powerful, midfielders with a winning mentality at a bargain have long passed. But I think that Arsenal’s last three big transfers belie that notion. It’s true that there are few unknowns left in world football but Wenger does still get the bargains on players being culled by big teams.
So, perhaps Zlatan is in Arsenal’s future or perhaps “a Zlatan”: a player who is clearly talented but is being offloaded by a big team. As for Zlatan himself, his would be a huge contract for a player who scored 35 goals in all competitions this season but also turns 35 years old next season. He is currently on £12m a year and I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t ask for £15m a year to play for Arsenal (including agent fees, etc).
He could be in Arsenal’s future, as long as he doesn’t follow through on his threat to retire.
*The article is titled “A grateful embrace awaits Vieira” and is an excerpt from Vieira’s biography. This section is written entirely in Wenger’s first person, though I’m not sure it can be wholly attributed to Wenger because I don’t see any attribution on the web site. In fact, it’s attributed to Patrick Vieira!