The whispers and rumours are too strong to ignore. Spanish wizard Santi Cazorla is looking more and more like a done deal.
The former Villareal and now Malaga midfielder is an unhappy camper of late, caught in a wage-dispute with the supposed Man City of Spanish football. He, along with old favourite Ruud van Nistelrooy, Joris Mathijsen and Salomon Rondon had made a formal complaint about unpaid wages, which Malaga now says has been ‘withdrawn’. But other debts still seem to be troubling the outfit.
The situation in Malaga is totally baffling. Backed by Qatari oil money, owner Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Al-Thani has been a no-show throughout the off-season. During that time, Spanish authorities have demanded outstanding (and seemingly payable) debts of €7 million be paid by July 31 , or risk automatic relegation from the Spanish top flight. Malaga also allegedly owes Villareal €3.5 million of outstanding transfer payments for last season’s purchase of Cazorla. Most clubs in the Premier League could easily make those payments at a moment’s notice, although many would have to forgo several transfer targets. The fact that such a loaded club like Malaga is keeping this until the last minute is extraordinary.
Arsenal is trying to cut its angle in this mess, though it will not result in getting Cazorla on the cheap. The Guardian and Daily Mail both moot a 15.5 million fee for the player, which when converted is about €1 million more than Malaga paid for him last season. Apologies for jumping between currencies there.
Our advantage lies in the fact that the financial turbulence in Spain has seen the Malaga winger lose a good chunk of his salary in the past few months and as a result has expressed a desire to leave.
The potential signing is easily the most exciting one for Arsenal fans this summer. The only thing that would trump it is Robin van Persie getting on bended knee, apologising to the world for the error of his ways and signing a 10-year deal with us. Back in the real world, Cazorla’s arrival is the next best thing.
Cazorla is a sparky, wily technician who can play across the midfield and as part of a front three. To top it all off he is a deadly free-kick specialist of some renown which is one facet of van Persie’s play we can at least replace.
In fact, possibly more-so. RVP had the most baffling bad luck with free kicks I’ve seen with a player of his technique. His contact with the ball and action were all superb, but you could guarantee that the majority of his efforts would hit the wall or fire wide.
We also have Arteta in the line-up who enjoys a good power attempt, but he too hits the wall far too often. When he gets it right, it’s fantastic, but we have been needing more subtle direct free-kick takers than we’ve had since Henry left.
Cazorla can provide that, focussing on placement and curve that produces zippy, quick free-kicks. It’s a much better option to accompany the power shots of Arteta, or the occasional darter from Theo Walcott.
One question remains over what shirt number he would take. Ordinarily an unimportant question, but a few permutations exist.
Lukas Podolski looks set to grab the number 10 shirt after he was left off the official shirt number confirmations, which included RVP listed with the magic number. With Manuel Almunia’s departure from the club, Wojcech Szczesny will claim the number 1 jersey between the sticks.
Admittedly I’m playing a bit of Football Manager with this guess, but I think the first choice of what is available for Cazorla would be the 13 shirt. With Olivier Giroud grabbing 12, the only other available number left before things get silly is 30.
The only other permutation, which is where things get serious, is if Walcott is a goner. The constant links with Chelsea and Liverpool won’t be going away any time soon while the forward and his ‘representatives’ dither on the new contract. You can blame Arsenal all you like for letting it get to this stage with players, but Theo has had this offer on the table since the beginning of last season.
You can thank Mr Bosman for all of this. Keeping players to enforceable contracts is getting more and more difficult, and while you can say we should be offering contracts to good players when two years out of four are up, ala Koscielny, the same thing was in fact offered to Theo. Even then, he wasn’t exactly Mr Popular with certain sections of the fan-base due to his inconsistency. Now that the thought of him leaving is stronger, suddenly we’re all realising that we’d kind of miss him if he left.
He’s a frustrating player because we all know what he is capable of. It’s not just the pace, but his finishing and ability to create something out of nothing (bad music alert) that we know lies at the core of a potentially excellent player. But the blood boils on many occasions whenever he gets himself into a rut, or worse, appears like he cannot be bothered.
Finally, some quotes just in from chairman Peter Hill-Wood on the RVP saga.
“If he is determined to leave that is up to him, but giving him away is not on our agenda.
“To be honest I do not understand him at all. I understood Cesc Fabregas wanting to go home to Barcelona last summer. I had sympathy with that.
“But I thought Robin was happy at Arsenal, especially after the season he had with us.”
There are rumours being circulated that the club is prepared to keep him until the January transfer window. It’s probably brinkmanship on our part to keep the price as high as possible, which I’m all for. Two can play at that game.
But I can’t be the only one who thinks that, even if he is supposedly unhappy on his £70,000-a-week wage, that keeping him, even for half a season, has its benefits?