Football Features

Seven times Arsenal tried to ‘lowball’ clubs in the transfer market

By Ollie Thomas

Published: 17:00, 3 July 2023

Although a breakthrough between Arsenal and West Ham for the sale of Declan Rice has finally been agreed regarding the fee, they remain locked in discussions about the structure of the deal.

Mikel Arteta is closing in on his main transfer target, and if all goes according to plan, Rice should be an Arsenal player by the end of the week. But, this particular transfer saga has been dragged out far longer than anyone would have wanted (on both sides of the divide).

Having had two initial bids rejected immediately by West Ham (£75m) and (£90m) after David Moyes repeatedly said it would require at least £100m for the club to even consider selling their captain, they have now agreed on a British record £105m offer.

That materialised on Wednesday, and yet, there has been no further noise about the deal, with West Ham reportedlyunhappy with the payment structure” and unrealistic add-ons — though all signs points towards an eventual alignment on both sides.

So, although a deal appears imminent, West Ham would have found their first two bids derisory — and this is not the first time the Gunners have tried to lowball a club. In 2019, Crystal Palace were ‘incensed‘ by Arsenal’s bid for Wilfried Zaha, for example.

And we’ve had a look at some of the other high-profile examples of where Arsenal tried to snag a bargain, much to the disgruntlement of the selling club.

1. Wilfried Zaha (2019)

Palace’s talisman reportedly asked to leave in the summer of 2019 in order to achieve his dream of playing European football. Zaha, who is an Arsenal fan, was heavily linked to the Gunners and the Ivorian’s brother, Judicael, told Sky Sports News that it was Zaha’s ‘dream’ to play for Arsenal — and that he hoped Palace would allow him to realise this.

However, Palace were very firm in their stance: it would have taken a huge fee to prise the now 30-year-old away from Selhurst Park. So when Arsenal tabled a bid of £40m, eyebrows were understandably raised. If one scratches beneath the surface, the bid becomes even more remarkable: reportedly spread over five years, Palace would have received just £6m in 2019, given that Manchester United were entitled to 25 per cent of whatever fee Zaha demanded.

Whether Arsenal even had the financial capabilities to sign Zaha at the time was certainly up for debate. Regardless, Palace were not bullied into selling their superstar and the Ivorian ultimately stayed on in south London.

2. Kieran Tierney (2019)

Zaha was not alone in being the subject of some questionably low bids from the Gunners in 2019. Arsenal were fairly public in their interest of Tierney, with Celtic, at the time, valuing the young left-back at £25m. For a player of his undoubted ability, combined with his age, that seemed a very reasonable figure.

Arsenal’s first bid was just over half of that: £15m. This led former striker John Hartson to label the bid as an ’embarrassment’ before the Gunners tabled an improved bid of £25m, which was also rejected because it contained too many add-ons and was hinged on Arsenal qualifying for the Champions League.

Eventually the Gunners found a breakthrough and a deal was ultimately struck with the Parkhead club, but not without some very questionable transfer tactics from Kroenke and co.

3. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (2018)

When reports emerged that Aubameyang looked set to leave Dortmund and Arsenal were in pole position, many couldn’t believe that Dortmund were willing to let such a prolific goalscorer go so easily. What was even more unbelievable was how close Arsenal were to ruining the entire deal.

BVB boss Hans-Joachim Watzke had quoted 70 million Euros for the Gabonese international. Kroenke’s opening bid was just 45 million Euros. In a January window that consisted purely of Arsenal increasing their bids bit by bit and Dortmund growing more and more frustrated, it took Chelsea’s intervention to push the deal along: Michy Batshuayi went to Dortmund, Aubameyang went to Arsenal and Olivier Giroud went to Chelsea.

Arsenal’s inability to co-operate with the German side very nearly cost them some golden years with Aubameyang leading the line, notably claiming the Premier League Golden Boot in 2018/19.

4. Alexandre Lacazette (2016-2017)

The Lacazette saga, despite eventually ending in a successful transfer, dragged on for far longer than it needed to. It seemed that everyone knew Arsenal were interested in Lyon’s captain, with it appearing inevitable that he would join Arsenal in the summer of 2016. Rumours circulated that Arsenal had seen a £40m bid rejected, but Lyon’s president came out and said that the bid was in fact £31.5m. This may not seem like a lowballing or embarrassing bid… until you realise that West Ham had already seen a £32m bid laughed off by the French club.

Lyon had made it very clear that they were willing to do business with the Gunners, and that Lacazette was open to a move, but it took the club over a year to finally pay the required money. All this time, Arsenal had been relying on the notoriously unreliable Giroud, Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott for goals.

5. Karim Benzema (2017)

Having secured the services of one French striker in the summer, Arsenal went after another as Christmas time approached. Alexis Sanchez was on his way out of the door and Arsene Wenger was exploring his potential replacements. One name that became prominent was Karim Benzema, a player who had been linked to Arsenal consistently for nearly a decade.

Benzema had just won his second Champions League in a row with Real Madrid, playing a pivotal part in both triumphs. At this stage, he had scored 185 goals in around 380 appearances for Los Blancos and had been performing consistently at the highest level for nine seasons.

Arsenal’s bid for the striker? £40m. To put that into context, Crystal Palace had just signed Christian Benteke for £32m. The bid was rejected and laughed off by Madrid president Florentino Perez, who was said to be ’embarrassed’ by the offer. Benzema went on to win his third Champions League in a row later that season, scoring in the final against Liverpool.

6. Luis Suarez (2013)

In what seems to be the start of Arsenal’s transfer window antics, the Gunners made headlines when they submitted a bid of £40,000,001 for Liverpool’s star striker, after it was revealed that a clause in Suarez’s contract meant Liverpool had to inform him of interest if a bid of more than £40m was submitted. It prompted Liverpool chairman John Henry to ask: “What do you think they’re smoking over there at the Emirates?”

In a saga which seemed to do nothing more than damage Arsenal’s reputation, talks (unsurprisingly) failed to progress and Suarez stayed put at Anfield. Suarez was underwhelming the following season, scoring a measly 31 goals as well as winning PFA and FA Writers’ Player of the Year, prompting a £70m transfer to Barcelona, where he went on to win the Champions League. Arsenal could have had Suarez for £15m less than Barcelona stumped up. Oh well.

7. Gonzalo Higuain (2013)

In the same summer that Arsenal chased Suarez, a deal for Higuain appeared to be in place. The Argentine had reportedly agreed terms with the club and was due to fly out to London for a medical. However, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez claimed that Arsenal had not actually submitted an official bid for the striker. Madrid were after £22m. The deal stalled as the Gunners pursued Suarez and Manchester United legend Wayne Rooney.

Just a month later, Arsenal offered £20m despite Madrid now demanding £35m. Everyone was baffled by the fact that Arsenal were now perfectly happy to bid the asking price at entirely the wrong time. After a month of bizarre rumours and negotiations, Higuain decided to stay in the Spanish capital.

The striker later moved to Napoli, where he broke the Serie A scoring record for a single season.