There is perhaps no more intriguing, confounding or lengthy contract negotiation in European soccer than the one between Arsenal and Theo Walcott.
Over the past half of a year, we've gone a wacky journey that has included Walcott turning down a contract offer because he wanted to be paid on par with other English internationals, deciding he was worthy of playing centrally as a striker and now Arsene Wenger deciding the team won't sell him in January even if they haven't negotiated a contract extension.
Phew. Got all that? Here's more, from BBC Sport:
Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal will not sell Theo Walcott in January.
That means the club could face losing Walcott, 23, for nothing in the summer as the England international's contract expires at the end of the season.
Walcott would be free to sign a pre-contract agreement with another club in January if a new deal is not agreed.
Talks over a new contract have stalled and asked if the winger would be sold if negotiations continued into 2013, the Arsenal manager replied: "No."
It's a savvy move to at least say the team won't sell Walcott. As I see it, it's Wenger sending a simple message to competing clubs, Walcott and his agent:
No, we won't listen to offers, so don't think you can bully us out of our player by offering a ton of money. And no, don't think you and your agent can leverage those offers against us to negotiate a higher wage or force your way out of town. We plan to work out a fair contract without others influencing that process.
It's also an unrealistic expectation to think that the Gunners could actually afford to risk keeping Walcott past the January transfer window with a contract extension already in place.
It may sound nice to offer such commitment to keeping Walcott, but Arsenal is far too business-savvy to actually risk losing him for nothing. There were whispers that the team would take the same stance with Robin van Persie, but of course we all knew that was hogwash all along.
And how much is Walcott really worth? Yes, he leads the Gunners with nine goals in all competitions, but you don't need to be a soccer expert to see his speed and skill set are much more suited to the wing than playing centrally as a striker.
I wouldn't mind seeing the Gunners open up the purse strings a bit to keep him around—I think he adds the pace and desire to attack the goal that the team really needs, and Arsenal have looked much better with him on the pitch than without him this year.
But I also think that Walcott needs to seriously evaluate himself as a player and recognize that he'll best help the team out wide, occasionally shifting centrally within the flow of the game.
And finally, this deal needs to be done in December or Walcott won't be staying. Wenger may be playing the game correctly and saying the January transfer window won't determine Walcott's future at Arsenal, but we all know better than that.
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