It may well be an outdated way of doing business – and it may also have “incensed” Crystal Palace – but I believe Arsenal were right to open the bidding for Wilfred Zaha at £40million.
‘Why not just pay the asking price like everyone else?’ is the inevitable and, frankly, pretty credible question that is always asked of Arsenal in these situations and, in years gone by, that point of inquiry was justified.
But perhaps not in the case of Zaha, a man so staggeringly over-priced that he finds himself in the same company as Gareth Bale, Virgil Van Dijk, Gonzalo Higuan, Cristiano Ronaldo, Eden Hazard, and Paul Pogba.
Take that in for a moment; were Arsenal to match Palace’s reported asking price, it would put Zaha in the same bracket as some of the most decorated and talented players in world football. World Cup winners, Champions League winners, multiple league and domestic cup winners, Ballon D’or winners – the list goes on.
Let’s not undersell the talent of Zaha – for talented he is – but he is in no way worthy of inclusion in the same bracket of footballer as those featured in the aforementioned list. If we’re being brutally honest, he’s not even close.
I understand that certain factors make Zaha much more valuable than might otherwise be the case; he has Premier League experience, he is an international, his team mate Aaron Wan-Bissaka sold for in excess of £50million – but that doesn’t in any way justify such a hefty price tag.
Although £40million may be a little derisory, and could yet serve to sour relations with Palace, it is not unreasonable to test the water. The hierarchy at Selhurst Park can feign all the outrage they wish but, the fact is, both sides are playing different sides of the same coin. We both want maximum value.
How high Arsenal are prepared to go to land their man – if getting him this summer truly is a priority – remains to be seen but, as we are oft reminded, there isn’t much money in the bank and £80million is near double what we are said to have available to spend.
For what it’s worth, I would be surprised if a deal couldn’t be done at £60million (still expensive in my book) but how long it will take to get there is anyone’s guess.
Arsenal’s stance in this case will undoubtedly evoke memories of the now infamous pursuit of Luis Suarez circa 2014, which saw us increase our opening offer of £40million to £40,000,001 – attracting the ridicule of world football in the process.
I don’t think we’ll be quite so miserly on this occasion but I don’t think the club will sanction a great deal more on a player who, while good in an average Palace team, has choked on the big stage before.
With no Champions League football to look forward to next season – the ramifications of which are now keenly being felt – the club has to make every pound work, and that means protecting itself against paying the sort of money that sees Harry Maguire valued at more than Van Dijk.
If that isn’t a reason to support the stance taken by Arsenal over Zaha, nothing is. We can’t compete with the sort of wanton model being championed by the likes of Manchester United so we have to be smarter.
The only thing Raul Sanllehi and company must be careful not to do is place all their eggs in Zaha’s basket. The transfer window slams shut a good deal earlier now than once it did so negotiations simply cannot be protracted.
If we’re still flirting around the edges of £50million in three weeks time, it will already be too late.
By all means get good value, but let’s be realistic. Palace, with £50million in the bank of United’s money, don’t need to sell as much as we need to buy, so they can afford to wait. We can’t.
Unai Emery’s rebuilding job this summer is an urgent one, both in terms of players coming in and going out, and no day can go to waste in the pursuit of getting our house in order.
For now, I support the opening forays the club has made. By all means, run £40million up the flag pole and see how it flutters. Some may roll their eyes and cringe with embarrassment but it won’t be splashing the cash that gets us back on track next season, it’ll be shrewd business in the transfer market.