Thursday, February 29, 2024

Rice : Mbappe : PSG

Good morning.

The latest on Declan Rice is that we are ‘closing in‘ on his signing, coming close to finding an agreement with West Ham over a deal that could be worth more than £100m if all the add-ons/clauses are met. To be honest, while it does feel like we are ‘closing in’ with all the speed of a stoned turtle, when you’re spending that amount of money on a player, you probably need to ensure everything about the deal is right.

There were pictures of Rice embracing Aaron Ramsdale as they met on England duty. Whether the internationals this week will preclude any deal being completed remains to be seen, but it does probably complicate things a bit. England play Malta on Friday, then North Macedonia on Monday – and that little gap after seems like the ideal time to get everything completed.

Perhaps, because of the groundwork done with regard personal terms and all the rest, we might hear something once the two clubs have found full agreement. At this point I think we can park any worries about who might gazump us or try to hijack the deal, and move swiftly on to worrying about ‘Who next?’. Let’s see.

Hopefully these weirdly timed internationals don’t cause problems for any of our players, or players we might be pursuing. I said this last week, but it’s just a bit mad that we had a season with a World Cup in the middle, the European finals pushed until June, and now a round of internationals in the middle/end of the month when the players should be on holidays. No doubt the clubs have tailored fitness plans for them, but the demands have never been higher and it’s not unreasonable to worry there might be a few casualties along the way.

Elsewhere, the big story is Kylian Mbappe sending PSG a formal letter, advising them of his intention to not sign a new deal next summer when his contract runs out. So, unless they cash in this summer, he can go on a free in 12 months time. Which, of course, is why he’s said this now, because he doesn’t want to hang around at a club which is very rich but as shambolic as drunk uncle at a late-night wedding reception.

Lionel Messi has left after hating every minute of his time there; Neymar has been the star man since his transfer-market-skewing arrival from Barcelona, but it looks as if overtures from Saudi Arabia might see him depart; and that would leave Mbappe as the last of that trio, although it’s hard not to think PSG will spend big, especially if they get some cash in for the Brazilian.

As an aside, is there a better example anywhere of how chasing the money has negatively impacted a player’s career than Neymar? He was so good at Barcelona, and obviously has had his moments at PSG, but year on year as they failed over and over again in Europe, his star faded – only really shining when he was on international duty. Or when he got that injury every season to go to parties.

I’m sure he was convinced he could be part of a great project at PSG as they filled his bank accounts with monstrous amounts of cash money, but ultimately this was a backwards step in his career. Nobody really cares about Ligue 1 titles when you win them the way they’ve been won by a club like that.

It’s interesting to put PSG and Man City side by side, two clubs owned by nation states with enormous wealth. I don’t want to give City credit for anything because, you know yourself, but the differences between the two are stark. One team has been built with intelligence, based on a plan by people with superb football knowledge. The other is PSG. Money can buy you a lot of things, but common sense is free and they don’t have a drop of it. And just to clarify, if that sounds even vaguely sympathetic towards them, it’s not. It serves them right, and I hope all their players leave.

Mbappe for Real Madrid this summer? It seems inevitable, there won’t be too many clubs out there who could tempt him – and the contact between them goes back a long way. Bellingham and Kylian at a new look Madrid. Interesting times.

Right, let’s leave it there. If you haven’t had a chance to listen already, there’s a brand new Arsecast Extra here. Enjoy.

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