16 June 2013

Gonzalo Higuain, £25m, and the Goldilocks zone

When it comes to buying a world-class striker, how much do you bid? Bid too much, and it's happily accepted, but you've over-bid, wasting money and perhaps putting too much pressure on the player to live up to the fee (See Torres, Fernando or Carroll, Andy). Bid too little, and it's scornfully rejected, and you risk coming away empty-handed. Hence the "Goldilocks" reference. As we're bidding for the likes of Higuain, we have to find that "just-right" bid: not too big, not too small; not too hot, not too cold.

While we're on using a children's story, we might as well throw in the "not too big, not too small" reference as it relates to players. In my opinion, we don't want a "too-big" player à la Ronaldo or Rooney. First, each would command such a large transfer-fee that we'd have little left for a second quality signing. Second, so many of our players would find themselves kow-towing to these prima-donnas on the field and off that the entire squad might regress. I don't particularly like the idea that Walcott or Wilshere would have to be a water-carrier for the likes of them. I think we have more than a few younger players on the verge of break-out seasons, and I would not want to see their development suffer under the klieg-lights of Ronaldo's glare. Were he the kind of player to take younger  players under his wing and nurture them, that's one thing. But he's not. This is an issue to remember, especially as we've just re-signed a core of young players. If a new signing comes in as the highest-paid player on the club, we'd do well to make sure that he's both earned that status through his play on the field and that he'll mesh with existing players in the locker room.

Anyway, back to the story at hand. Ronaldo, Rooney: too big. Benteke, Jovetic: too little. There. That's sorted. Whether this leaves Higuain as our "just-right" target remains to be seen, but on the current list of names, he emerges in that zone. How, then, do we strike the right offer that is itself not too big, not too small? Real Madrid's Fiorentina Perez has warned Juventus by saying "If Juventus are thinking about offering €30m for him, then it would be better if they don't even turn up." €30m comes out to about £25m. If this is in response to an offer that we have already made and that Juventus has to beat, wonderful. If we can land the man at £25m, that's fine with me.

Sure, it smashes our record of £15m for Arshavin, but for those who offer that as some kind of warning or threat, Arshavin had stolen our hearts through his performance in European competitions and, in retrospect, might have been a bit of a one-hit wonder. He never scored more than 15 goals in any season. On the other hand, he did collect assists at an astounding rate. On the other, other, hand, it was in the Russian Premier League that he did this. However, we're looking for a center-forward, not a second-striker or distributor. As such, Higuain does not compare directly with Arshavin. As far as scoring goes, Higuain has scored 20 league goals or more three times, so there's less doubt about his ability to deliver. He has shown that he's willing to defer in order to fit in, whether it's letting Ronaldo hog the spotlight or sharing a spot with Benzema, and this suggests that he'd join Arsenal without acting too much of a diva.

What, then, is the just-right offer for this apparently just-right player? Transfermrkt suggests that he's worth about £33.5m, but market values frequently exceed actual transfer fees. We've been mentioned as having made an offer in the realm of £22.5m and perhaps as high as £25m. If Real's Perez wants £25m from Juventus, he might be trying to drive up the price either from a higher Juventus bid or by prodding us to sweeten our offer.  Juventus signed Fernando Llorente to a four-year deal that starts July 1st, and they've taken Nicholas Anelka and Nicklas Bendtner on free loans over the last two seasons, so it doesn't seem that they're all that ambitious in the market, nor do they seem to need a high-profile signing.

It would be a shame, though, to let them pip us over a few million quid, especially when we have a few to spare. How high do we do to secure the likes of Higuain before our bid is too big?