If you've been an Arsenal fan for some span of time, the headline should come as no surprise. We rarely do transfers in nice and easy fashion. There's always plenty of speculation blended with loads of uncertainty, and flavored, of course, with a rather unpleasant garnishing of last-minute drama.
Think Andrey Arshavin, signed with seconds to go in the January transfer window a few seasons ago. Better—or worse—still, remember last summer? Lovely stuff.
And so, fast forward to this season, it promises to be no different with the signing—or not—of the Spanish creative maestro, Santi Cazorla, from Malaga.
The Guardian broke the story a few days ago, claiming that Arsenal had agreed personal terms with the player, and that he could probably be acquired from his financially troubled club for a fee in the range of €20 million.
Quite typically, this was followed by a tsunami of denials from all concerned—the player, his club, his present manager and Arsene Wenger—hopefully his future manager.
Cazorla took to Twitter to cool talk of a move by modifying his personal information to read as follows (translated into English):
I am 27 years old, I’m a player for Malaga FC and the Spanish national team and I AM VERY HAPPY TO BE WITH THESE GREAT TEAMS!
Of course, this is not a verified account, so make of it what you will.
Malaga also issued a prompt response. Among general denials about the club's reportedly perilous financial position, there were some interesting quotes from the manager, Manuel Pellegrini. While he did not flatly deny that Cazorla would be sold, he expressed significant reservations with the €20 million price tag. From The Guardian:
At £25 million, would Cazorla represent value-for-money for Arsenal?
They say that there is an offer for Santi Cazorla; selling Cazorla for €20m would be giving him away. I don't think the club is in a position nor has the intention to do so. It would undermine the intention to compete in the Champions League. If important offers arrive for players you always listen to them, but I don't think that Santi is going to leave the club for 20m because that would be giving him away and it would send the wrong message out.
While Cazorla's contract with Malage includes a €45 million buy-out clause, it is believed that the club may be willing to sell him for as little as £20 million (€25.5 million, per Goal.com). That would smash Arsenal's transfer record, which is believed to be around £15 million. However, in a summer where Ivan Gazidis has promised to "adjust" Arsenal's financial model (per the Daily Mail), it is by no means totally beyond the realms of reality.
Arsene Wenger has had his say, too, denying that a deal was imminent. Of course, he somewhat infuriatingly yet typically, hailed Abou Diaby and Jack Wilshere—missing in action last season—as new signings. Classic Wenger-speak.
However, in another quote that may provide greater insight into the manager's leanings, he heaped praise on the Spaniard, saying (per ESPN), "I share the opinion of Mikel Arteta — Cazorla is a great player." Hmm.
I'm somewhat skeptical about this piece of transfer business. Not that I don't rate Cazorla. He is a top player, one who would add plenty to Arsenal's incisiveness up-front. But there are a number of factors that could put this deal in jeopardy.
Firstly, the price. At £20 million, which is the highest amount quoted in the press thus far, Cazorla definitely represents value for money. And Arsenal could easily afford that amount. However, I believe that there is a massive amount of hesitation at spending that kind of money. Whether it's ego, or whether Arsenal do not wish to be labeled as a club with that level of spending power, we may never know.
Secondly, the competition. Chelsea are probably done with their summer spending, but Manchester City haven't begun. Manchester United could do with some creative impetus in the middle of the park. The Spanish powerhouses are lurking too.
I believe that Cazorla, if acquired, would be the last major signing required at Arsenal this summer. Assuming, of course, that Theo Walcott stays. And if the Gunners are to make a serious charge at some trophies this season, it's time they took the plunge and bought some serious, top talent. And sharpish.
Do remember, Mr Wenger, that the early bird does indeed catch the worm.