We’re poor little lambs who’ve lost our way,
Baa! Baa! Baa!
We’re little black sheep who’ve gone astray,
Gentlemen-rankers out on the spree,
Damned from here to Eternity,
God ha’ mercy on such as we,
Baa! Yah! Bah!
Gentlemen Rankers – Rudyard Kipling
Alan Pardew has publicly stated that Demba Ba is signing for Chelsea and as details of the deal are revealed it turns out that it’s always only ever been Chelsea that he could pick. Despite the pleadings of the Arsenal fans, and the public stance of the board stating that they have more cash on hand than King Solomon, the Arsenal was never at the table, much less in the cards, even if the ante seemed small change. And if you’re inclined to think that means Arsenal are in for bigger and better targets, players like Edinson Cavani or Fernando Llorente, just forget about it because they too are out of your reach. What Arsenal will be busy doing this January is selling.
Demba Ba is 27 years old and has a horrible medical history. If reports are to be believed, Ba couldn’t even pass a physical. Ba also wanted a five year deal from any suitors and was asking a minimum of £80,000 a week. That came down to a £20.8m guaranteed payday for a player who cannot return the guarantee on the field.
His release clause from Newcastle was also reported to be just £7m but peering behind the curtains a bit reveals that Ba has a number of agents who all want a cool £1m each (one is his brother) and that £2.5m of that release clause is payable to Demba Ba himself. Ba’s footballing career is apparently a sort of cottage industry for his family as Luke Edwards points out in the Telegraph. Edwards also says that Ba signed for Newcastle because they offered him the biggest contract. There was no pretense about Newcastle being a storied club, or Alan Shearer being his favorite player growing up, he was signing for the contract.
Ba is also being revealed to be a bad teammate and something of a bad personality in the locker room. There is no doubt that Ba undermined Papiss Cisse’s career, demanding his favored position and even refusing to pass him the ball as he put his own talents under the spotlight for would-be suitors. In their recent loss to Manchester City, Ba took 6 shots, some from ridiculous positions and many when Cisse was better placed to get the goal. But he scored, and it was a decent take as well, a goal that may have helped seal the deal with Chelsea. He was clearly playing for the next contract.
Demba Ba turns out to be the quintessentially modern footballer and perhaps we, as fans, need to come around to the idea that sentiment plays little or no part in the dealings of the modern footballer, it’s all about the money. I think we knew this all along, but it bears repeating on occasion so that we fans don’t start back down the path toward the delusion that for the modern footballer “the club” they sign for is anything more than a temporary employer.
Yet Arsenal were never going to be that employer despite the very public bragging of the board about how much money Arsenal have to spend on transfers. Arsenal could buy four Falcaos by my reckoning, what with the cash on hand, the annual announcements about record profits, and the hundreds of millions that they keep telling us they have to “invest in the club” from all these new sponsorships. Yet it’s not Falcao that Arsenal are strongly being rumored to covet, it’s Atletico Madrid’s second best striker, Adrian Lopez.
And true to form no one is talking about Arsenal buying any big names, in fact the big names have all been linked to the big clubs, among which Arsenal are no longer counted — at least when it comes to transfers. Cavani is a player many would love to see at Arsenal and which the board have said Arsenal could afford but his agent makes it clear where he will be playing next season:
For now Cavani will stay but I wouldn’t be so sure about that once June arrives. I’m sure there are clubs ready to pay that. But only five clubs in the world can afford to do that — Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Chelsea and Paris Saint Germain. You are intelligent enough on your own to understand where Cavani will play his football next season.
Meanwhile, Fernando Llorente is another striker that many of my twitter followers get all excited over and he is going to… Juventus. Llorente is like Demba Ba in that he had a falling out with his coach and club, because he wasn’t being paid enough and now he’s off to a team which will pay him handsomely to be tall.
So who are Arsenal looking at? Did you see that I mentioned Atletico’s second best striker, Adrian Lopez? That’s starting to look like a reality but first it seems, Arsenal have to sell.
It’s almost as if the club and players read my column on Deadwood and decided that they didn’t want to live there any more: Arsene Wenger has admitted that Squillaci is looking at a deal to take him somewhere, Djourou is reportedly being courted by Hannover, and Andrei Arshavin is piquing the interest of several clubs, including S.S. Nazio in Rome.
Clearing those three players off the books not only frees up salary that can be used for new (and existing, such as Theo Walcott?) players but also frees up three roster spots that Arsenal can use for new, foreign, players. Selling two of their five center backs also makes me wonder if Arsenal aren’t looking to buy a player who has the versatility to play defensive midfielder or can play center back in a pinch, like Ettiene Capoue. Though if Adrian Lopez is any measure of the player that Arsenal are looking to buy, a more likely target would be Toulouse’s second best center back. Aymen Abdennour? Steeve Yago?
I don’t know for sure, but one thing I do know is that Arsenal have the money. Do they have the will to spend it? I don’t think they do but I’d love them to prove me wrong.