Arsenal look set to drop out of the race for Sami Khedira, leaving Chelsea as favourites to sign the Real Madrid man. Is Arsene Wenger right to let a key target slip through his fingers?
Reports emerged on Monday morning claiming a deal to take Khedira to Arsenal was hours from completion. As those reports came from Catalan newspaper Sport, who have been known to break questionable news about Real Madrid in the past, it is not surprising that the deal was not confirmed later that day as claimed.
In fact it looks as though an agreement to make the 27-year-old a Gunner is still quite some way away with reports now saying that Wenger is ready to pull the plug on a €29 million transfer after the World Cup winner demanded £150,000-a-week.
Chelsea laying in wait
That has left the door open for Jose Mourinho, who is known to hold an affinity towards to German international after his three-year spell as Real Madrid manager. Mourinho is thought to be willing to match the pay demands of Khedira and will look to sign him despite already acquiring Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas in the last six months.
Despite Arsenal agreeing a £35 million deal to sign Alexis Sanchez, fans will lament the sight of a key target signing for a direct rival. Such an incident will send haunting echoes of the past around the Emirates; echoes of those financial restrained days that Ivan Gazidis promised were over.
However, despite Arsenal's newfound strength in the transfer window, common sense must still remain. Arsenal are of course not funded by an oligarch or an Arabian Sheik and must still run themselves as a proper business as they did so well during their struggle to finance their new world-class arena.
So, if Khedira is demanding those wages, Wenger is right to let him sign for Chelsea. If the west London club can afford to pay him such a sum in a world restricted by Financial Fair Play, then good for them, but there are other alternatives that will be of much better value to the Gunners.
Arsenal have moved on from their socialist era where players like Nicklas Bendtner and Abou Diaby were earning similar amounts to the likes of Robin van Persie. Now Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez are the club high earners with wages of £130,000-a-week - the most any Arsenal player has ever earned. That means Khedira's demands would make him the highest paid player ever to grace to turf in north London.
Arsenal may have financial strength, but Wenger has not turned into a maniac. He still knows value for money when he sees it. The reason Arsenal forked out £35 million for Sanchez would be because Wenger thinks he could make an instant and substantial impact in the Premier League. Could Khedira do the same as a deep lying midfielder? The answer is, probably, no.
One risk for Arsenal would be offering Khedira a long-term contract, only for his injury troubles to return. It is easy to forget that Khedira spent five months of last season on the sidelines after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury in his knee.
Such an injury doesn't necessarily pose a risk to a footballer's career, but when you are charged with the task of running the midfield, making frequent crunch tackles, a dodgy knee quickly becomes a chronic problem.
With Arsenal moving forward, signing big players and with developing stars like Aaron Ramsey in their ranks, Khedira should not be holding them to ransom with such demands. With Toni Kroos arriving at the Bernabeu, it is Khedira who should be feeling closer to desperation, not Arsenal. They have other options and should take them.
Arsenal do need a midfielder and Khedira would be a good option if he wasn't so keen to break the club's wage record. However, the likes of Morgan Schneiderlin and Lars Bender have both been linked in the past and would be available for less.
Schneiderlin, 24, is not only younger, but has experience in the Premier League with Southampton. That doesn't make him better than Khedira of course, but certainly makes him an attractive alternative. Bender, 25, has also impressed for Bayer Leverkusen and would also come cheaper not just in transfer fee, but also in wages.
It also remains a fact that a defensive midfielder is not an area that desperately needs strengthening this summer. With Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta currently in the squad, Arsenal could get by until at least next summer when the pair's contracts expire.
So Arsenal still hold the cards with regards the Khedira and they are right to hold off on his demands. He may lower them and eventually join international team-mates Ozil, Lukas Podolski and Per Mertesacker, or he may sign for Chelsea. Either way, Wenger is doing the right thing. He may have plenty of money to spend, but that doesn't mean he should start throwing it down the drain.
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