A warm Wednesday welcome. Thanks for dropping by, particularly my American and Norwegian readers – you’re becoming TremendArse diehards – and as this blog is barely a month old, currently with fewer spectators than a Chelsea trophy parade, I hope you’ll continue to visit, share your thoughts via the comments and spread the word!
Shameless promotion done, I want to start today by saying that as much as Barcelona football club have irritated me, and I’m sure countless other Arsenal fans the world over, with their recurring recruitment of some of our best players ever since Marc Overmars and Emmanuel Petit opened the floodgates back in 2000, I still admire them more than any other rival club purely because for me, they regularly raise the bar on how the beautiful game is played.
In recent years, their academy has rightly been heralded as the best in the world for acting as a conveyor belt of talent schooled in the pass and move mantra, valuing footballing intelligence above all other attributes, and the results have been stunning, both for the Catalan club and the Spanish national team.
All of which is to say that when we’re linked with another one of their up and coming players, not only do I feel a sense of karma in terms of player trading, but I’m excited by the prospect of a new Cesc, a new Hector, even a new Fran Merida (who I think was on course to build a big career at Arsenal had he not decided to jump ship back to Spain just as he was on the cusp of a regular first team slot) bringing their La Masia-moulded abilities to north London, to be polished into top Premier League performers by Arsene Wenger.
And if today’s report in El Mundo Deportivo, the Spanish nationwide daily sports newspaper published in Barcelona, is to be believed, 20 year old defensive midfielder Sergi Samper may soon become the latest young star to make the switch from Catalunya to north London.
Oriol Domènech , a reporter at El Mundo Deportivo, wrote a piece about Arsenal’s interest in Samper back in September last year, explaining that Wenger had first tried to sign the player at the same time as he persuaded Hector Bellerin and Jon Toral to join the Gunners from Barcelona in the summer of 2011.
On that occasion he says, both his club and the player’s family flatly declined our ‘dizzying offer’, although Samper did take a trip to England to take a look around Arsenal’s training base at London Colney.
In the same piece, published on September 9th, Domènech then says Arsenal returned ‘a few days ago’, with Wenger this time offering to activate the 12 million euros release clause in the players contract, which runs until June 2017, and promising him an immediate place in Arsenal’s first team squad.
Again though, the proposal was turned down, as Samper had his heart set on establishing himself in the first team of the club he has been at since the age of six, with both Barcelona’s manager Luis Enrique and his assistant Joan Barbara (also Samper’s coach for the Barcelona B team until the summer of 2014) said to have assured him he would soon be a regular part of their first team set up.
The player is also believed to have felt another season in the B team would be beneficial for his development at the time, but now a year on, Domènech today reports things have changed ‘radically’.
The player is no longer convinced he’ll get much first-team playing time, after learning Enrique has told fellow academy graduate Sergi Roberto that he will play in Samper’s ‘pivot’ position, which already has Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano as established first choice selections.
Portuguese club Porto are also said to hold a firm interest in securing Samper’s services and their manager Julen Lopetegui has called the player personally reports Domènech. Yet with childhood friends and former Barcelona teammates Bellerin and Toral already at Arsenal, and given Wenger’s persistence in signing him, you’d imagine Samper would choose Arsenal over Porto given the choice.
And as highly as Barcelona are believed to rate the player, and as much as they’d like to keep him, a modest release clause, which we’re reportedly more than happy to meet, would mean they’d be powerless to stop him leaving. Arsenal’s hopes of completing a deal then, appear to rest firmly in the high-rated player’s hands.
In addition, Domènech reveals that Samper has been mulling over his future all summer, but remains undecided and also writes that his agent, Pere Guardiola, will meet with Barcelona’s Director of Football Administration, Raúl Sanllehí, and their newly appointed Technical Director Robert Fernandez, in the coming days once club elections conclude, with Samper likely to finally decide whether to stay at Barcelona, or make it third time lucky for Wenger and sign for Arsenal.
For what it’s worth, I YouTube’d Samper back in 2011 when we were first linked with his signature and at the time he looked to me a typical La Masia player – lightweight but a great passer and technically flawless.
Four years on, and having watched more recent compilations today, he seems to have developed into a robust, highly energetic cross between Xabi Alonso and Busquets, with lots of character and great leadership qualities for one so young, albeit with perhaps just a slight over indulgence in the Cruyff turn. I’m talking every time he gets the ball.
But if he’s half as good as the reviews he’s had from those who have watched him regularly over the course of his fledgling career, we could be about to ‘steal’ the best Barcelona youngster we ever have. Over to you Sergi…
Elsewhere, after yesterday’s Instagram activities by Wojciech Szczęsny, which in the end, were pretty revealing considering Roma are now widely reported to be in talks to sign him on loan, Bayern Munich star Mario Gotze has today followed Kieran Gibbs on the very same photo sharing site.
Now I know we were strongly linked with a move for Gotze when he was still at Borussia Dortmund but that was before we signed Mesut Ozil and I struggle to see where we’d play him. False nine? But if we do somehow end up buying him this summer, I’m doing away with Twitter and Newsnow and Sky Sports News HQ for the next window, because when it comes to breaking transfer news, Instagram’s clearly where it’s at.