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Transfer Target: Adrián López
As we approach one of, if not the most important January transfer windows of Arsenal’s recent history, expectedly there are a host of players that are rumoured to be of interest to the club. As we have found out in the past however, some transfer rumours, no matter how convincing they seem, actually turn out to be nothing but guess work by the media as a result of astoundingly shoddy and lazy investigative research by some journalists. Either that, or some rumours even turn out to be elaborate publicity stunts by football agents in order to attract more interest in their respective clients.
A prime example of one of a move who almost everyone was utterly persuaded by was that of M’Villa last summer. The deal was reported as “all but done” and “99% complete”, when in actual fact, Arsenal’s interest in the player seemed to be of a rather preliminary level. With this in mind, when I read papers and online articles linking us with certain players, I always do so, as we all should, with a pinch of salt. Of course there’s always some widely reported transfer rumours which are more believable than others (e.g. Henry on loan and Wilfried Zaha), but I find that a lot of the time that actual transfer targets are less reported or not reported at all until interest becomes an official approach.
This was true with Santi Cazorla, and I have a sneaking feeling that it may be the case with another Spanish player: Adrián López. Yes, this rumour has been reported a fair amount, but nowhere near as much as another striker in the shape of Klaas Jan Huntelaar, and yet I believe the Spaniard’s arrival is more likely, more fitting and more needed. Let me explain why…
Let me begin by introducing the player in question, as so many that I have spoken to via Twitter seem to be short on knowledge concerning the striker. Adrián López Álvarez or ‘Adrián’ as he is better known, is a 24 year old Spanish attacker who plays for Athletico Madrid. He actually started his career at the same club as Santi Cazorla and Juan Mata did, you know the one that thousands of Arsenal fans have shares in… That’s it, Real Oviedo. Despite now playing at the very top level of Spanish football for a club competing with the likes of their city rivals, Real Madrid and the untouchable Barcelona, Adrián lives in one of the biggest shadows of contemporary world football, that of Radamel Falcao. The Columbian’s emphatic form has mean’t that Adrián hasn’t started, or even played, many games at all this season. Thus his confidence has dropped, as have his goalscoring statistics. Last season (2011/12) he scored 19 goals in all competitions (55 apps). However, so far this time round he’s only managed to score 1 (13 apps).
Adrián is the perfect example of why stats shouldn’t be so heavily relied upon in order to pass judgement on a player, because he’s fantastic. He has pace, skill, excellent movement on and off the ball as well as being stronger than he looks, at the rather average height of 5 ft 11 in. His attributes make him a versatile attacker, capable of playing anywhere from CF, R/LW and even the No.10 role. It’s this adaptiveness which makes me want him more than any other striker we have been linked with pre-January. He can help create and further what would be an ideally interchangeable front 3/4, thus increasing the options that creative midfield technicians, such as Jack, Santi and Rosicky have to choose from. My only worry would be his lack of goalscoring form lately, combined with the pressures of playing for a club like Arsenal. Although, I think that he would find form easier by working along side Giroud, who beyond providing knock-downs for the Spaniard, could support him, having been in that difficult position earlier on this season. Ultimately Adrián is, in my eyes at least, the perfect tactical weapon to add to our attacking armoury.
Happy Hunting Grounds
I hate to bring your attention to the fact that Europe is going through one of the worst financial meltdowns in history, but it is. Alas! Don’t be glum, chum, as that’s good news for Arsenal in the transfer market. As a result of Spain being one of the nations that has been worst-hit by the recession, all it’s businesses, no matter how big, are struggling, which includes football clubs. Arsène Wenger is very interested in economics, in fact he is so interested that, when I visited the Directors Box vs West Brom, he was conversing with someone about the European financial crisis a mere fifteen minutes before kick-off! As we know, he also loves a bargain and getting the best value for money when it comes to purchasing players. With his economically tuned nose he sniffed out a possibility to do just that in Spain last summer. Santi Cazorla was bought for an estimated £12 million, which his ex-manager at Malaga, Manuel Pellegrini, described as “an unthinkable gift”. But it seems that it was a gift that Malaga just had to present, given their financial situation at the time of selling. Spain has now presented itself as an ideal market to spend in, as Wenger and Gazidis have identified and rightly pointed out this season.
“… It is maybe a good period to sign players because the clubs are in trouble financially and you can make bargains there.” – Arsène Wenger on the Spanish market.
This leads me to think that any interest in a player in the La Liga, will be one that Arsenal may wish to pursue with more vigour than possible targets in other leagues. Therefore, the Adrián López rumours seem not only more legitimate, but also more likely for Arsenal to follow through on. Adrián currently has an €18 million (£14.6 million) release clause, which by Arsenal standards is not that cheap. You may be thinking, ‘hang on a minute, I thought Spain was good for bargains?!’ Well, firstly, we will probably be able to cut that down by a couple of million in negotiations. Secondly, his price has the potential to be a lot higher very soon.
Contract Talk: Help? Or Hindrance?
That last point leads me smoothly on to the reason why it could be a not-so-smooth transfer process. It is reported in Spain that, due to their recent success, Athletico Madrid (Adrián’s club) have re-opened contract negotiations with the player and are trying to tie him down to a renewed deal, especially with their main striker, Falcao expected to be in high-demand come January. Adrián also recently changed agents, his new one being Jorge Mendes (clients include: Cristiano Ronaldo, Radamel Falcao, Angel Di Maria, and various other stars). I briefly spoke to Leyla Hamed (@leylahamed on twitter), who is a journalism student in Madrid writing for La Liga News and in her own twitter bio states she has “a non-secret love for Arsenal”. Her comments on the situation were as follows:
“[The move] looks unlikely if the rumours about him renewing his contract are true. [Although it] could be his people talking too, to make teams like Arsenal hurry up and make a move for him.” – Leyla Hamed
So it seems that if Adrián were to sign a new deal, it would become almost impossible to prize him away from Athletico, especially with the increased buy-out clause that would come hand-in-hand with a renewed contract. However, I believe that Adrián is Athletico’s Theo Walcott, so to speak, and his people may be angling for a more lucrative move away from the club. This is understandable given the poor amount of game-time that he has under his belt this season, and like Leyla says, it may be a tactical ploy (a classic one at that) by his agency to find him a new club sooner rather than later, in a “catch me while you can” sort of way.
I very much hope that we manage to seal a deal for the Spaniard, as I feel he will offer us a lot more than a simple, one dimensional out-and-out striker ever could do, with regards to our style of play. It is also my belief that this transfer is more viable given the current economic situation in Spain and the subsequent attractiveness of the Spanish market to football managers all across Europe. Adrián is much more of a ‘Wenger signing’ in terms of his strongest attributes and intelligence on the pitch, compared to the likes of Huntelaar, who I personally don’t think we are really interested in at all. Despite Athletico’s threat of a new contract being thrashed out between the two parties in the coming month, I retain the view that Arsenal, if they want him enough, could snap Adrián up before he puts pen to paper over there. Come the 8th of January, Adrián will be turning 25. What better birthday present to give him than the chance to play for The Arsenal?