It’s only March and Arsene Wenger may have already made the signing of the summer. Numerous reports claim Arsenal has won the Lukas Podolski sweepstakes, landing the German international from FC Cologne in a £10.9 million ($17.2 million) transfer.
If and when the deal is made official, it will represent nothing short of a transfer market master-stroke. Podolski will be one of world soccer’s biggest names to switch teams this summer, and Arsenal players and fans will be delighted to welcome him to the club. It could also be a case of multiplication by addition.
In one way, Podolski’s is a very un-Arsenal transfer. For years, Wenger has built his teams around a core of talented, but startlingly young players. Podolski will walk into his new dressing room as a mature and fully-developed player, with over 280 Bundesliga, and 100 international games worth of experience to his name.
Arsenal signed the forward at a very good price as well. The Gunners have been chasing him since last summer, and had two transfer bids — reportedly in the £15-£17.5 million ($23.7-$27.7 million) range — rejected by Cologne in 2011.
Luckily for Wenger, Cologne has struggled for much of the season. Not only did that harden Podolski’s desire to leave the club, it also lowered his price. His contract contained a clause that would allow him to leave for just £6 million ($9.5 million) if Cologne is relegated. After 25 games, the club sits in 14th place in the Bundesliga, just three points away from the bottom three. Rather than risk losing him at a discount in the summer, the German club decided to sell its prized asset now.
The Gunners will add a versitaile, world-class, dangerous, left-footed attacker to its attacking corps. He will join Robin van Persie, Gervinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Ryo Miyaichi, and others in the front-line. Wenger will have a number of options from which to choose, and he can tinker with formations and combinations until for as long as he wants.
Podolski’s signing will have a tangible impact on the field, but it could be doubly important off it. Club captain van Persie will not consider signing a new contract until after this season. He presumably does so because he wants to assess the club’s Premier League standing and its ambition. Signing a player of Podolski’s profile and stature is a statement that Arsenal intends to compete for trophies — not only in the future, but right away.
Van Persie must read that statement and smile. The next contract the 28-year-old signs will tie him to a club for the rest of his peak years. It makes no sense for him to spend them in an endless wait for Wenger’s kids to develop into men.