Sami Khedira’s long-term injury layoff this past season hasn’t derailed his ambitions to be a part of this summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
Germany coach Joachim Loew knows the importance of the 27-year-old midfielder, both on and off the pitch. So too did Jose Mourinho, with Khedira being one of Real’s most consistent performers during the Portuguese’s final season in Spain.
But that value may be lost on Florentino Perez, with reports linking the midfielder away from the Bernabeu this summer for a knockdown £15million fee, a world away from the £40m Manchester United were rumoured to be willing to pay for the German last summer.
Perez’s Real have a history of undervaluing good players and letting them go for cut-price fees. At the start of his second term as club president, Perez sold Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar for less than they were purchased for, as well as Rafael van der Vaart the following year. During his first stint as president, Perez famously denied a pay hike for Claude Makelele and allowed him to leave for Chelsea because he didn’t see defensive contributors as an equal to those in attack.
So it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise if this £15m fee attached to Khedira holds some truth.
Arsenal are known to be in the market for a defensive-minded midfielder to bolster their ranks. They’ve already been turned down by Lars Bender, who may not be able to leave Bayer Leverkusen anyway this summer due to a long-term hamstring injury. As for Javi Martinez, despite what has been said in the media in England and Germany, it seems too far out there that Pep Guardiola would agree to a sale of the Basque midfielder. Khedira, if on the market, is therefore one of the best options for Arsenal this summer.
Some may hold reservations about the German international. It’s true that Khedira hasn’t played as an out-and-out holding midfielder while at Real Madrid. Xabi Alonso occupies the deepest role in the midfield, acting as both an anchor and playmaker. Khedira, meanwhile, plays a box-to-box role, breaking up play in his own area but getting into the mix when his side are on the attack.
Is that what Arsenal need? Wouldn’t players like Bender or Martinez be better fits for the requirements at the Emirates? Well yes and no. It shouldn’t be forgotten just how good Aaron Ramsey is defensively. In essence, the Welshman is a box-to-box player himself. In a pair with Khedira, Arsenal’s back four should be well protected. After all, Arsene Wenger has a preference for players who can carry out more than one role on the pitch.
But Khedira also came to prominence at the 2010 World Cup as a defensive midfielder in place of the injured Michael Ballack. Holding his own in front of the back line isn’t alien to the German, while little attention should be paid to his performance during the Champions League final. It wasn’t one of his best, but that should be expected. Khedira was only featured due to the suspension to Xabi Alonso.
The market is such that players who were thought of as unattainable do become available, while long-term targets remain well away from the hands of potential suitors for one reason or another. If Khedira is available to Arsenal – a high-class midfielder who can offer a lot to Wenger’s side – then it’s too good an option to pass up at the reported price, even if Khedira wasn’t thought of as a target initially or he doesn’t provide the exact qualities Arsenal are looking for.
He’d still address a need, and why shouldn’t Wenger finally show some flexibility in the market?