Arsenal can finally break £35m transfer barrier as Man Utd and Liverpool deals bust sales myth

Edu is aiming to change Arsenal's sales reputation but it is not what people think
-Credit: (Image: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Arsenal are expected to make a significant number of player sales this summer, bringing into focus sporting director Edu and both his and the club’s so far underwhelming history of selling. The club’s record sale remains Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s £35million-plus move to Liverpool nearly seven years ago in 2017.

Since, the club has got close to this figure only twice when Alex Iwobi joined Everton in another deal in the region of £35million and last summer’s exit of Folarin Balogun for another similar fee. With rumours of the likes of Emile Smith Rowe, Aaron Ramsdale, Jakub Kiwior and Eddie Nketiah among others being available for transfer, all could fetch considerable fees but expectations remain they still will not break the record for the club.

Fans are fairly asking questions about why Arsenal have been unable to break this figure and if there can be any hope that future summers might indeed be able to see a considerable sale do just that. Fifteen Premier League sides have a record sale higher than Arsenal - Liverpool (Philippe Coutinho) Chelsea (Eden Hazard) Aston Villa (Jack Grealish) West Ham (Declan Rice) Brighton (Moises Caicedo) Tottenham Hotspur (Gareth Bale) Manchester United (Cristiano Ronaldo) Leicester City (Harry Maguire) Everton (Romelu Lukaku) Southampton (Virgil van Dijk) Wolves (Matheus Nunes) Nottingham Forest (Brennan Johnson) Manchester City (Ferran Torres) Fulham (Aleksandar Mitrovic) and Newcastle United (Andy Carroll). There are however solid explanations behind this trend which, admittedly, does need to be addressed.

Arsenal have only recently re-entered the elite level to compete for the Premier League title and have spent years in the purgatorial state of selling during the early 2010s after their stadium move to trying to find a way back to the top.

Times have changed since the likes of Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie were sold under Arsene Wenger, in today’s financial climate all three would certainly have earned fees potentially upwards of double what Manchester City, Barcelona and Manchester United paid, all breaking the current record.

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In the years where bigger fees have become the norm for English sides, the players Arsenal have sold have ultimately been those who have been surplus to requirements. Oxlade-Chamberlain represented the last potential starter who sought an exit other than Alexis Sanchez who would leave only a few months later in a swap deal with Manchester United.

With the squad at this time filled with ageing players like Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, all on considerable wages and with little in the way of meaningful interest in any, the club cut their losses and agreed contract terminations or in the case of Lacazette allowed his deal to expire. Significant investment and an overhaul of the club’s contracts policy has then taken place to build toward the squad which has now competed for two successive titles with the aim of winning it next season.

Any players of any considerable financial value have all been key to Mikel Arteta’s plans. The few that have left such as Balogun and Joe Willock for example have earned the club a decent return and pure profit considering they both came through the academy.

Granit Xhaka departed last summer for more than £20million, another good return for a player in his thirties and having been replaced by the £105million investment in Rice. But there is further context to explain the reality when looking at other sides.

For example, Manchester United, like Arsenal, have been scrapping to get back to the level the pair shared in the early noughties have made just two major sales since Ronaldo left for Real Madrid in 2010. Angel Di Maria was sold to PSG in 2015 for £44.3million and Romelu Lukaku joined Inter Milan in 2019 for £73million.

Arsenal fans would surely love to have players leaving for these level of fees, however, when you consider Di Maria was signed only a year earlier for an at-the-time British transfer record £59.7million - Lukaku two years earlier from his departure was bought for £90million - it suddenly provides an eye-watering reality of both deals.

Even Liverpool, famed for their work in selling the likes of Jordan Ibe, Rhian Brewster and Dominik Solanke for a combined £50million-plus have only broken Arsenal’s sales record once since the departure of Coutinho in 2017 when they sold Fabinho to financial heavyweights Al-Ittihad of Saudi Arabia.

Arsenal do need to continue to improve the amount they make for players they allow to leave, but the stigma the club has attached to it in this regard certainly comes with an element of hyperbole. Now an established title challenger, there will be scope to see a healthy player turnover and the likes of Ramsdale and Kiwior in particular could be the start of this as the club seeks profit with further academy exits like Nketiah, Smith Rowe, Reiss Nelson, Mika Biereth and Charlie Patino only adding more profit to the books.