Arsenal: Steven N’Zonzi clause substantially offputting

SEVILLE, SPAIN - MARCH 31: Steven N'Zonzi of Sevilla FC (L) competes for the ball with Andres Iniesta of FC Barcelona (R) during the La Liga match between Sevilla CF and FC Barcelona at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on March 31, 2018 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)
SEVILLE, SPAIN - MARCH 31: Steven N'Zonzi of Sevilla FC (L) competes for the ball with Andres Iniesta of FC Barcelona (R) during the La Liga match between Sevilla CF and FC Barcelona at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on March 31, 2018 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images) /
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Sevilla’s Director of Football, Joaquin Caparros, has stated that Arsenal must match Steven N’Zonzi’s £35 million release clause if they want to sign the midfielder. That is substantially off-putting.

The search for a new defensive midfielder — or at least midfielder with defensive-mindedness — has not gotten out all too well. Fabinho, many people’s first-choice, has signed for Liverpool, Fred has signed for Manchester United, and Arsenal haven’t seemingly made any serious moves for any of the other options.

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If there is one name that is being most heavily linked with a move to north London, then it is Sevilla midfielder, Steven N’Zonzi. The towering Frenchman ticks many of the boxes: Sixable, strong, a good tackler, experience of the Premier League, played under Unai Emery during the Spaniard’s last season in Seville, heavily linked with a move in the past, as recently as last January.

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It is not all the surprising, then, that he seems to be the leading candidate at this point. But that does not mean that Sevilla are wanting to sell. N’Zonzi has been an integral part of the team since he arrived three years ago, averaging over 3000 minutes-a-season in Europe and La Liga alone, even if he did try to engineer an exit earlier this season and refuse to play for a period.

And Sevilla are clearly happy to drive a hard bargain. This is Director of football, Joaquin Caparros, speaking to Radio Seville regarding a potential N’Zonzi departure and reunion with Emery:

"“Is that a rumour or is it true? Has Unai Emery called you? Well, as a successful man, Unai Emery knows what line the club keeps. If he wants N’Zonzi, he will have to call and put the bid in. And the bid is the clause. If you put that bid in, then there are no more negotiations [over the fee].”"

Even in today’s explosive market in which few even average European footballers cost less than £30 million, £35 million, which is what N’Zonzi’s release clause currently is, seems steep for a 29-year-old player who has never flourished at the truly top level.

Furthermore, Arsenal’s reported budget of £50 million would very quickly disappear if 70% of it was spent in one fell swoop, especially considering that the other 30% is set to be splashed on another 29-year-old. It does not exactly seem like the most sensible, considered, and discerning business for a club on a tight budget.

None of this is to degrade N’Zonzi as a player. He has a very specific and useful skill set that would be extremely valuable at the heart of the Gunners’ midfield. But everything must be seen through the lens of the cost. Is this a cost-effective move? Irrespective of the talent of the player, the fact that there is little sell-on value and perhaps only three or four years of utility, the answer is a fairly glaring ‘no’.

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The clause that Caparros obstinately highlights, then, is extremely off-putting. It does not deem N’Zonzi a poor addition, simply an expensive one, and in such circumstances, questions of value must be asked, questions that the Frenchman may not be able to answer all that encouragingly.