20 August 2015

(Ben)Zema's Paradox: £48m brings us one step closer...

For the last few days, we've heard news that Real Madrid have accepted a £48m bid for Karim Benzema, bringing us on tantalising step closer to signing the galáctico. However, as we all know all too well, we've been down this road before with Khedira, Draxler, and Higuaín. All we need is news that skybet has slashed the odds on Benzema to Arsenal. Oh. Wait. Or maybe a picture of Benzema on a plane. Oh. We've had that, too. Each of these and innumerable others are but part of a paradox that we may never resolve. This time through, call it Zema's Paradox.

Like Zeno's paradox "Achilles and the Tortoise", it seems we'll never actually get there. For those unfamiliar, Zeno was a Greek philosopher from around 450 BCE. He told a story in which a tortoise
challenged Achilles, the great war-hero, to a race. On the face of it, the race seems simple: of course, a hero like Achilles could outrun a tortoise. However, as the tortoise describes it, he gets a ten-meter head-start. In the time it takes Achilles to cover those ten meters, the tortoise will perhaps advance one meter. Then, in the time it takes Achilles to cover that one meter, the tortoise will advance 100cm. In the time Achilles takes to cover 100cm, the tortoise advances 10cm. The race continues like this, in an infinite number of steps, and Achilles never catches the turtle, who is always some shrinking, microscopic distance out of reach, always receding just beyond the reach of Achilles...

Of course, it's an exercise in logic in which the conclusion follows from the premises but doesn't match reality. Races don't occur in a series of smaller and smaller steps (10m, then 1m, then 100cm...) and Achilles would, in real life, overtake the tortoise at the 11th meter and leave him in the dust. This summer, as in summers past, we are like Zeno chasing the tortoise, and the tortoise du jour is Benzema. We seem to be getting closer and closer, whether it be Benítez toying with formation changes or falling just short of proclaiming Benzema off-limits, Real signing players (Danilo and Kovačić so far...) and then selling others, self-indulgent fan-fiction, or ITKs tweeting over and over the same unsourced "exclusives." Benzema's been left out of the Real Madrid squad for its Sunday match with Sporting Gijón, fueling fresh, frantic speculation over why. Is he actually injured, or are Real keeping him safe from injury as they prepare to sell him?

At some point, someone close to Benzema will say something vague  (should I perhaps follow Rihanna on twitter?), maybe using the word "personal" or "physical" in a way that could be interpreted to mean that he agreed to personal terms or is in London for a physical ahead of making the signing official. Bleacher Report, El Metro, or some other clickbaiter will run another sensationalist title, and we'll run through that quicksand for a few more days while Benzema recedes from our grasp...

The process, then, seems to have as many steps as Zeno's paradox, if not more, and it seems we'll never catch up to Benzema. We pursue closer and closer, yet he remains just beyond our outstretched hands. The happy news is that the paradox of Achilles and the tortoise is an abstract exercise in logic that doesn't apply to reality. Here's hoping that the same holds true in the paradox of Arsenal and Coco, and we do finally close the gap and seal the deal.