Friday, October 4, 2013

Damien Comolli on Agger, Özil and the transfer window

"Arsenal are better off spending 42m on Özil than other clubs spending 100m+ on six players who aren’t world-class"

As a former Director of Football with Tottenham and Liverpool, Damien Comolli is well-placed to discuss the summer transfer window and provide some analysis as to how various top-flight teams did. Speaking with him recently, we touched on the strategies deployed by the sides destined to challenge reigning champions Manchester United for the Premier League title.   

On ex-club Liverpool’s signings:

“I think they’ve done some good business. I think they made a big decision signing Simon Mignolet especially when Pepe Reina was still there. They probably looked at data and stats and thought that if they got Mignolet, even if Reina was to head out on loan and they’d have to pay part of his wages, they could be better off. I don’t think people talk enough about Mignolet – I think he’s a big, big signing for them.
What I find a little strange is the Mamadou Sakho deal. PSG said they got 19m + 3m in add-ons and he had only one year left on his contract. That’s a lot of money, especially as he wasn’t playing. Carlo Ancelotti didn’t play him and Laurent Blanc didn’t play him either. The other aspect is they’ve now bought a player who will compete with Daniel Agger. They don’t need cover at left-back either because they’ve signed Sissokho and they have Enrique so for me, it’s a strange signing. If they’re thinking about long-term, they’ll have to deal with a situation where Sakho won’t be happy. He left PSG because he wasn’t playing enough and he wants to play for France in the World Cup, provided we qualify. And if he doesn’t play, Liverpool will have an issue on their hands.” 

On Mamadou Sakho possibly being signed as a safety measure should Daniel Agger leave:

“Maybe. But I know how much Agger loves Liverpool. And he’s not the type to request a transfer so unless they push him out, I don’t think he’ll want to leave in the near future. That’s why the situation with Sakho might become an issue. For me, Daniel is the best left-footed central defender in the world so if you spend 19m euro on a player who’s got one year left on his contract and he has to compete with the best player in the world in that position, it’s going to be a challenge.” 

AUDIO Damien's account of what deadline-day is like for a club executive here - and the important role pizza has in a frenzied 24 hours!

On Arsenal’s capture of Mesut Özil:

“Even though they couldn’t do what they wanted in terms of a striker, they didn’t move from the fact that they would only spend money on a world-class player. And that’s why, in the end, they went for Özil. I think they’re better off spending 42m on Özil than other clubs spending 100m+ on six players who aren’t world-class. They’ve added incredible creativity, imagination and skills to an already very creative and skillful team. So it can only be very positive.”

On other Premier League teams reportedly turning down the chance to sign Özil:

“Very often, at the end of the transfer window, the clubs that lost out will say ‘We weren’t interested’ or ‘We couldn’t afford his wages’ or ‘We thought the price was too much’ but what’s being said internally is not being said externally. I don’t think Özil was shopped around because if Madrid didn’t get Bale, there was no way they would have allowed him to go. Once they got Bale, something had to give. Whether it was Benzema, di Maria, Özil – someone had to be a loser from a Madrid perspective.”

On Spurs’ spending spree:

“I’m convinced they have a better squad than last year, whether they have a better team than last year remains to be seen. In the last 2/3 years, they’ve lost their three most creative players in Van der Vaart, Bale and Modric. Have they replaced those three extremely creative players? Last season, I never felt that was the case. This season, I think Lamela and Eriksen will bring the creativity that Spurs had lost previously and those two were ‘must-have’ players for the club. But they’re young and we must wait to see how they will develop and adapt to the Premier League. All of the other players, as far as I’m concerned, are at the same level as those that Spurs have had before.”

On Manchester City’s transfer activity:

“Fernandinho is a player we’ve all been looking at and has always impressed, even before his injury. He broke his leg a couple of years ago and we were at the match watching him, when I was at Liverpool. He had an incredible game. He’s a very good player. For the first few games, he didn’t show 20% of what he can do so I’m sure there’s a lot more to come from him. Negredo is a top player who I really like. Jovetic is another top player with plenty of room for improvement. And Navas, for the first few games I think was their best player. They’ve got a very, very good manager and with Begiristain there, Pellegrini will be able to adapt quickly – he can help him settle into the club. I’m a big admirer of Pellegrini because all of his teams are very positive in their approach to the game, very attacking. People should remember that he qualified Malaga for the Champions League playing Jeremy Toulalan and Santi Cazorla in midfield. Toulalan is a very good defensive midfielder but playing Cazorla at midfield takes incredible bravery for a manager. I think they have the right setup with Begiristain and Soriano and the experience they both have from Barcelona.”

On Chelsea’s investments:

“Their big issue is up front. They didn't get the player they wanted and who could have made a massive difference so they went to plan B. But Eto’o will need a few months before getting back to where he was. Obviously, Mourinho wasn't comfortable with any of the other strikers but over the long term it could go against them. 
It also shows the football landscape has changed so much. When was the last time Chelsea didn't get the player they wanted? They didn't get Cavani or Rooney. 
Going forward, the competition for the few world-class players available every year will be ferocious.”

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