This is a rant, and a step away from how I usually talk on this site, so take it with a grain of salt
I have the utmost respect for Arsene Wenger. Guys like him are legends – you end of talking about them for decades afterwards.
But there are times that we forget that managers are human – that they can big mistakes.
Alex Ferguson, one of the most successful managers in English football, in the summer of 2005, made a grave mistake.
There was some speculation surrounding Ruud van Nistelrooy and a price of 20-25m was being talked about. I remember telling Hasan then that SAF would not sell now, but that he should, to cash in on RVN because he had peaked and while he’d still be good, he won’t command the same transfer value again. There was also talk of RVN asking to move on but SAF refusing the move – not sure how much truth there is in that.
Don’t get me wrong – I still want RVN back at Old Trafford – but in terms of transfer strategy, if SAF was ever going to sell Ruud, summer 2005 was the time. Of course, he didn’t, and United gave him away to Real Madrid for 10-11m – a loss of at least 10m from the previous season.
Business and idealism are different – in ideal conditions Beckham and RVN would still be at Manchester United. The reality is that both were kicked out at a cut price.
Ideally, Vieira and Henry and Pires would have wanted to finish their careers with Arsenal. The reality is that Arsenal lost money on Vieira, let Pires go on a free and will lose money on Henry (yes, lose money on Vieira and Henry, because if both had been sold an year earlier Arsenal would have received an additional 10M+ for each of them).
Last summer, Thierry Henry was the toast of Europe and Barcelona were after him like crazy. He would have commanded a fee of at least 30m, and it was time to sell. TH was tempted but Arsenal refused, Arsene begged him to stay and Henry, in an emotional fit, stayed.
And today we read – from the Times and from ANR and Arseblog, that Henry is odds on to go to Barcelona for a fee of 15-20m.
If Wenger can squeeze 20m out of Barcelona, he will make Arsenal fans very happy.
What a turnaround from last summer, when everyone was begging him to stay. The media has played their role, so have Barcelona and so has Henry.
And this isn’t the first time Wenger or Arsenal have made this mistake – Vieira to Madrid in 2004 would have netted the club another 20-30m, but they begged again and another season went by with the player not fully focused on his game.
Superstars tend to need new challenges – it’s nothing personal, but very few big names can stay at the same club for a long period of time. Ballack, IMO, didnt go to Chelsea for the money – he went for the challenge. Ditto for Sheva. Ditto for Vieira leaving Arsenal, and Henry poised to.
There is a time to hold on to your star players – when they are young and have their best years ahead of them.
But when they have peaked – like Vieira did for Arsenal in 2004 and Henry did for Arsenal in 2006 – it’s time to say goodbye.
Thing is, history and fans will blame the players, when it’s the club and the manager who’ve cost the club in transfer fees and wasted seasons.
Oh, and before you want to crucify me, go back to last summer and read the second article I wrote on soccerlens.com – about why Henry should have been sold last summer.