Yesterday’s Transfer Deadline Day was a truly gruelling epic, with more u-turns than the Rainbow Road track on Mario Kart. And even as I type this – some eight hours after the deadline closed – we are in the incredible situation of not knowing whether or not we have actually managed to sign Andrei Arshavin.
It began so promisingly. The morning saw SkySportsNews cameras capture footage of Arshavin just minutes from Arsenal’s training ground and indeed my own home. However, just as I was about to trudge out in to the snow to try and catch a glimpse of the owly one, Sky broke the news that Arshavin was “heading to a London aiport”, and that his agent, Dennis Lachter, was insisting the deal was “200% off”.
Now, later in the day, when the deal began to look considerably more “on”, it was suggested to me by various parties that this ‘deal collapse’ had been spun by the club to put the frighteners on Zenit. It’s a theory that made plenty of sense at the time. However, I’m not sure that had it just been a stunt, Lachter would’ve been quite so vicious as in these quotes:
“We’re very disappointed, a deal has been worked on for nine months. First it was Tottenham last summer, now Arsenal. What’s the problem with this deal? Money as always. The Russians are animals and how can Arsenal offer less than £15m and half of Arshavin’s contract?
He’s getting €3.875m and the club is offering half. Who would take another job for half the money? Arsenal have been making big waves by saying this would be the big historic transfer in the history of the Gunners. Well, it’s bull. They thought they could pull this off by saying we are a big club, this is a nice country, all that stuff. But he’s not a 16-year-old from Africa. The life in England is more expensive – a car, a house, it’s all more expensive in London, and he has to bring his family, he has one kid who is three years old, another who is one years old. It’s ridiculous.”
Well, it seems the impoverished Arshavin’s demands were eventually settled, as sources at the remarkably helpful Arsenal Supporters’ Trust were quick to inform me that the Russian was not leaving the country, and was instead at Highbury House finalising his contract.
Those reports were later corroborated (or stolen?) by Sky TV, and later news of an agreed fee, personal terms, and successful medical followed. The deal was all in place, with the exception, we were repeatedly told, of £2.5m that Zenit were demanding Arshavin hand them back.
And so we waited. And waited. And waited. And the deadline came and went. And then, disaster struck.
Our old friend, Zenit spokesperson Alexey Petrov, declared that a deal was “definitely off”. It was calamitous, it was sickening, and it was therefore almost inevitably true. However, within about twenty minutes, General Direct Maxim Mitrofanov appeared to utter his now well-known catchprase: “negotations are ongoing”.
No, you haven’t misread: the deadline had passed, Zenit had declared there was no deal, and then suddenly the transfer was somehow resurrected for a second time. In the next few hours some kind of settlement was arrived at that suited all parties, with Arsene Wenger confident a deal would be confirmed that evening. The Russian Press have since speculated that the player agreed to pay Zenit around £1.5m for breaking his contract in order to smooth over his departure.
Well as you now know, a deal wasn’t confirmed that evening. The hours sped by, and eventually news reached us via motormouth Dennis Lachter (surprise surprise) that no deal can be ratified until tomorrow. My sources at the Premier League indicate this is no cause for concern: they simply wanted to allow their staff to get home in the difficult weather conditions, meaning there is a backlog of transfers that need to be confirmed later this morning. Arsenal have been silent on the matter, but Zenit have confirmed to the Russian media that a deal has been done and the figures will be released tomorrow. For what it’s worth, I’m hearing suggestions of a £12m fee with wages of £70,000 p/week, which would be quite the coup.
I still refuse to be steadfastly confident, unlike the majority of the British media. This deal has been through so many twists and turns that it just wouldn’t surprise me remotely if there was one final, nasty sting in the tail. However, fatigue is probably prompting unnecessary levels of pessimism from me. All being well, Arsenal should recieve word from the Premier League this morning that the paperwork is all in order, and Arshavin is an Arsenal player.
If he does sign, Arshavin has told his person website that he will wear the number 23 shirt – which would be nice, and avoid the associations with Hleb that 13 would generate.
If he doesn’t sign… I don’t know. After everything this story did to those who followed it closely throughout yesterday, it’s hard to predict the impact that the Premier League rejecting our attempt to register the transfer would have. The biggest concern is that at 8pm yesterday evening (2300 their time), the Russian FA had yet to dispatch the neccessary International Transfer Certificate for Arshavin to complete the deal.
On reflection, were this to fall through I suspect most people would just laugh. This is the most ridiculous transfer saga I can ever remember us being involved with this. Compared to this, Baptista was a breeze. That’s not to say I don’t want the player – I really, really do – but this has is becoming unbearable.
We thought it had to end by last Monday. Then before the West Ham game. Then before 5pm yesterday. Surely, by midday today, we will have some closure on what has become a truly torturous episode.
When it happens, if it happens, I’ll be back. Till then.