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Why Shkodran Mustafi Is Worth Every Penny of His Transfer Fee for Arsenal

James McNicholas@@jamesmcnicholasFeatured ColumnistAugust 29, 2016

VALENCIA, SPAIN - AUGUST 13:  Shkodran Mustafi of Valencia looks on after the pre-season friendly match between Valencia CF and AC Fiorentina at Estadio Mestalla on August 13, 2016 in Valencia, Spain.  (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)
Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

This transfer window, it has become increasingly difficult to determine the value of a player. In years gone by it was possible to bracket players by price, but now transfer fees seem far more arbitrary.

Arsenal are about to pay the highest sum they’ve ever spent on a defender to sign Shkodran Mustafi. It might be more than manager Arsene Wenger would ideally pay, but the indications are that the Germany international will prove to be worth it. 

Since the new television deal came into force in the Premier League, fees have skyrocketed. It seems to have dramatically influenced the way business is done. In the past, it was feasible to make an estimation as to a player’s value based on performances and reputation. 

That seems to have gone out of the window this summer.

There’s no longer any such as thing as “a £10 million player” or a “£20 million player.” Instead, fees are determined by two things: how much the selling club demands and how much the buying club is willing to pay.

Arsene Wenger has been looking for a centre-back throughout the summer.
Arsene Wenger has been looking for a centre-back throughout the summer.David Rogers/Getty Images
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When it’s a Premier League club that comes calling, those numbers get even higher. Continental clubs know they can hold English teams to ransom—they can afford it. Alan Smith of the Guardian noted how a £30 million transfer fee has seemingly become the norm in the Premier League, and Wenger himself said, per FourFourTwo: 

You could say that today in Europe you have two markets - one for the English clubs and one for the rest of Europe. 

When the buyer is English, it is true that it multiplies the transfer by two or three or sometimes by 10. If for the same player an English club does not come in, he is worth £5 million, but if an English club comes he is worth 35 or 40 or 50.

One wonders if that’s what’s happened with Mustafi. For all his ability, it seems Valencia drove a particularly hard bargain for their prized centre-half. They know he’s an extremely valuable commodity.

It is notoriously difficult to identify top-class central defenders at the moment. Arsenal’s London rivals Chelsea are finding that out to their cost—according to BBC Sport, a £35 million bid for AC Milan’s Alessio Romagnoli is the latest in a succession of attempts to secure a new centre-back. 

Wenger has insisted all summer that he is prepared to spend big money in the right circumstances, per Sky Sports:

It's not the prices, it's the players. The money is never a problem if you have to pay what is requested. 

The price of a player is down to four ingredients; one is the talent, two is his age, three is how much you expect him to improve your team, and four is his resale value.

If he ticks all four boxes then the price is not that important. You have to find the player.

In the end, Wenger has consented to spend serious money on Mustafi. According to the Telegraph, it will be as much as £35 million. The player reportedly had a release clause that stood at €50 million (£42.7 million), but the Gunners were able to save themselves several million after protracted negotiations.  

Part of the reason Valencia held out for so much money is that they will not be able to keep the entirety of the fee. SampNews24 (h/t the Telegraph) noted that 10 percent will be due to Mustafi’s previous club:

SampNews24 revealed that Italian side Sampdoria stand to gain 10% of the transfer fee Arsenal pay Valencia for defender Shkodran Mustafi.

The Italian club stand to earn around £3.5 million of the £35 million fee that Arsenal will pay, and could explain why the much protracted transfer has been so long in the making.

When trying to determine if the price is a reasonable one, it’s possible to assess the impending acquisition of Mustafi by Wenger’s own criteria.

First, he speaks of talent—Mustafi’s cannot be in much question. At 24, he has already won 12 caps for Germany and won the World Cup in 2014.  

Shkodran Mustafi in international action
Shkodran Mustafi in international actionANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/Getty Images

His career began in English football with Everton, but after failing to make a single league appearance, he moved to Serie A and Sampdoria. After two good years there, he joined Valencia. Another strong couple of seasons alerted Arsenal’s interest, and now he is set to rejoin the Premier League.  

He is an aggressive defender, nipping at the feet of centre-forwards in a manner not entirely dissimilar to that of Laurent Koscielny. He plays with plenty of energy, as evidenced in his occasional cameos as a marauding full-back.

Although Mustafi is not particularly tall (6'0"), he is good in the air, and his time in Italy seems to have instilled a tactical discipline in him that will be hugely beneficial to Arsenal.

Shkodran Mustafi training with Germany.
Shkodran Mustafi training with Germany.MEHDI FEDOUACH/Getty Images

He’s a good age, too. At 24, he is just entering the prime of his career.

In Per Mertesacker and Rob Holding, Arsenal have two good centre-backs who are arguably at the extremes of their careers. The German is winding down, while the Englishman is just warming up.

Wenger needs someone who can come in and thrive alongside Koscielny immediately, and Mustafi could be that man. Despite Holding’s impressive form, the Valencia man will surely be an immediate upgrade. 

The German ought to retain some of his value, too. That’s linked to age—when you sign a player north of 30, you know you’re unlikely to recoup that money. Mustafi’s potential to grow and improve means he remains a sensible investment. 

It seems he ticks all four of Wenger’s stated boxes. It’s therefore no great surprise that the Gunners boss has splashed out to ensure he gets his man.

As for the player himself, he seems encouragingly enthused about moving to Arsenal, per Sky Sports Germany (h/t the Daily Mail):

I talked to Mesut [Ozil].

He told me everything I wanted to know. Everything was positive, so I was convinced very fast. It did not take much.’ I have always loved Arsenal, I like how they play here, it is not typical English.

The game here is more like in Spain and with the German national team, keeping the ball on the grass, so it was easy to convince me.

Now Mustafi’s job is to convince the Arsenal faithful of his worth. The Gunners urgently needed a centre-half, and fans should be relieved that Wenger did what it took to get the deal done. Ultimately, if he performs well on the field, his fee will be deemed inconsequential.

                          

James McNicholas is Bleacher Report's lead Arsenal correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout 2016/17. Follow him on Twitter here.

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