Bukayo Saka is absolutely not going anywhere! Is he?


Arsenal through and through but …

(T)here we go.
Back-off, fellas, Bukayo Saka is not for sale.

True, at least for the time being. There will be a moment when he will be, whether we want it or not.

Bukayo Saka is one of the most promising youngsters in Europe and has already shown that he is able to carry the whole team, despite having just turned 20, so naturally no one wants to see him gone.

The midfielder will become a staple of the team and one of the driving forces on the pitch and in the dressing room, winning it all and staying at the Arsenal for life, like many other youngsters before him: Cesc Fàbregas, Robin van Persie, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Héctor Bellerín, Gaël Clichy, Samir Nasri…oh, right.

The dream combi that left

There’s the ideal world and then there’s that cynical, barbaric and ruthless place that everyone calls the real world, where professional footballers (!) have the ardour to put their professional (!) ambitions ahead of loyalty and then leave a Club that they don’t feel is able to satisfy their ambitions, be they sporting or purely financial. It hurts but that’s how it is, it’s in the natural order of things.

The day might come when Bukayo Saka will drift away from the Arsenal and will seek a new challenge and the Club will not be able to do anything to keep him. They may be able to postpone the inevitable, as Arsène Wenger did with Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry and Cesc Fàbregas, but they will not be able to stop him from leaving.

The only thing Arsenal will be able to control is how much money they will squeeze from the Club that wants to buy Bukayo Saka and how reinvest that money to build an even stronger team.
If we do things right, we might be able to say “Take that, Bukayo!” (but we will never do so, because it’s impossible to despise Saka)

For years we have been the best Club when it came to record big margins between purchases and resales, with countless masterstrokes from David Dein and Arsène Wenger. I was devastated to see Marc Overmars leave but Robert Pirès made me forget him in no time; I was (kind of) sad to see Alex Hleb go but Samir Nasri’s debut goal consoled me immediately, and so on.

Soon forgot Overmars

The most striking example of all, however, was the sale of Nicolas Anelka to Real Madrid, who put on the table over 20 millions for a player who, three years earlier, had arrived for pennies. Despite his temper and his perennial sulking, at the time Nicolas Anelka was one of the most lethal strikers in Europe, a world-class player in the making, and Arsène Wenger was selling him to Real Madrid – why?
Over the years I had three answers to this question: to replace him with the best striker we have ever seen, a certain Thierry Henry, to allocate a large part of the funds to build a state-of-the-art training centre and to maximise the return on the investment made at the time, when Le Prof had snatched Nicolas Anelka from Paris Saint-Germain. Nicolas Anelka had decided to leave and the only sensible thing to do was to negotiate the best possible price. The rest of the French striker’s career proved that Arsène was right and he played his hand quite well.

Soon forgotten

It comes a time when your product has reached the highest possible value and at that point you have to make a decision: sell or speculate again, with the risk of seeing the value of the product plummet.
For footballers it works in the same way and, since a few years, we are no longer able to move quickly when it is time to take the money and run.

Arsène Wenger did this very well for many years, with Marc Overmars, Emmanuel Petit and many others, then everything changed. Suddenly, we forgot how to do it, with terrible consequences: we hesitated with Alexis Sánchez and Mesut Özil, we were too romantic with Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, we were overly hopeful that some youngsters would really explode, only to lose money and competitiveness.

Today is not the right time to sell Bukayo Saka but we will have to be very careful to seize the right opportunity or we will have learned nothing from the past. When offers come in like the one from Barcelona to Liverpool for Coutinho, or from Real Madrid to Tottenham for Bale or similar, you have to sell.
No other option is sensible or rational. It will hurt, it will anger, it will upset but deep down it’s the correct one – for everyone.

A very short window of opportunity will open and at that point we have to act. Without romanticism, without sentimentality.

Players come and go, even those we would never want to see leaving, even those who’ve been around since they were kids.
Some of them left as heroes after being great servants for the Club; some others left as traitors; some of them were never forgotten; some others were quickly forgotten; some overstayed their welcome; others should have never left. Some were proved right to leave; some still regret to have pushed for a move.

By the time Bukayo Saka might decide to leave, he could be a Patrick Vieira or a Samir Nasri, a Marc Overmars or a Mesut Özil. Perhaps he will never leave while and we wished he did.


Let’s pray the day is far away

I only hope that, if he leaves, we could take some positivity from the journey and tell ourselves that it was for the best: for him and for us.
Almost every player we saw leaving did it on his terms, at his convenience, while the Club’s interests were completely ignored. This has to change.

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2 Responses to Bukayo Saka is absolutely not going anywhere! Is he?

  1. gregory edgley September 16, 2021 at 11:16 pm #

    Found you after reading Mike’s column on le grove. Good piece, some of those sales hurt but within 6 months you knew it was the right one. Still sad to hear hleb regrets leaving, boy he had twinkle toes

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