A wearied Arsene Wenger conceded defeat to the power of Manchester City’s finances and Stan Kroenke’s prerogative to drive Arsenal’s transfer policy yesterday as Samir Nasri was allowed to leave the club for a direct rival.
The France midfielder, who pre-agreed terms with Manchester City back in July, will sign for his new club today subject to a medical.
With Nasri leaving Arsenal a little over a week after Cesc Fabregas was granted a transfer to Barcelona, Wenger enters this evening’s critical Champions League qualifying tie at Udinese minus last season’s two most creative players.
His team holds a delicate 1-0 advantage over the Serie A side for a game that could be worth as much as the €25 million (Dh132m) Kroenke, the new Arsenal owner, was asking for Nasri.
Wenger is being pushed by both the board and supporters to invest the revenue from the two sales in high-profile signings after having concentrated the majority of his recruitment efforts on teenagers so far this summer.
There has been little coherent strategy, however, to Arsenal’s assessments of potential recruits. Bolton Wanderer’s Gary Cahill and Blackburn Rovers’ Christopher Samba are among the Premier League centre backs assessed by Wenger, but his only offer to date has been a £10m (Dh60.6m) bid for Phil Jagielka, who is valued by Everton at twice that sum.
Marseille were bemused by an attempt to take their highly regarded Argentina midfielder, Lucho Gonzalez, on loan, Wenger telling the French club that buying the 30 year old would contravene the club’s recruitment policy.
Prominent among the other players considered by Wenger are the Souchaux playmaker Marvin Martin, considered by Laurent Blanc, the France coach, as a potential successor to Nasri in the national team, Rennes’ dynamic central midfielder Yann M’Vila, and Lille attacker Eden Hazard.
Reaching the group stages of the Champions League will aid Arsenal’s approaches.
With Nasri entering the final year of his contract and threatening to leave on a free transfer in 12 months time, Kroenke dictated that the club should cash in on the player’s residual value.
Earlier this year, Arsenal believed they were in a position to announce a contract extension on improved terms, only for Nasri’s camp to stall on the new deal.
The Frenchman’s agents, Alain Migliaccio and Jean-Paul Bernes, then offered their client around Europe’s elite clubs, drawing particular interest from Manchester United and City.
Though Nasri’s preference has been to join United, they were not prepared to meet the demands of Miglicaccio and Bernes for a deal that would have put him among the top earners at Old Trafford. A provisional agreement on wages was reached with City instead.
A dispute over the £3m upfront commission Migliaccio and Bernes were asking on the transfer delayed its completion last week with Roberto Mancini, the City manager, warning his club would pull out if Nasri cup-tied himself by playing against Udinese.
At the same time, Nasri was asking if a move to United could be resurrected, but the other Manchester club were no longer interested in a player who had earlier declined the chance to join them.
Wenger, meanwhile, was left to explain the joint departure of Nasri and Fabregas having entered Arsenal’s pre-season by declaring that losing both would be “the worst situation ... you cannot convince people you are ambitious after that”.
His argument yesterday was the situation had been out of his control. “The summer was very difficultbecause we had Cesc Fabregas and Nasri on permanent transfer negotiations, and that is draining in the end,” Wenger said.
“We lost two great players, and that’s a sad side of the story, but at some stage, it has to be over, because you want to focus on the future.
“You cannot think only about one game in the season and the decision had a logic but it is, as well, a business interest. But, overall, what you want is that you have players who do not play and think they go the next morning. It’s not ideal as well. So you want players who are committed to the long-term, to defend our chances. We wanted to sort all these cases out early after the summer, but it wasn’t possible. And the pace is not only dictated by us, unfortunately.”