Samir Nasri finally completed his £25m move from Arsenal to Manchester City Wednesday and you could almost hear the sigh of resignation from Arsenal fans so soon after the departure of Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona. Another young and gifted player, (yet to peak in football terms), who made their name in an Arsenal shirt has left.
Pictures showing a grinning Nasri holding his new number 19 shirt will be everywhere for a while but in this case it would be more appropriate to replace his new squad number with his reported weekly wage of '£180k'. Make no mistake, this was a match made in monetary heaven revealing the same kind of mutual attraction that has paired rich old men with young beautiful women throughout the ages. However, I suspect that Arsenal could have avoided these recent departures if Nasri was born in Manchester and not Marseilles and Fabregas in Barnet not Barcelona.
I'm not going to criticise any player for maximising his earnings but there is an important lesson to be learned from this and other recent high profile Premiership transfers. Arsene Wenger ignored English talent for far too long and now when he finally has some English talent to integrate into his side his most valuable foreign players can't jump ship fast enough.
Over the long term, nurturing young foreign talent will rarely be as profitable as securing homegrown superstars for top Premiership clubs. Nasri & Fabregas were Arsenal's most important players (apologies to the perpetually injured genius gifted Robin van Persie) and both have been sold against the will of the Wenger and the Arsenal fans. The £55m in transfer fees Arsenal received cannot hope to replace them like-for-like but the key focus here isn't revenue profit on a balance sheet, its profit on the pitch and winning trophies. This summer Arsenal are significantly richer but further than ever from all-important silverware.
Wenger revolutionised Arsenal in 1996 building some great sides but there have been two significant changes to the modern game that have affected all Premiership teams. Firstly most academies are filled with foreign teens (a trend Wenger continues to pioneer), the second is the power shift from top managers to top players. The former diminishes any chance of unearthing British talent while the latter erodes a manager's ability to coerce unsettled players to sign and see out contracts. In past years buying British was never a priority for Wenger and this summer Arsenal paid a price for that policy. When Nasri and Fabregas wanted to leave they are able to force through a transfer.
In recent years John Terry, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney have all expressed a desire to leave their clubs. Each of these players are marquee performers for elite Premiership teams in terms of influence on the pitch and revenue generation off it. The fact that all three decided to stay at their clubs is down to one thing: they were English and their connections to their clubs ran deeper than better prospects and higher wages on offer elsewhere.
Sir Alex Ferguson proved the value of having a core of British players in his all-conquering Manchester United sides while Kenny Dalglish has spend around £77m on four English players since becoming Liverpool FC manager last year. Chelsea's top players have always included a strong UK contingent while Spurs routinely field more English players that any other top-six Premiership side. Only Manchester City follows Wenger's lead with a merry-go-round of expensive foreign imports coming and going.
Success in football often comes with continuity and top British players stay at top Premiership clubs much longer than their foreign counterparts giving managers more time to create successful teams. Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Steven Gerrard, John Terry and Ryan Giggs are a few who have played out glittering careers with a single club but Cristiano Ronaldo, Fernando Torres, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri , Carlos Tevez and Luka Modric are football nomads available to the highest bidder once they fancy a change of scenery.
Sometimes buying British is best!
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