Have Arsenal spent any money? The answer, today, on the final day of the summer transfer window: yes.
The Gunners scored a last-minute coup, grabbing German playmaker Mesut Özil from Real Madrid for a club-record fee estimated somewhere in the neighborhood of $66 million. How does everyone who doubted Arsène Wenger feel today? The calls for the heads of Stan Kroenke and Ivan Gazidis can probably quiet down temporarily as Arsenal finally spent a sizable chunk of the money it netted on the sales of Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, etc. in previous summers.
This move showcased the bizarre, intertwined, trickle down world of soccer economics. Real Madrid, for years, coveted Gareth Bale. The Spanish giants finally got their man for a record $132 million on Sunday. It meant both Özil and Kaka were surplus requirements (on sky high wages) at the Bernabeu. In turn, Real sent Kaka back to his former club, AC Milan while Özil lands in North London — just like we all drew it up months ago.
The irony here is Tottenham looked in great shape, profiting off the Bale sale while remaking their squad with over a half-dozen highly regarded players including Erik Lamela, Paulinho, Roberto Soldado and Christian Eriksen. Now, at the last minute, they’ve been trumped both on the field — losing 1-0 to Arsenal Sunday — and off it by their North London rivals who bring in Özil, the best player in the bunch.
There’s a reason why Spurs, try as they might, will always remain the ‘Little Brother’ in this equation.
[Related: Arsenal: Is This a Club Really in “Crisis”]
Özil helps offset Arsenal’s loss of Lucas Poldolski and Mikel Arteta to injuries. He also provides another creative option in the midfield other than Santi Carzola at the Emirates — Özil’s 72 assists over the last five years are the most in Europe’s top five leagues over that span. If Özil and the reborn Aaron Ramsey click, the sky looks much sunnier going forward for the Gunners than it did two weeks ago. There’s no reason to think Özil shouldn’t thrive both under Wenger and the increasingly technical Premier League. (Wither the prototypical English midfielder? Godspeed Scotty Parker.)
This move doesn’t necessarily transform the Gunners into Premier League title contenders, but when the chance arises to add a player of Özil’s quality, you take it, even if he isn’t the out-and-out striker (cough, cough Luis Suarez, Wayne Rooney, Gonzalo Higuian) many Gunners fans crave. The key for Arsenal will remain unloved Olivier Giroud providing goals, as he did Sunday. Still, don’t be shocked if the Gunners make a deep run in the Champions League.
On the other side, from a pure sporting sense it’s hard to see why Real would part with Özil in favor of Bale. Ray Hudson, for one, will be a little more somber during Real Madrid telecasts on beIN due to his love of “Avatar Eyes.” Bale will help sell shirts and improve the Real Madrid brand, but right now it doesn’t look like the move that will take them over the top in the Champions League or even past rivals Barcelona in La Liga.
For everything Bale is, he certainly isn’t twice the player of Özil, despite their exorbitant transfer fees.
Looking at all the numbers and money changing hands, you probably have to ask yourself: how does all this happen? Soccer finances at this level feel like a massive house of cards. Real Madrid’s revenues were reported by Deloitte to be a world-best $660 million, which would appear how this entire monetary merry-go-round keeps a’ going.
Just look the other way and enjoy the ride.