Arsene Wenger has echoed Jurgen Klopp’s censure of Manchester United’s £112m move for Paul Pogba after the Arsenal manager labelled the imminent world record transfer “completely crazy”.
Liverpool manager Klopp claimed during the week that the football he loves is a team game, and insisted that spending a nine-figure sum on one single player, no matter how talented, was not a game he wanted to be part of.
Wenger followed suit after being asked about United’s offer for a player they allowed to leave four years ago for just £800,000, and while he accepted that United have the financial backing to spend such fees, he stressed that the outside world will be unable to comprehend how one player can cost so much money.
“It is completely crazy if you cannot afford to pay it. If you can afford to pay it you can justify it,” Wenger said on Arsenal’s tour of the United States.
“It is completely crazy if you compare it to normal life. That is for sure. But we live in a world where every activity that is worldwide makes a lot of money.
“Football has become a worldwide competition and that is why clubs can afford to do it. Does it make sense in the way the player can give you that investment back? Nobody ever could calculate.
“Since I am in this sport I always thought the record cannot go higher and I was always wrong. Maybe in a few years it will be £200m, £300m, who knows.”
Wenger’s criticism comes just days after Klopp hit out at United and other clubs who spend such fees instead of building teams, as is his desire.
“If you bring one player in for £100m and he gets injured, then it all goes through the chimney,” Liverpool manager Klopp said, with his side also in the United States for the International Champions Cup pre-season tournament.
“The day that this is football, I’m not in a job anymore, because the game is about playing together.
“That is how everybody in football understands it. You always want to have the best, but building the group is necessary to be successful.
“Other clubs can go out and spend more money and collect top players. I want to do it differently. I would even do it differently if I could spend that money. I don’t know exactly how much money we could spend because nobody has told me, ‘No, you can’t do this.’
“If I spend money, it is because I am trying to build a team, a real team. Barcelona did it. You can win championships, you can win titles, but there is a manner in which you want it.”
Wenger was happy to talk about transfer business in a rare revelation that he still has hopes of signing two more players following the arrivals of Granit Xhaka, Takuma Asano and Rob Holding. The 66-year-old Frenchman was already looking for a new striker to aid Olivier Giroud and cover Danny Welbeck while the England international recovers from his latest injury – set to keep him out until February – but he has been forced into the market for a defender too after Per Mertesacker was ruled out for the rest of the year. The recently appointed club captain suffered a knee injury in the pre-season draw with Lens that required surgery, and Wenger confirmed he does not expected Mertesacker to return until 2017.
“Certainly I don’t count that Per will be back before the end of the year,” confirmed Wenger. “I will miss him deeply. He is a leader on the pitch and off. We [have lost] a heavyweight in our dressing room.
“We are still on the market at the front and the back. Unfortunately we are not alone.”
Wenger was asked directly about his interest in Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City and Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette, the second of which Arsenal saw a £29.3m bid rejected for last week. While he refused to discuss individual players – stressing that it would make any negotiations more challenging – he did speak to try and appease frustrated fans who want to see the club press on with their transfer plans.
“I buy players that I feel can strengthen our team,” he said. “Today, you have to be very strong inside the club when you are responsible, not to just buy to buy.
“There is always a wave of opinions, and people are better informed today than all the players. They always tell you to buy but when you ask who to buy, they become much shorter, because if you look at the market in Europe there is a lot of money available, but not many players that really strengthen the teams.”