Friday, January 27, 2023

Going down the transfer Rambla with Todd Boehly …

Morning all, happy Thursday to you. I’m just beginning to understand what day of the week it is.

As we await reinforcements, the already complicated situation regarding Mykhaylo Mudryk has become even more so. Actually, it’s probably not that complicated. Shakhtar Donetsk want a lot of money for the player. More than he is actually worth. Arsenal have been trying to negotiate in good faith, but the selling club seem to have a valuation in mind that’s based on the fact Man Utd paid £80m for Antony – and given that Antony is a spinning bag of pointy-faced shite, I suppose I can understand that.

The extra complication comes in the form of Chelsea who are doing what they do when they see what looks like a well-run a club interested in a player. They assume that player is good, then they try and gazump the deal. They did with it when we were interested in Gabriel Jesus, they did it when we were interested in Raphinha, and they’re doing it again now.

I don’t know very much about Todd Boehly, but what I do know is that he is quite willing to overpay. If you set your stall out by splashing €65m on Marc Cucurella, in essence a woolly Lucas Digne, then you can imagine the excitement at the Shakhtar negotiation table if he comes asking for Mudryk. They must be licking their lips.

I remember when I lived in Barcelona, La Rambla was a different street than it is now. These days, it’s beautiful, much more refined with lovely paving, well appointed stalls and the energy comes from the never-ending throng of people going up and down it. Back then though, there were street performers, stalls where you could buy literally any kind of animal, sex-shops, as well as grifters and ne’er-do-wells of all shapes and sizes. It wasn’t dangerous, per se, but you could feel a kind of fizz to place that isn’t there now.

Shakhtar are the lads on the La Rambla who play the ball-under-three-cups game. They have an insider who ‘wins’, then some tourist comes along, thinks he’s way smarter than these scruffy looking locals, puts down his money and no matter how many time he tries the ball is not under the cup he thinks it is. And in the meantime, the insider has snuck around the back, nicked his wallet from behind and made off with all his traveller’s cheques and somehow slipped off his watch for good measure. That tourist is Todd Boehly.

Will this make our pursuit of Mudryk more difficult? Quite probably. Does Mudryk want to go to Chelsea. Probably not. Given the history of how that club was funded, I’d be very surprised if it was top pick for any Ukrainian player, but as we know money talks in football. One’s moral stance might shift when dollar signs flash before your eyes. I think he still wants to go to Arsenal, but actual the question is: how far do Arsenal go for this player?

We have to think about our need right now, obviously, but we also have to think about what we could do with the money that Shakhtar are demanding. If it’s £80m+, then Mikel Arteta, Edu and the board need to think very strongly, because for that money we could probably find another talented young forward to add some firepower, maybe a central midfielder, and perhaps one more too. It’s a hell of a sum of money for a player with fewer than 50 first team appearances in the Ukraine Premier Liga. The reward could be high but it does feel as if the risk is extremely high too.

The €21m Atletico Madrid are seeking for Joao Felix is also ridiculous, but in the context of squad building and our pressing need this season, it starts to make a little more sense. It’s a huge outlay of course, and I think sometimes we’re guilty of talking about millions like they’re scruffy fivers in our pockets, but if you can afford the £80m+ for Mudryk, it leaves you with another £60m to ‘play’ with. That’s very simplistic, I realise, and it doesn’t quite work like that, but Arsenal need to be almost 100% sure Mudryk will be a success to pay that amount of money. And here’s the thing: they can’t be.

You can be close to it. You can have all the faith in the player’s talent and potential. You can feel like he’d be a good fit. You can do your due diligence on his character and how he fits the project. But you can’t be that sure. Even with the best of intentions from all sides, sometimes a transfer doesn’t work – or takes too long to work. To be fair, Arteta and Edu have a good record when it comes to big spending. The likes of Ben White, Aaron Ramsdale, Gabriel Jesus and Thomas Partey (eventually) have proved their worth. But they had more to work with with these signings.

The first three had lots of Premier League/first team experience, the latter was a stalwart for a team that regularly challenged La Liga’s historic duopoly and went far in the Champions League on a regular basis. How can they apply that same kind of scrutiny to a player who has just begun his career?

It’s a tough one, because we need at least one addition and he appears to be the one that we want. But when the price is that high and Todd Boehly is too dim to know he’s having his wallet pinched, it does change things. Let’s see, I guess.

Till tomorrow.

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