Newspapers this week were full of rumours suggesting Arsenal were on the verge of completing a deal for Rennes midfielder Yann M’Vila.
While those claims appear premature, some reports even suggest today that the deal could be off, the Gunners do appear to be in the driving seat to land the talented youngster. But who is Yann M’Vila and why are Arsenal reportedly ready to break the bank for him? GMF investigates...
Yann M’Vila, why have I heard that name before?
Probably because of his off-the-pitch exploits rather than his performances for Rennes.
Two prostitutes were jailed this year after they were found guilty of robbing M’Vila and a friend of valuables including a €13,000 watch after the Rennes player had summoned the pair to a Montpellier hotel after France’s friendly with Chile in August 2011.
M’Vila recently made the headlines after being arrested for allegedly punching a 17-year-old, while back in January 2010 he allegedly hit a restaurant owner after a bout of road rage.
Well surely he’s not worth the hassle then?
Maybe, maybe not. Arsene Wenger has had players who are more trouble than their worth in the past, namely Nicolas Anelka and Emmanuel Adebayor and promptly moved them on, so the Frenchman is used to dealing with difficult personalities.
If the deal does go through he will become Arsenal’s record signing which will raise a few eyebrows, but Wenger has been to see him play on numerous occasions and if there is one man who knows a thing about the French transfer market, it’s him.
So what type of player is he?
A portmanteau of a player, M’Vila is a classic robust defensive midfielder who also has an excellent range of passing going forward. He is Ligue 1’s most prolific passer by some way (so fits the Arsenal mould perfectly there) and is just outside the top ten in terms of tackles made this season.
Perhaps not the most physically imposing specimen you will ever see given his position on the pitch, M’Vila is yapping terrier rather than a ferocious guard dog. But don’t let that fool you, he is a genuine holding midfielder.
How has he played this season?
To use a quote from Sven-Goran Eriksson, ‘first half good, second half not so good.’
Having declared he would be heading for pastures new at the end of the season, his last three months in a Rennes shirt have been far from spectacular. He’s lucky Wenger run the rule over him earlier in the campaign before he switched off and started dreaming of a big money move.
Almost £18 million sounds a lot of money for a young player coming from Ligue 1?
Well it undoubtedly is - Jose Mourinho once called Ligue 1 the supermarket of world football for its cheap produce; if that's the case M'Vila is a plump duck from Waitrose.
M’Vila has courted interest from some pretty big European clubs, most notably Inter Milan while Real Madrid were reportedly interested earlier this season, meaning Arsenal have been forced to do a deal quickly and on Rennes’ terms, while the fact he has more than two years left on his contract also bumped up the price.
The 21-year-old isn’t exactly an unknown quantity either, he already has 18 caps for France having made his debut for Les Blues in 2010. Given the fee, Wenger must rate him particularly highly indeed.
But Arsenal haven’t done too well when splashing the cash in the past have they?
Well yes and no. While Arsene Wenger’s finest work has undoubtedly come when discovering a diamond in the rough and then snapping him up on the cheap, his record with cash burning a hole in his pocket isn’t too bad either.
Although record signing Andrey Arshavin has been far from successful at the Emirates and the likes of Aleksander Hleb, Jose Antonio Reyes, Francis Jeffers and Eduardo didn’t exactly impress despite costing a combined total of around £40 million, Wenger has shown he can spend big and spend wisely at the same time.
Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny cost a combined total of around £20 million and now look like being the club’s long-term central defensive pairing while the £15 million spent on Samir Nasri looks particularly astute with the club making a tidy profit on the Frenchman in the summer.
How does he fit into the Arsenal squad?
Arsenal have plenty of options in the middle of the park, although they have been stretched in that area because of injuries this season. Aaron Ramsey, Alex Song, Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, Alou Diaby and Tomoas Rosicky will all be vying for one position or another in central midfield next season.
M’Vila seems a player cut from the same cloth as Song, but it seems inconceivable that M’Vila has been bought to replace the Cameroon international given the season he has had, while Arteta, who has been deployed more defensively with Arsenal than during his time with Everton, was only purchased in the summer and has impressed for the Gunners so far.
Forget all that, is the deal done or not?
Well reports this week suggested the deal was ’99.9% done’, but today some newspapers are reporting that all the speculation was drummed up by the player’s agent in order to flush out interest from both Inter and Arsenal.
Respected French journalist Julien Laurens says the deal is on the table, worth €22 million with a four year contract on offer, and says the Gunners are waiting for the end of the season when their league position is confirmed in terms of Champions League football before agreeing terms with the player.