Carlos Vela is no longer an Arsenal player.
The Mexican chipping champion has been sold to Spanish mid-table outfit Real Sociedad after a successful loan spell there last season. His 35 appearances for the Txuri-urdin produced 12 goals; a career-best return from the forward.
Once the most hyped young player in world football, Vela’s time at Arsenal was frustrating on a number of levels. He took what seemed like ages to actually be registered as an Arsenal player after being signed on in 2005, before being loaned out to Celta Vigo, Salamanca and Osasuna over three seasons.
When he finally arrived, he hit the ground running with some eye-catching League Cup performances, including this unforgettable beauty against Wigan.
But some neat finishes aside and a few goalscoring substitute appearances (a cameo when Arsenal had already won the game), Vela was never able to play a truly influential role in the side.
It resulted in a poor loan appearance for West Brom, before joining Sociedad on loan last season.
The deal has now been made permanent in a £3 million deal, with a 50% sell-on clause, and a £4 million buy-back clause. Those two clauses are contractual cogs suggesting Arsenal will still be keeping a big eye on the young forward.
His 12 goals for Sociedad shows some indication he is beginning to hit his straps in a league where his lack of a physical presence does not cost him like it does in England.
They included his usual flair finishes, but more tellingly, came as crucial winners and important contributions, rather than his usual ‘cherry on the icing on the cake’ offerings.
So having failed to get a large fee for the striker, Arsenal have done the next best thing in slapping sell-on and buy-back clauses to the deal. If the planets align the right way, they may have done something even better than a big money transfer.
Vela may now finally get his chance to flourish, without the pressure and constant observation that comes with life in London’s biggest club.
If he excels, Arsenal have the comfortable choice of either taking another punt on an older, wilier and possibly wiser Vela for a cheap fee, or enjoy the proceeds of a transfer elsewhere.
All that while completely clearing his pay packet off the books as we look to free up the wage budget.
What are your hopes for Vela? Does his future lie entirely away from Arsenal? Or if he were to return, what kind of reinvention would be needed to make him an ‘Arsenal striker’?