Yesterday David Ornstein broke the news that talented Arsenal teenager Folarin Balogun could be set to leave Arsenal.
Balogun has been thought of as the “next big thing” coming out of the academy, following in the footsteps of Bukayo Saka.
Like Saka, the strikers contract expires in 12 months time and Arsenal must decide whether to cash in now, or use the next 12 months to try and negotiate a new deal with him.
Balogun signed his first professional contract in 2019. Rules at that players under 18 may only sign a contract for 2 years.
This results in clubs agreeing a 2-year deal with youngsters, before negotiating a new deal – usually for 3 years – a year later.
Previously, clubs would not have to worry too much about the player turning down the new deal. An offer in the region of £20,000 a week would be on the table, guaranteeing the player earns £3million even if he did not play a game.
However in recent years there has been an increase of players deciding to turn down the new contract to seek first team football elsewhere.
Jadon Sancho led the way on this new decision making – turning down a deal with Manchester City due to lack of assurances over playing time. He joined Borussia Dortmund and could end up making a big money move back to England this summer.
At the time Manchester City had Jadon Sancho in their youth team, they also had Phil Foden – just 2 months younger than Sancho.
Sancho moved to Germany for 1st team football, Foden remained in England,
Since making the move to Dortmund, Sancho has played 5,440 minutes in the Bundesliga, earning himself 11 England caps.
Foden, meanwhile, has played just 834 minutes of Premier League football; averaging just 26 minutes a game.
Over the last couple of years, there has been an increase in youngsters deciding to move for first team football rather than become a millionaire and not playing.
A lot of these players have taken their talents abroad, with young English players out in Germany, Portugal, Spain, Italy and France.
This would have been unthinkable in the 20 years.
Very few English players used to go abroad to play football.
The big money available in the Premier League meant that is was financially better for them to remain in England, sign that 3-year deal at 18, become a millionaire and then slowly drop through the leagues.
The recent crop of youngsters seem to be hungrier than previous generations.
They seem to realise that playing time is most important; and that whilst they might take a financial hit in their teens, they could become even richer if they fulfil their potential.
Sancho is now reportedly on £190k a week, whilst Foden earns £20k a week at Manchester City.
Leave for first team football, prove yourself, and an even bigger pay day will come.
Gomes joined Man U at 6 years old, making his debut in 2017 and winning the Jimmy Murphy Player of the Year, the youngest player ever to receive the award.
The 19-year-old became the youngest player to represent Manchester United since Duncan Edwards in 1953, as well as the first player born in the 2000s to appear in the Premier League.
Despite being rated so highly, the youngster has yet to start in the Premier League – playing just46 minutes across 5 substitute appearances in 3 seasons.
The easy option for Gomes would have been to remain at Manchester United – sign a new deal and spend a few years on loan and then end up at a Championship club with a few million in his pocket.
Instead he has turned down a deal and is now moving on a free transfer.
Manchester United decided not to sell Gomes last summer, instead keeping the player in the hope he would sign a new deal.
Whilst they lost out on a transfer fee in 2019, they will still receive compensation for Gomes despite his contract having expired.
Arsenal are in a similar situation now with Balogun – and it is a repeat with what happened with Xavier Amaechi.
In 2019, with a year left on his contract, reports came out of Arsenal that Amaechi was not prepared to sign a new deal due to lack of first team opportunities.
A mixture of injuries and the progression of Saka, 8 months his junior, led to Amaechi falling to play a game for Arsenal.
Having turned down a contract, Arsenal sold him for to Hamburger SV for £2.25million.
So what do Arsenal do with Balogun?
Do they move him on for a fee now, and turn their focus on developing the next one in Tyreece John-Jules? Or do they try to keep hold of him on for the year in the hope he changes his mind and signs a new deal?
A few years back, Chelsea received £3million from Liverpool in compensation for Dominic Solanke. Balogun’s compensation will be similar.
So the club either sells him not, earning around £3million with the potentially of adding some sell-on fees, or loses on a free in 12 months time earning around £3million in compensation.
Fans should have no issue with young players like Gomes, Sancho or Balogun leaving a club for first team football.
At top clubs like Man U, Man City and Arsenal, there is a huge gulf between talented youth team player and first team regular. Many a player has signed that 3-year deal at 18 and gone on to make no appearances before leaving at 21 to a lower league team.
The club and the fans should not get in the way of a young player moving elsewhere to play first team football.
In Balogun’s case, he is behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Martinelli. First team football will be extremely limited.
Where the club and fans can be angered is if he goes on to join Liverpool or Manchester City (as rumoured); or Chelsea (who Angel Gomes has been heavily linked with).
Gomes and Balogun will be in an identical situation at those clubs as they would be at Arsenal. Playing U23 football, odd game in the League Cup. They might, however, double their money.
Balogun moving to Liverpool would not be a football decision. He has less chance of playing for them than Arsenal. It would be a financial decision and one he would probably regret.
He might win a “fake” medal – ie where gets a medal despite having not contributed anything (think Rhian Brewster or Phil Foden). But players who celebrate that sort of medal do not have the mentality you would want at the club. They are clearly not hungry. Celebrating like they have made it despite not playing.
For Balogun, Arsenal would have been selling him the future.
A year on loan, before coming back to fight with Nketiah and Martinelli for a place in the squad. Especially with Aubameyang and Lacazette’s contract situations.
The club do not want to lose him, but they also should not stand in his way of playing regular football elsewhere.
Teenagers turning down contracts for first team football elsewhere will become a more regular occurrence. It is a sign of the times.