Footballers are a lot like cars. Some, such as Per Mertesacker, are like Range Rovers; beastly, dissonant and usually covered in mud, but not without their uses. Others, such as Alexis Sanchez, are like convertible sports cars; exciting, dangerous and expensive, but inevitably dependent on how fast they can go. And a few, such as Mesut Ozil, are like Rolls Royces – classy, timeless and always going at their own pace, yet somehow not quite as exhilarating as their reputation would suggest.
Regardless or type or model, however, every footballer and every automobile has one thing in common – depreciation. If you’re a smart man, you sell your car just before its value plummets, the insurance goes up and the doors start falling off. If you’re a smart manager, you sell your players whilst they’ve still got enough years left on their contract to pull a few bluffs around the negotiating table, and preferably before their leg joints start grinding into dust.
Fail to do so and you end up with either a metal or fleshy heap that can’t go a mile without breaking down. All of a sudden, nobody wants to buy them and you have to sell for scrap – leaving you short on finance for a better model.
At which point, I turn your attentions to Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere, a player Manchester City want and Arsene Wenger is determined to keep. This weekend alone, we’ve had reports of the Gunners gaffer issuing a hands-off warning – straight out of the Football Manager textbook – to the Premier League champions and rumours of a new contract in the offing to nullify their interest.
But there’s probably never been a better time to sell Wilshere than right now. He’s got three years remaining on his current deal and comes with a virtual guarantee of England involvement whilst Roy Hodgson’s in charge. The Gunners are even lucky enough to have found an eccentric buyer desperate to add a young, British model to his otherwise aged and foreign collection, seemingly apathetic towards the potential cost.
And right now, we don’t know what kind of car Wilshere will become. At times he’s like a BMW, dynamic, elegant and efficient. On other occasions he’s a Fiat Punto; small, ordinary and unspectacular, whining about all the other cars muscling past him at the traffic lights.
We do know, however, that for a 23 year-old, Wilshere’s been patched up and repaired too many times already – particularly at the ankles. His most recent sideline stint makes it nine ankle injuries since 2009, keeping him out of action for an incredible 112 weeks and resulting in him making only 95 Premier League appearances in six years. That’s just 16 per season; low mileage, but not in a good way.
Wenger sees him as the next Bugatti Veyron, but that’s dependent on him passing an MOT. And whilst the England international’s spent the last four months at the garage getting his ankles taped up, Arsenal have gone on to record their strongest Premier League campaign for years – now almost certain to clinch third or second spot after Manchester City’s spectacular capitulation. With Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin proving so effective as a midfield trio, would Wilshere even make Arsenal’s starting Xi right now?
It makes you wonder whether the midfielder is needed at all, or if he’s just one for the collection – a Wenger snazster 1.2, whose chavy spoiler and yellow paint job overcompensates for rusty wheel arches and a tepid engine.
Only time well tell whether he’s Veyron or Volvo. But Manchester City are apparently offering £30million for a player with as much potential to regress into an old banger as he does win the 2016 Car of the Year. It’s not often the risk and reward of keeping a player outweighs that of selling to a divisional rival, but in my opinion this is certainly one of those rare occasions.
Take the money and run Arsene. Buy a better model.