Sunday, 1 September 2013

Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur: Real Madrid's £86m move for Gareth Bale is 'very ... -

Nonetheless, he believed that Tottenham had secured a princely sum for their prized asset. "They [Real] are very generous," he said. "I don't think that prices are linked with the quality of the players at all. This summer especially. The prices today are just linked with the financial power and the desire of the buyer."

It was pointed out to him that Arsenal had not insubstantial financial potential of their own. "We have financial potential, I wouldn't deny that," he replied. "But we will still decide to pay the right price."

Such are the intricacies and entanglements of the modern football transfer market that it sometimes seems as if you need a degree in economics to understand it all. Wenger has a degree in economics, and sometimes even he struggles.

"It's impossible to assess a market and say, 'this is the normal price for this player because that is his quality'," he said. "That has gone. There are very, very, few players who economically justify paying over £50 million."

On Friday, Tottenham confirmed the signings of Erik Lamela, Vlad Chiriches and Christian Eriksen.

Lamela, the Roma forward, has joined for a club record fee which could rise to £29.9 million, Eriksen, the Ajax midfielder, has signed for £11 million, while Steaua Bucharest defender Chiriches cost £8.5 million.

Of all the players Tottenham have purchased with the expected proceeds of the Bale transfer, Lamela is the closest to a direct replacement. The 21-year-old Argentine is quick, left-footed, adept at beating players and capable of scoring spectacular goals.

Of Chiriches, Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas said: "He has tremendous qualities coming out with the ball. Great build-up play – something we insist on with our central defenders – to come out with the ball, to assume responsibility, to drive the ball forward. So great technical abilities. A captain and leader as well."

Before yesterday's arrivals, Tottenham had already signed Paulinho, Étienne Capoue, Nacer Chadli and Roberto Soldado in recent weeks. A risk, said Wenger.

"There is a technical risk," he explained, "when you buy more than three players. Because you unbalance the stability of your squad a little bit. It's always difficult when you bring so many players in to predict how well they will do. It can work as well. It can click fantastically well, but there is a little risk in the stability of the squad and in the technical consistency."

But Arsenal fans do not really want to hear about things like that. Wenger, too, knows that when the time comes to assess his career, "technical consistency" will probably come quite a long way down the list of criteria.

Besides, as he has reiterated a hundred times over, Arsenal remain in the market for players. The Real Madrid trio of Karim Benzema, Iker Casillas and Ángel di Maria remain the subject of speculation. Any truth, Arsène? "I don't know," he replied. "It's not like a supermarket, where if you buy two, you get one free."

Is this all a game to him? Not the football, of course; his competitive fire burns too fiercely for that. But the rest of it; the speculation, the denial, the interrogation, the rebuttal.

One comment of his was particularly telling. "I can understand that it's very interesting for people to read the newspapers and see who goes in and who comes out," he said. "But the only thing, if you really love football, is what happens on the pitch. We have a way to play, we have good players, and let's focus on that."

These do not sound like the words of a man intending to spend Monday night with a mobile phone taped to each ear.

As so often when discussing football finance, he offers a house analogy. "You could be in a position to buy a house that is worth £2 million. If you like it and you have £4 million, you can buy it for £4 million. But that doesn't mean you can resell it for £4?million. It is exactly the same with players."

Wenger's academic training will have taught him how to read and model a market. But the world of football transfers is no longer a market in the classical sense. It is a wilderness, a soup of numbers, defying reason or rule.

The man who pulled off some of the most stunning coups in British football history — think Patrick Vieira for £3.5 million, Nicolas Anelka for £500,000, Kolo Touré for £150,000 — is coming dangerously close to disavowing the transfer market altogether.

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