COMMENT: There is a chasm between the opinion of the celeb fan and that of the grassroots supporter. And nothing highlights that gap better than the reaction to Arsenal being outbid by Chelsea for Mykhaylo Mudryk this week...
For the celeb Gooner it was a disaster (or was it an opportunity?). Grifting for clicks and clout, allowing Chelsea to sign the Shakhtar Donetsk attacker for €100m, it was basically end of the world-type stuff. Edu, Arsenal's technical director, didn't know what he was doing. The manager, Mikel Arteta, had failed in his pitch for the club. And with it all, Arsenal had blown their chance to solidify their position as Premier League leaders...
But as we say, when you went beyond the bluff and noise. When you dug a little deeper. The general opinion of the Arsenal support was positive. Yeah, Mudryk could've been a bonus. He could've added to an already exciting, winning team. But at €100m? After the club's fingers had already been burned by Nicolas Pepe? It was better to leave well enough alone.
Beyond the headlines - and the Blue checks that drive them. There's no supporter backlash. No great regret of Arsenal's handling of these negotiations. Indeed, the feeling is quite the opposite. Arsenal had been placed in an impossible position. Shakhtar, knowing the player wanted to join the Gunners, tried to hold them to ransom. But Edu and Arteta were having none of it. And for all the barbs aimed at Arsenal from Shakhtar's top brass, they still sold Mudryk based on best price - and not on principle.
Mudryk is a good player. A good lad. And for all intents and purposes a lost Gooner. He wanted to join Arsenal. He did everything he could, within reason, to clinch the move. The irony is, it's that good character that allowed Chelsea to slip in and buy him this week. Another player. Another management team. And that agreement with Arsenal would've been reached, one way or another. But Mudryk wanted to do right by Shakhtar, even if the sentiment wasn't reciprocated. And it also must be recalled, even after that marathon ten-hour meeting with Chelsea reps, the player's camp still sent one last message to Edu asking if he would match their rival's offer.
Is Mudryk a €100m player? No. Not at this moment. It was barely six months ago that Shakhtar had accepted a €25m offer from Brentford for the 22 year-old. Mudryk choosing to resist the Bees at the time. And while Arsenal and Chelsea battled for his signature, it should also be highlighted that none of the usual suspects bothered to join in. There was no Real Madrid offer. Nor Barcelona, Bayern Munich or PSG. They had a look. But never came as close as the negotiating table.
Yet since that Brentford offer, he's now suddenly four times the player. How? Because Darijo Srna, Shakhtar's sporting director, said so? Certainly the contrast in Mudryk's salary package suggests otherwise. The Ukrainian signing terms for less than £100,000-a-week. Again, a deal you'd say was in tune with a €25m signing. But for a €100m player? For this column, something doesn't chime right here.
Meanwhile that deal will run to 2031. Eight years. But as a long-time Juventus source told this column, these Todd Boehly driven contracts have little do to with the traditions of baseball. These long, long-term deals are all about skirting the laws of Financial Fair Play (FFP). Despite the mega spending of this new Chelsea board, they're still well within the limits of FFP - thanks to this new contract policy.
So what about Mudryk? Will he be an instant hit?
"He'll need time," was the sharp response this column received after a congratulatory text sent to a Cobham training ground source - one who has so far survived the cull. Inside the club, they're convinced. Excited. Mudryk has shown enough with Shakhtar to suggest he can be a major influence at Chelsea. But as our insider says, patience will be needed. Beyond the dynamics of moving to a foreign country, playing in a foreign competition, the step up to the Premier League and all it's demands. Mudryk hasn't played a competitive fixture since the first week of November. No-one can expect Mudryk to be parachuted in and make an instant impact. The game doesn't work like that.
Which is why, if we're talking this season's title battle, Shakhtar's tactics may've done Arsenal a favour. Edu has already made contact with Deco, now the agent of Raphinha, to ask about the Barcelona winger. Leandro Trossard's reps have offered the wantaway Brighton attacker. And the latest from Rome is there's talks underway with the family of Giallorosso star Nicolo Zaniolo.
While Barca are demanding Mudryk money for Raphinha, in Rome they're saying Zaniolo can go for €35m. Trossard is available for much less, with only six months on his contract. So there's alternatives out there. Players whom can contribute instantly. And when you have Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe in the ranks, do you really need to break the bank for a similar type of player?