The north London outfit have activated the Everton star’s £22 million release clause in a move that can kickstart a summer of high activity at the Emirates Stadium
By Wayne Veysey
By activating the £26 million release clause in Marouane Fellaini’s Everton contract, Arsenal have finally put their money where their mouth is.
The club’s supporters have grown increasingly weary of talk of vast warchests, financial rude health and the power to be a major player in the transfer market.
They yearned for action rather than promises. Finally, the fans have been granted their wish.
Arsenal’s €26m bid for Fellaini, which activates the buy-out clause in his contract applicable to top-four clubs, sends out the message that the north Londoners’ ambition stretches beyond securing a Champions League place every season.
However, the deal for the Belgian is not sewn up yet. Even though under the terms of the contract Fellaini signed in November 2011 Everton are obliged to accept the offer on the table from Arsenal, the player and his advisers must still give the move the green light and agree a package with the Gunners.
There is also the possibility that Arsenal’s bid could force a counter move from one of Fellaini’s other suitors. Chelsea’s interest in the midfielder is believed to have dwindled but new Manchester United manager David Moyes could yet sanction a bid for Everton’s prize asset that trumps Arsenal’s offer.
Moyes is expected to make at least one marquee signing this summer and the most obvious vacancy in the United team is for an authoritative midfielder to pair with Michael Carrick, one that his former charge appears ideally equipped to fill.
Nevertheless, there is a growing confidence in the upper echelons of the Emirates Stadium that Arsenal are closing in on what would comfortably be a club-record signing.
Arsene Wenger has long been an admirer of Fellaini’s almost unique combination of physical presence, versatility and technique.
Souces have revealed that the Arsenal manager enquired about signing him in the summer of 2011 but was quoted over €30m at the time by Everton, which was before the buy-out clause was inserted into his contract.
Arsenal were operating under more straitened financial circumstances and, with Fellaini priced out of reach, Wenger bought his club colleague Mikel Arteta instead for a more modest €11.2m.
Now the Frenchman wants to pair the former allies together next season in what could be a mouthwatering Arsenal midfield, fusing the likes of Arteta, his fellow Spaniard Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski, Tomas Rosicky and Abou Diaby with a British core of Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Time will tell whether Wenger plans to play Fellaini in his favourite midfield anchorman role, or in the more advanced attacking midfield position in which he was predominantly deployed by Moyes at Goodison Park last season.
The one certainty is that the Belgian powerhouse would considerably strengthen Arsenal’s squad and send out a massive statement of intent ahead of the new season.
A not inconsiderable by-product of making such a marquee signing, particularly if it is completed relatively early in the transfer window, is that it would help entice other big-name players to the club.
The whispers within the Emirates corridors of power suggest that the club will smash the €20m transfer fee barrier twice this summer, with a marquee striker also high on the agenda.
Topping the shortlist are Wayne Rooney and Stevan Jovetic, with both players considered realistic targets, while there has also been interest in Robert Lewandowski and Edin Dzeko.
The club are also making progress in capturing a new centre-back and a new goalkeeper, with moves in place for Swansea City’s Ashley Williams and QPR’s Julio Cesar.
The timing of the Fellaini bid – believed to have been submitted on Wednesday – is exquisite, coming 24 hours before Ivan Gazidis publicly outlined how the club is better placed than ever before to flex its financial muscle.
“This year we are beginning to see something we have been planning for some time, which is the escalation in our financial firepower. It means we can look at some options that weren’t really in our financial capability,” said the Arsenal chief executive.
Asked if Arsenal were now potentially in a position to pay a €29.5m transfer fee and wages of €235,000 a week for one player, Gazidis said: “Of course we could do that. We could do more than that.”
Finally, Wenger is able to compete on a more equal footing with the world superpowers.
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