As the Premier League season lurches toward its conclusion, there is an incremental increase in the number of transfer stories. The FA ban on Luis Suarez brought forward the notion that the Uruguyan might leave because of his “harsh” treatment at the hands of the Football Association; I suppose it is more palatable for Liverpool supporters to believe this than an urge on the player’s part to challenge for honours. For Arsenal it means a ratcheting up of talk where any number of players will be joining or leaving. The Express this morning lists Vito Mannone, Andre Santos, Denilson, Nicklas Bendtner and Ju-Young Park, Andrey Arshavin, Lukasz Fabianski and Sebastien Squillaci as leaving in a piece about how Betis want Chamakh and Djourou, as well as another loan spell from Joel Campbell. I’m guessing that taking the Moroccan is in place of paying a loan fee.
The curio though is how players are fashionable to link with clubs. If you look at the Express list, it contains two goalkeepers; Daily Mirror sources this morning suggest that Arsène is baulking at paying the £15m suggested for Begovic and Mignolet, moving for the cut-price option of Rene Adler from Hamburg. Sneaking under the radar in The Heil is Maarten Stekelenburg, alongside the club’s stereotypical interest in Matthew Lowton of Aston Villa. However, he might be tiptoeing through the tulips in Martin Jol’s riverside garden instead. For years, the Dutch ‘keeper was linked with a move to Arsenal, rather like Hugo Lloris, who ended up in a Haringey hellhole. Why the sudden change in their fortunes? Has Stekelenburg’s star fallen so far that Arsène is no longer interested – if he ever was, of course – or is the soon-to-be former Roma goalkeeper no longer fashionable? We presume the club’s pursuit of the players was real in the first place of course. It was reported in the back pages, it must be true.
That smidgen of a notion – that certain players are no longer footballistically chic – has gained traction in the past 48 hours. Bayern and Dortmund outplayed their Spanish opposition to set-up the very real prospect of an all-German Champions League final at Wembley. Whilst attention focussed on the fan-friendly ticket prices, the German clubs efficiently went about their business in the competition; Dortmund remain unbeaten. It has led to German football becoming the new Spain; fashionable and chic. If this week is the root cause for Arsenal coolling their reported interest in Victor Valdes, that is no bad thing. Some rate the Barcelona goalkeeper; I never have. The logic goes something like Aah, but he’s got medals, he’s a winner; so was Michael but that doesn’t mean he was any good in net as the youngsters of today like to call it.
You see the shift happening in media coverage. English clubs are no longer in talks with Spanish managers about a move to a tougher League. Chelsea aren’t talking about long-term Arsenal target Manuel Pelligrini; it’s escaped the notice of the press that he’s Chilean. Instead, Arsenal want Jurgen Klopp or Joachim Löw (how long before he is Jo-Lo?) to replace Arsène Wenger when he retires. The notion of if is all but ruled out. But the two Germans, they are the men to save the day, a thought that sticks in the craw of the editorial team at Daily Heil HQ. Which is no bad thing, no bad thing at all. Stekelenburg is Dutch and as a nation, their footballing star fell in 2010 with the frankly dull approach they took to that Summer’s World Cup Final; overt physicality and a lack of originality translated in media terms to the Eriedivisie being considered a footballing wasteground.
Spanish football is hearing the start of a similar death knell being rung in the English media. Tiki-taka‘s day is done, the race run for Spanish clubs. We’ll overlook the failure of Manchester City and Chelsea to escape the group stages or Manchester United and Arsenal exiting the competition before the quarter-finals. There will always be an England…
So what does the Summer hold. Well, you cannot rule out French signings, that is super probable. Already the tried and test Capoue and Belhanda are linked. An obscure French right back will probably emerge as front-runner to replace Bacary Sagna. He’ll be obscure to most Arsenal supporters because let’s face it, who in their right minds wants to admit to having enough time to watch Ligue Un as well as the other European matches available on the televisual interweb? The Lost and The Lonely indeed.
In the end, nationality only matters to the media. He might be criticised for his view but Arsène is right in that a passport is not important in football, it should come down to ability. And the only criteria is surely whether the player will improve the squad. Isn’t it?