Nico Williams transfer truth leaves Arsenal easy next decision with Edu price reality

Spain and Athletic Bilbao winger Nico Williams
-Credit: (Image: Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

For a 21-year-old with just 11 senior career league goals, £51million could seem like a lot of money. When combined with wages likely to be in excess of £180,000 per week, Nico Williams is not going to come cheap this summer.

No matter who makes the best play for the Spaniard in the coming weeks and months, Williams is simply not an easy man to sign. The total package to secure him will be comprehensively more than his professional career warrants to date.

However, if his performances at Euro 2024 are anything to go by, and the 14 La Liga assists last term, then he will be more than worth the cash. There is no surprise that his exciting dribbling, excellent touch, and electric pace earned him a healthy new contract just over six months ago.

Without the immediate end product of some others across the world, Williams justifies the hype with his performances and still has plenty of room to improve. He is already developing at a rapid rate, and his price has reflected that.

Despite signing the bumper new deal in December 2023 - which was ramped up financially by Athletic Bilbao to stave off interest from clubs already circling - there was no change in his £51million release clause. The Basque side backed him, though, and already felt that he was on track to impress enough to draw in suitors.

Bilbao were right. Chelsea and Arsenal had already been snapping around last summer but his wages were high at the time. With rules regarding who they sign and who they do not, Athletic Club are able to pay their stars handsomely due to often spending less on recruitment.

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With Williams, Arsenal now have a decision to make. According to Transfermarkt, his value is £55million. That falls almost perfectly in line with his release clause, and it represents sound judgement from Bilbao. 12 months ago their homegrown star was only given a £25million market value, and at the time it was half his release clause, plus the still significant wages even before the pay rise.

Now he has a catalogue of evidence starting to suggest that actually, the investment needed to get him this summer is not what it seems. The reality for Arsenal is that Williams likely is a £51million player now, and they will need to spend that to get him.

Whether or not Edu Gaspar and his recruitment team can make the wages work in what has become a streamlined structure at the Emirates Stadium is another question. Arsenal seem to have moved on from the days of massively overpaying for players, so Williams will be a test of how they internally value him, but given where he is now at, the decision makes itself.

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Whilst Barcelona are trying to make the numbers work - president Joan Laporta saying that "Economically speaking, we could commit to the signing of Nico Williams" - Arsenal are less constrained by financial rules currently. After the June 30 accounting deadline for the 2023/24 profitability and sustainability rules (PSRs) they have longer to balance the books and make sales to offset any funds put towards Williams.

Bilbao are still ultimately keen to keep their star man. "Nico, a footballer who is very committed to Athletic Club, has been subjected to an excessive and uncontrolled bombardment of questions about his future, while he is at the Euros with the Spanish Football Federation, who have not known how to protect him," said club president Jon Uriarte.

He added that Barcelona, "does not have the formula of subjecting players with contracts to other clubs to public pressure to try to incorporate them."

It comes after Laporta's own statement of intent, where he added: "Nico's a player I like, I like him a lot. We are working with [coach Hansi] Flick on possible signings.

“Now we have to leave [sporting director] Deco to close the operations we are working on. Shortly we will be able to announce some good news with regard to the financial [issues] and we will be back within La Liga's Fair Play limits. And that will allow further good news in terms of [signings]."

Uriarte has been keen to point out Bilbao's own strength, countering that his side have "the economic, social and sporting capacity to maintain players of William's stature." As for Williams himself? He has tried to remain coy. “I have already said that Bilbao is my home," he said last month. "I just renewed recently and I’m very very happy here.”