24 April 2014

Barça make dope-fiend's offer for Özil

Sigh. Just when the  'silly-season' moniker seems to say it all, along comes a story so preposterous as to mock the idea of mockery itself. It's a bit of a mobius-strip. In saner times, if they ever existed, we could roll our eyes at certain suggestions. We could rue the decline of proper journalism, overthrown by sensationalist headlines followed by boilerplate articles filled with bogus unnamed sources, recycled content, even fill-in-the-blank formats that would allow 'professional' journos to generate articles with no more thought than it takes to flush the loo. Those are now apparently the good old days, the halcyon ones we'll look back on fondly. Why? The story making the rounds has Barça offering to unload Mesut Özil for the sum of £25m, which is either insulting to us or degrading to them. I'm going with the latter.
If you have the stomach for it, a quick search of "ozil to barcelona" will generate 14 million results. You'll even find one entitled "Fabregas wants Ozil at Barcelona", followed by a quote in which Fàbregas  admits that he and Özil "would play well together," but that's as close as he comes to saying he wants Özil at Barcelona. See how that works? It plays on familiar fears for Gooners while also pulling at the ol' heart-strings: club's biggest player linked to move to Barcelona. Former heart-throb Fàb involved in luring him there. It's manipulative drivel designed to generate ad-clicks and revenue. Is there something in it? Probably no more than the generic "who wouldn't want to play alongside Özil?" For all we know, Fàbregas was asked a hypothetical question along the lines of "how would you feel about someday playing with Özil?" After all, there's been plenty of talk from our side of things to suggest that Fàb might make a return to the Emirates. For all we know, he was suggesting that he'd come back, not that Özil would leave. However, I digress.

We watched with dismay as very good and potentially great players left the club for brighter futures elsewhere. For many of them, it's worked out in the form of silverware they've earned or been on the bench to watch others earn. We've been a club 'in transition' for years now, and our best and brightest have regularly cut  that transition off at the knees by leaving. Now, however, we're on the verge of taking the next step forward in that transition, having held onto everyone through last summer's transfer-window and adding to it in fine fashion by signing Özil. The idea that he or any other key player is looking to leave beggars belief. As with last season, we seem ready to keep all of our key players while shopping around a few whose time at Arsenal, for various reasons, look to be over or at least close to it. In short, we're not the selling club we have been all too often in the past. Times have changed, at least in that regard.

As to Barça's apparent interest, such a low-ball offer might ordinarily be considered derisory or insulting. After all, it was a mere eight months ago that we ponied up £42m for the man. The idea that we might then sell him is absurd, plain and simple. Even when Özil suffered a dip in form, there was never any real doubt that we might consider dumping him, nor has there been any persistent fear that he might want to leave. Despite our rather unfortunate history of losing key players, there's really only one explanation left (assuming that there's something to the rumors, which is another stretch in and of itself): Barça, seeing its fortunes take a dip (on the pitch as well as off), is desperately casting about for some kind of solution. With their transfer-ban on hold pending their appeal in the Neymar transaction, it's only natural that the "_______ to Barça" stories would proliferate. This one though would lay bare just how bereft of other options Barça have. Currently sitting second in La Liga but with Real Madrid holding a game in hand, they risk their lowest league-finish since 2008. They've been dumped from the Champions League by in-league rivals Atleti and lost the Copa del Rey. This one could be their first trophy-less season since 2007. Saddled with an ageing core, their once-vaunted midfield and imperious tiki-taka style look increasingly brittle. Even Messi looks less vital and incisive, all but set to finish with less than 50 goals for the first time 2010. Heck, he might finish with less than 40. Still eye-popping if not mind-boggling, but a cut below what we've come to expect.

With factors such as these in mind, is it any wonder that Barça might be casting about, and desperately at that, for fresh attacking options? I emphasize might because, after all, transfer-rumors are what they are. If it does prove true, though, it reflects a sad state of affairs over at Camp Nou. I can almost picture Bartomeu and others scratching frantically, as junkies sometimes do, begging and pleading for one more jolt, one more hit: "C'mon, baby, just let me have one more. Please. I'll...I'll..." Well, I'll leave that last bit to your fervid imaginations. How the once-mighty have fallen. Where once their transfers marked an ambitious, even remorseless club relentlessly on the move, this latest rumor feels a bit more sordid. I'll stop short of calling them death-throes because this is Barça we're talking about. Too big to fail and all. Whatever woes they have, I'm sure they'll find a solution. The solution just won't involve Mesut Özil, that's all. Best of luck, més que un club. Happy shopping and all, but we've closed up shop.