The Simple Things About Transfers That Football Pundits Fail to Understand (Odegaard)

The Simple Thing It Seems Football Pundits Fail to Understand by UmairMirxa

Gary Lineker, speaking after the Arsenal vs Fulham match, expressed his surprise at Real Madrid’s sale of Martin Odegaard to Arsenal in the wake of the young Norwegian’s excellent performance.

He was struggling to understand why Madrid sold a player of Odegaard’s age and obvious talent for 30-odd million to Arsenal when their midfielders, Kroos (32) and Modric (36), will need to be replaced soon enough.

It is a sentiment I have heard expressed from football pundits, former players, and fans–even other managers and current players–quite often, especially in recent years … and their surprise always leaves me baffled.

Imagine the headlines and comments, from Lineker himself among others, had Odegaard failed at Arsenal.

Certainly, people would call for Arteta to be sacked. Real Madrid would be lauded – cheating Arsenal out of 30 million for an under-performing player whose youth and talents would be quickly forgotten. Arsenal, and their ‘nonsensical’ transfer strategy, would be immediately, widely, and incessantly condemned.

For months, Paul Merson took great joy in crucifying Mikel Arteta, and calling for his head, when Aubameyang went on a goalscoring spree for Barcelona immediately after Arsenal allowed him to leave on a free transfer. But what if he had failed to score?

The transfer could easily have gone the way of Ozil, whose career has swan-dived off a steep cliff into a pool of lava riddled with metal stakes. I wonder what Merson might have said instead had Aubameyang been to Barcelona what Sanchez was to Man Utd.

Note: Merson has since changed his tune about Arteta, for now, as Arsenal sit top of the table with 4/4 wins.

Other people, pundits and fans alike, have expressed their incredulity at Man City and Guardiola allowing the likes of Jesus, Zinchenko, and Sterling to join their PL rivals … and there are, of course, countless other examples of such instances.

Well do I remember people calling Arteta an idiot when he sold Willock to Newcastle.

And yet …

The simple thing I feel they fail to understand is talent/quality alone is not enough to make certain any given player will be successful at their club.

Think of Bale at Madrid during the latter years. He spent how many seasons warming the bench, and under three different managers, at least. Imagine if he’d left, and played to his full, devastating potential elsewhere? He certainly had the quality, the talent, and the experience–not to mention a footballing CV few others could match–to have his pick of destinations. Would it not have been a much better decision?

Think of Sanchez, Pogba, and Di Maria at Man Utd. Lukaku at Chelsea and Man Utd, and Chelsea again. Torres, Shevchenko, Kepa, and Werner at Chelsea. Pepe at Arsenal. Jovic and Hazard at Madrid. Griezmann, Coutinho, and Ibrahimovic at Barcelona.

Remember too, both Salah and De Bruyne were once Chelsea players.

No, sometimes a player will fail miserably at one club–or not perform to their potential having once been excellent–and there are myriad reasons for it.

They might struggle with the language/culture in a new league/country. Or they fail to adapt to their manager’s tactics. They might not enjoy playing in certain positions or feel they deserve larger salaries. Perhaps, they are not getting enough minutes on the pitch, or they feel the club does not match their ambition. Or their agent might be messing with their heads in the hopes of earning large from the next transfer. They might not get along with team-mates or the new manager. It could be they stopped enjoying their trade or perhaps an injury or personal tragedy derailed their progress. Or maybe they are simply ill-disciplined and unruly (think Balotelli) and perform only in short bursts–enough to convince the next club to sign them.

Letting them move on does not make the manager an idiot or the club at large mistaken in their decision.

Consider Ronaldo at Man Utd right now. His attitude, and attitude alone, has wreaked havoc at the club. Do you keep him, simply because he has been one of the two greatest players to ever grace the beautiful game? Or do you let him go because it’s better for everyone involved?

For, wherever he goes next, if he goes, he will certainly deliver performances–goals, assists, and results.

Does it then make Ten Hag an idiot? Will it be a huge mistake by the Man Utd hierarchy?

Mikel Arteta said recently, in an interview about Nicolas Pepe, how wherever he has been in his career as a player/coach/manager, the people at those clubs have always made transfer decisions in the firm belief those decisions were in the club’s best interests.

It is why he allowed Pepe to sign on loan for Nice: it was in both the player’s and the club’s best interests.

It is why Real Madrid sold Odegaard to Arsenal. Why Man City sold Jesus and Zinchenko.

Sometimes, it is quite simply not the right fit … or it is a match made in heaven, as they say.

Thierry Henry might never have been the player he was if he had not played for Arsenal under Arsene Wenger.

Odegaard at Arsenal works right now because the player has found the right club and the right manager, and it allows him to flourish. He has found something he did not have at Real Madrid.

Had he signed for Emery, perhaps even Wenger, then maybe it would have ended in disaster. Or a different manager in his time at Madrid could have helped him become legend, and he might never have played for Arsenal.

There are hundreds of other examples I could quote, and I have never even seen the inside of a professional football stadium. And thus, I fail to understand why football pundits who should know this better than I do, seem perpetually baffled by the most simple of things.

For whatever reason, sometimes it just does not work.

Far better for both club and player to move on, and each find their own path to success. To try and force the issue is folly, as we have seen countless times at nearly every big club.

Umair Mirxa

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  1. That photo should be in a caption competition.

    “We’re looking for someone for our movie to play the part of the village idiot, any ideas?”.

  2. A pleasure to read an article written by someone with command of the English language. Even the correct usage of the word “myriad”, I’m impressed!

    It’s strange that the example of Bale should come up about an hour after I just used him as an example of exactly the same sentiment in a comment on an other article.

    As I mentioned in that comment, I often wonder why players and managers have to leave something that works for something may not work – the constant exodus over to RM and Barc being the major example. It’s usually greed and/or the desire to be seen as playing at a “top club”, winning trophies. That’s shallow, superficial thinking to my mind – I give more credit to Ranieri winning the PL with Leicester than anyone winning it with some country’s funding in their back pocket.

    If you find somewhere that makes you happy – stay. There’s a lot to be said to being a big fish in a (supposedly) small pond.

    The reason the pundits don’t “get it” is, I believe, that they are all ex-players who didn’t get it when they were playing and haven’t got any wiser since they retired.

  3. You’re right about the clubs’ best interests. Aside from that, some players aren’t suited to their managers’ systems and needs a fresh start to remotivate themselves

    Real Madrid sold Odegaard once they had successfully tapped into the younger, faster and more athletic version of him in Camavinga

    As for Pepe, Arteta said he had to honest to the fringe/ squad-rotation players about their limited opportunities and Pepe reduced his salary to get more playing time at Nice

  4. Wow that was explosive umair*

    One of the best indept and we’ll written article.

    Just like in life, our shine is geographical, some folks are needed in instabul while they are wasting their life in helsinki, not until you leave your comfort zone of brussel for Lisbon , only then will you glow.

    Everyone is needed somewhere, a unique puzzle to fill in, until that location or puzzle is filled , struggle will be visible.

  5. These pundit really makes me laugh. Imagine one of them saying Mikel Arteta is over celebrating against fulham. Chelsea celebrated against liecester city, man united celebrate against soton, spurs celebrated against wolves last week. Why only Arsenal.

  6. OT:

    Man Utd agree £80m deal for Anthony. Trying to buy their way out of trouble again.

    Wolves – Boly was selected for the match day squad but didn’t show up and didn’t contact the manager, who said he believes the guy is trying to force a move. We’re not the only club with these problems!

  7. Well written. In total agreement.
    As for celebrating a win, so what? All teams celebrate, why is it even noteworthy? The likes Andy Grey or Gray are numb nutted Arsenal haters, with hidden agendas.
    Football is about passion.
    We are obviously a big club and a threat to other teams if the likes of morons such as Neville, Carra, Owen, Linniker,
    Feel the need to continuously comment on us… especially putting the boot in when we are down. Unfortunately younger readers who do not know these tossers think of them as experts…

  8. But Arsenal must make a serious attempt to sign three players before the transfer window slam shut.

    We must get creative where money falls short.
    What’s happening to the loan process, we can swap playes too with a few quid involved.
    This may call for a little thinking out of the box, it maybe a little difficult doing some of those business in the league not help by our current position in the table.

    Juventus has an abundance of players tripping over one another, so too Real Madrid we need to explore all alternatives,

    We must not be caught with our pants down this season again with a razor’s thin squad,

  9. There are many pundits who are simply the same as the average fan. In some cases they simply like to reflect the views of fans. There are a limited number who do a proper analysis of games. There are even fewer who can analyse the quality of a player and assess whether the player is a good fit for a team.

  10. I just hope Arteta is not making the same mistake Wenger did over time, when we had a good opportunity to compete and he stubbornly failed to sign a much needed DM, a Partey long term injury could be disastrous to our campaign, lets hope they fix this.

  11. Excellent article, thank you.
    Along the lines of “David” above, I think it is fairly obvious many pundits may have been great players, but their ability to do a proper analysis is not there.

  12. Great article as observed by so many and so well written too.
    Taking the Bale situation, wasn’t he his own worst enemy in the end? Massive salary but is that the be all and end all when he was already hugely wealthy?
    I do believe there are are more knowledgeable pundits and those who are happy to just blab tosh. Some pundits have been excellent players but terrible managers. Arteta has his plan and hence he believes he is doing the right thing

  13. There are so many unknows in football and you highlight them well. We all want 1 + 1 to make two, but in football there are so many variables that certainty is impossible. Nevertheless without a stronger squad, without another couple of quality signings, we can be fairly certain, that as injuries and fatigue, and over playing begin to take their toll, we will need a bigger/better squad. We must sign before the window closes or the jigsaw will be incomplete and we will probably fall away as the season progresses.

  14. Absolute cracker of an article, loved every bit of it.
    You must be a professional writer!
    Keep writing mate 👍🏻

  15. Superb article. Well written and structured with excellent examples and although with myself you are preaching to the converted, I can think of several other people who would benefit from reading it! I appreciate I’m sounding like an English teacher, but it was a pretty faultless piece and a pleasure to read.
    Well done Amair – I keenly await your future contributions.

  16. An article of rare quality froim a fan who is nplainly very much more clued up than many are on here about how transfers work or do not work out

    What this article reaffirms for me,is my long held view that a few results, whether for pro or con, can swiftly sway millions of fans either way, as appropriate.

    We have now won four in arow ; even a blind person can see we are clearly a far better team now than afew months ago and so the swayingof fans is all one way.

    If. which I DO NOT predict, we have a bad run, just watch all the fans swiftly taking a very different tack about MA.


  17. I’ve just read Ross Barkley has been released on a free transfer from Chelsea. That might be one of those where the player and club didn’t fit. Not a bad shout for a free as long his wage demand was reasonable. Would add to the squad depth. At 28 he could do a job for the next 4 years, you don’t become a bad player over night unless his attitude isn’t right

  18. I hope we have one or a couple of nice surprises in the next couple of days

    If not, we still have a good team and a had a good transfer window

    I feel if we had a backup to Partey (I’m not sold on elneny) and a winger we would make the top 4 and dare I say have a shot at winning the PL

    But the focus should be making the top 4 which I’m really positive about that we have a great chance

  19. Why must we sign?
    I for one though that our academy May come in and give us a healthy replacement/ complement our first 11

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