10 February 2014

We want you back, Bac! Arsene, show him the money!

It appears that contract-talks between Bacary Sagna and the club have again bogged down, with Sagna holding out for a pay-rise from his current £60-to-70k-weekly salary, or so I'm gleaning from headlines in The Mirror and Daily Star. Others may have been too busy lining bird-cages or wrapping fish in the papers, but I own no birds and eat no fish, so here we are. Quick aside: it was once possible to purchase those, uh, 'news'papers on actual paper. Brave new world, innit?

If the stories do hold water in addition to bird droppings and/or fish-oil, we could see the long-serving Sagna, who will turn 31 on Friday, leave the club for free in the summer. This, I have to say, would disappoint me to no end. Although there are a few players who have been with the club longer, namely Bendtner, Walcott, and Rosický, none of them signifies Arsenal to me as much as Sagna does. I'm not claiming he'll become an Arsenal legend, or even that he's among the club's best-ever defenders—but he's up there. To see him leave, for free, when we could keep him on at little extra cost to the club would sting.

The club's latest offer is apparently a two-year deal but doesn't include a pay-rise. Of course, many players who are over 30 rarely get more than a one-year deal. Sagna, however, is different from many 30-year olds, especially in light of his service to the club, marked as it is by consistency and performance. There have been times in his career when he's been among the best right-backs in the Prem. He's stuck with the club when he might have had better chances elsewhere, for contracts or silverware or both. When teammates (and, probably, good friends) have left, he has stayed. Loyalty might not be worth much these days, and sentiment can be an albatross, but, dammit, Sagna matters to me. If it were up to me, I'd match whatever offer he's gotten from PSG or Galatasaray or Monaco. It might be more than market-values dictate, but he's been golden to me. I know that he's not the player he was even two years ago, but he's an Arsenal man and I want to see him retire as one. If age slows him down, can we not see him move over to center-back? He's already shown that he can do well there.

I say all of this knowing full-well that the era of the one-club player is all but gone. Who's left? Gerrard. Giggs. That's it, at this point. I know that Sagna doesn't make that list, but he's been with the club for what seems like forever. Coming up on eight years, he's made 200 appearances. That kind of loyalty, not to mention performance, is worth something, isn't it? Players' salaries reflect their current and future values, of course, but how much would it hurt to pay someone like Sagna for his performance to date? Could we go to six figures for him for two more years, or would this break the bank?

I don't know, to be honest, and I wish I knew enough to say, "give him £110k per week. We'll still have enough to sign a striker, a holding midfielder, and another center-back." I do know that the club can't simply throw money around and that loyalty doesn't always figure into these discussions, at least not prominently. I hope though that the club can find a way to make an allowance for the man.

Looking at it another way, if Gala or PSG or Monaco are willing to give him more than two years and are willing to bump him up to a six-figure weekly salary, there must be something in it, not that we should run around matching other clubs' valuations. Other clubs are a bit more reckless with the cash, but not even they are going to simply throw money away on a player who is on the wrong side of 30 and who, in Sagna's case, has a twice-broken leg, not with FFP lurking.

I'm not going to go into those details, though, because to me they muddy the issue and miss the point. There's value and there's worth. What is Sagna worth?  £60 a week?   £115? I don't know. His value to the club, however is much harder to quantify with mere numbers. How to separate "worth" from "value" when they overlap so much? "Value" derives from the Latin valere, which also gives us "valiant" and that, Sagna has most definitely been. Call me maudlin or overly sentimental if you will. There are certain players whom I want to see retire with this club. Sagna's one of them.