Carlos Vela could make Arsenal look very smart

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If reports in Spain are to be believed, Arsene Wenger is close to successfully persuading Real Sociedad to pay Arsenal a transfer fee for a player they don't actually own.

Yes, you read that right. Arsenal look set to receive as much as €12m for Carlos Vela, even though he's not an Arsenal player.

It's a pretty complicated deal, but if we've worked this out right, Wenger will exercise the £3.5m buy-back option in Vela's contract, only to immediately sell him back to Sociedad at a massive mark up.

And it's all the result of a ingenious bit of forward planning on the part of Arsenal.

When they sold Vela he was a 22-year-old talent that flashed ability was too often inconsistent. He made just 29 league appearances in six years at the club. For all intents and purposes, he looked like a bust.

But while Wenger granted him his wish to play first-team football in Spain, he remained convinced that Vela's talent remained. So he included a £3.5m buy-back clause just in case.

And he was right. In Spain, he's bagged 30 La Liga goals in 72 appearances since signing permanently in 2012. That kind of form would have the likes of Arsenal sniffing around this summer - and they'd likely be quoted in excess of €20m.

Instead they can have him for €5m, well under his market value.

Other examples

Arsenal are by no means the first club to do this - Sir Alex Ferguson did it with Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, a reserve team poacher he expected to flourish away from United. If only he'd done the same with Paul Pogba.

Real Madrid did the same with Dani Carvajal, who after one good season with Bayer Leverkusen was quickly repatriated back to the Bernabeu.

Barcelona had the same agreement with Bojan - a La Masia star who broke Lionel Messi's goalscoring records at youth level. When they let him leave, the buy-back clause was a savvy insurance policy against future success. They won't need it.

And Vela is not the only example at the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal could have re-signed Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona, but Wenger turned down the chance. He signed for Chelsea instead.

It's difficult to second guess the reason, but Wenger may feel he has plenty of options in Fabregas's position, not least the £42.5m investment he made in Mesut Ozil. Spending another €30m on Fabregas would be excessive spending on a single position.

But the ridiculously low buy-back clause in Vela's contract is too good an opportunity to miss. This must be one of the first examples of a pure business transaction involving a player and the Premier League. Because even if he doesn't want to return to Arsenal, the Gunners can still sign and sell at a huge mark-up. 

Arsenal have not been flawless in the transfer market. Their egalitarian wage structure resulted in too many average players on above average salaries. See Nicklas Bendtner.

But is it fair?

And it can be argued that the whole scenario raises further questions around fairness. The likes of Chelsea have made a habit of snapping up the best young talent. They could now sell on the ones that don't make it (most of them) and include buy-back clauses just in case they do.

That means when a smaller club like Real Sociedad takes a rough diamond from a big club and turns him into a star, they're at the mercy of his former club - even when they bought him outright.

With the loan market coming under greater scrutiny in the light of the Thibaut Courtois situation in the Champions League, this could be the future. Two-year transfers with an option to return.

That puts the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal at a tremendous advantage. It's something that the FA, Premier League or perhaps FIFA need to look at.

Until then, Arsenal look to have pulled off one of the most unusual, and brilliant, transfer deals of this century.

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