Manchester United manufacture of the ‘Antony scale’ leaves Arsenal with Mudryk dilemma

Mudryk priced on the Antony scale Credit: Alamy
Mudryk priced on the Antony scale Credit: Alamy

The name ‘Antony’ has appeared in far too many Mykhailo Mudryk stories to be a coincidence; Shakhtar Donetsk are happy for everybody – but most importantly Arsenal – to know that this is their pricing scale.

Is their player better or worse, higher or lower, than an Antony? How many Antonys is one man worth? How many fractions of an Antony?

In this particular case, they believe that the largely untested Mudryk is marginally better than Antony so they could not possibly accept less than £88m. Anything less than an Antony would be an insult.

Never mind that it’s only Manchester United’s annual transfer procrastination that placed that value on Antony in the first place; they could have bought him for £68m earlier in the summer but lowballed their way into a much higher fee that they inevitably paid when Erik ten Hag wisely started the season with United looking like utter clowns, triggering a late, desperate flurry in the transfer market.

Fast-forward five months and Arsenal are being told that this manufactured Antony fee – produced by giggling Ajax executives who were briefing the media that the Brazilian was ‘non-transferable’ (bollocks, of course) – is governing the asking price of their January target. Which is ludicrous but entirely understandable.

Manchester United paying that price for Antony, and Manchester City previously paying silly money for Jack Grealish, has given the selling club a very lucrative marker that simply cannot be ignored.

These transfer markers – and we have previously seen the same logic applied to centre-halves with The Harry Maguire Scale – are never applied to the best players or to the biggest bargains, of course; Shakhtar were never going to glance from Mudryk to Martin Odegaard and quickly back again before concluding that he is probably worth £15m because he is roughly half as good as the Norwegian. That’s not how this sh*t works.

In any other transfer market, Arsenal could probably laugh off this Antony scale, but this transfer market includes Chelsea, who are busy conforming to every stereotype of bombastic American owners by briefing that they are ”bullish’ about transfer business and are ready to take rivals on in the market and ‘blow them out of the water’ where necessary.

They will match the Antony scale because their desperation to a) buy young players and b) cut Arsenal off at the knees, gives them no financial ceiling. The only fly in the ointment might be the player himself, but there are very few young men who can turn down more money and more status, especially if his club really will not countenance a sale at a more Arsenal-friendly price.

As somebody wise once wrote, ‘generally, a transfer fee merely captures a moment when the circumstances of two clubs collide’. But now it seems that a transfer fee might capture a moment when the circumstances of two entirely different clubs collided five months ago.

The question for Arsenal is not whether they think Mudryk is ‘worth’ £88m (that is always a silly question) but whether they are equally as desperate as Manchester United found themselves at the end of August.

The answer might lie in whether United would pay that price now as they look back at games won without or in spite of Antony, who has not contributed a goal or assist since the early days of October. United would probably still be in a Champions League place had they laughed off Ajax’s laughable request, but will Arsenal still be in title contention if they ignore the Antony scale and let Chelsea have a free run at Mudryk? And how much will struggling to break down Newcastle cloud their recently impeccable judgement?

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