I’ve been getting frustrated with the coverage of the Samir Nasri contract situation over the last week or so, particularly around the vitriol directed at him for his stance in negotiating his new contract and/or move to another club. I don’t doubt for a second that he has been somewhat ruthless in his approach, but I’ve not seen anything that he’s said or done that has left me thinking ‘ooo, that’s a bit off‘.
Let me explain, first by looking at the facts.
Nasri has one year left on his contract, and at 24, is now debating where to spend the prime of his career, a massive decision in any walk of life. He also knows that if he decides not to stay, he stands to earn a fortune when his current deal expires. Typically, when a player is signed on a free transfer, part of his real transfer value is included in his wages, spread over the term of the contract, substantially increasing the weekly salary – clubs can do that because the player retains value, and it is clearly in the best interest of the player, from a purely financial point of view.
In this instance, it appears Nasri has looked at potential earnings in a year’s time, and asked Arsenal to match (or very nearly match) that level to convince him to stay. This has angered many, since it appears to inflate his salary above his merit, but the reasoning is sound, when you look at it from a purely business point of view. It is a bit like owning shares – if your stock is worth £14k now but you know without doubt it’ll be £20m in a year, you are going to turn down offers of £15m, asking the potential buyers for more. Nasri knows how much he could be earning, and he is giving Arsenal the opportunity to match that.
Is he holding the club to ransom? In a way, yes. But he isn’t asking for that level of salary without logic, and probably feels quite justified in his request. I’m not saying for a moment that his performances merit the wage hike, and as a result they will surely be rejected, but that doesn’t make him wrong for asking.
Plenty of people who are criticising him would change jobs in an instant if a far greater salary was offered, and while I understand that the scale of money is very different, there is a still a potentially vast salary gap at stake here. It matters.
And then there is the other factor in the negotiations – ambition. I know many feel that Nasri’s situation is entirely about money, not trophies or club intent, but in truth the two are inextricably linked. Put it this way – if Nasri were to sign on at Arsenal for another five years, on our terms (which, as we’ve established, is considerably less than he could be earning elsewhere), then he needs a really good reason to do so, and that reason is the club giving him the opportunity to win trophies. Yes, Nasri’s form was poor in the second half of the season, but that can happen to anyone – I’m not going to hold that against him any more than I’m going to hold it against Wilshere when he has his inevitable dip – it feels as if we’re using Nasri’s summer actions to view his season (both halves of it) in a more critical light, which strikes me as churlish. Overall, he was good, even though he dipped so badly.
The other reason a player would be happy to stay on lower wages is loyalty, and love for Arsenal. And that is where I think the majority of us are sorely misguided, or at least blinded by our own unwavering support for the club. Nasri is not an Arsenal fan. He grew up at Marseille, his hometown club, and nothing will match up to that. Does he have affection for Arsenal? Probably – three years is likely to do that, but it isn’t anything he cannot replicate somewhere else.
I feel sometimes that we, as fans, miss this point entirely. As Arsenal fans, we cannot understand why anyone would leave the club, but these players are not fans, and even as representatives of the club they do not necessarily have it in their hearts. Imagine if you played for Bayer Leverkusen, and Inter came in with a big money offer for you. Top sides both, and as fans of neither you’d probably take quite a rational approach to the decision. Allow Nasri, and others, the same courtesy.
Perhaps that is the real issue here, the crux behind the feeling that too many players coast along – maybe not enough of them are true Arsenal fans. If you look at the current squad, who can you say really loves the club and is proud to pull on the shirt? Cesc, certainly (yes, he loves Barcelona too, but his clearly loves Arsenal), and Van Persie – the guy talks like an Arsenal fan. Wilshere, through growing up at the club, can be added to that list, but beyond that who is there? Sagna? Maybe. Interesting that the list of players you’d mark down as being proud to play for Arsenal are the same ones that give their all. Coincidence? I think not.
So if Nasri wants to move on, fair play to him. To me, he hasn’t been disingenuous, like Adebayor before him (if Nasri came out next week and claimed that he never considered leaving, then I’d change my mind, but as far as I can see, he has been open throughout), and perhaps we need to replace him with a player who will wear the club crest with pride. Arsenal DNA, you might call it.
I can understand people’s anger towards Nasri, because we don’t like to see our club in a negotiation where we hold no cards, especially when the opposing side knows and is exploiting it. But this is business, and we are making it personal.