Saka to leave on a free transfer? The real story behind the allegation.

By Sir Hardly Anyone

There is a story circulating that Saka is going to run down his contract and then leave Arsenal on a free in the summer of 2023.  

Before you get too worried about this bit of inside information the source of the story is Kevin Phillips who spoke “exclusively” to Football Insider.

So what does a former Sunderland striker know that we don’t know?

To the best of my knowledge Phillips is currently manager of Northern Premier League Premier Division club South Shields, and so not exactly up there with the inside information on Arsenal.  The league SSFC play in is in the seventh tier of English football.

So what makes the point of view of a man managing a club in the seventh tier of English football, about what will happen to a leading light at Arsenal, a club in the top six of the league seven levels above, of value?

There is of course no evidence to back up the claim nor any background to the suggestion that more players leave Arsenal on a free at the end of the contract than anywhere else to back up the “typical Arsenal” comment.

Indeed in April 2020 a list was published of the players who could leave their clubs at the end of that season (and my apologies for not having the list for the current season, but no one seems to have published it, and we found it was taking too long to gain all the information – and check its reliability).

On that list Arsenal had three out of contract players who could leave. Pablo Mari, Dani Ceballos, and Matt Macey.  And as you will recognise the first two were only free to leave because they were only signed on loan deals.

Here is the list of the other players who could leave on a free at the end of that season (and remember the accusation in the article we are citing about Saka is that he could leave on a free at the end of next season and that was typical Arsenal).

  • Aston Villa: 3 players
  • Bournemouth: 7 players
  • Brighton: 2 players
  • Burnley: 6 players
  • Chelsea: 5 players
  • Crystal Palace: 2 players
  • Everton: 5 players
  • Leicester: 4 players
  • Liverpool: 3 players
  • Manchester City: 3 players
  • Manchester United: 2 players
  • Newcastle United: 10 players
  • Norwich City: 1 player
  • Sheffield United: 10 players
  • Southampton: 3 players
  • Tottenham Hotspur: 3 players
  • Watford: 4 players
  • Wolverhampton Wanderers: 5 players

So at that moment “typical Arsenal” were 10th in the league showing players who could leave at the end of the season and equal on three players with five other clubs.  Meaning only five clubs had fewer players who could leave on a free at the end of the season.

Which raises the question, why do clubs allow player contracts to run down so they can leave the club on a free contract?

1: The player hasn’t developed at the club hoped.

A contract after all is a bit of guess work – offering to pay the player £x a month for maybe four years in the hope that he will either develop or at least maintain his level of ability.   This might not happen if the player simply doesn’t develop as expected, or gets a serious injury.

2: The player has insisted he wants to leave.

Players used to be slaves, tied into football contracts for life, but no more.  If a player wants to leave at the end of his contract he can.  It might be because he does not like the manager, does not like the city, does not feel he is getting enough games, has had a real fall out with another player, wants to move back to his home town, wants to move back to his family, wants to work under a different manager.

3: The player’s wage demands for a new contract are too high

That seems often to be a reason, and is encouraged by agents who of course are always trying to get the most for their players.  If the player leaves on a free he might end up on the same salary but get a signing on fee.

4: Although it is illegal, the player has been tapped up by another club.

It would be naive to believe that this doesn’t happen, given what we know about agents.

5: The player simply wants to experience life elsewhere.

Aaron Ramsey is a typical example of this.  He wanted to try playing in another country.

6: The player has turned down transfer deals.

We forget sometimes that transfers only happen because not only do two clubs agree but the player also agrees to leave and move elsewhere.  There are inducements of course – he will get a signing on fee, he might be promised more games and a higher salary and so on.  But if the player refuses to go, he doesn’t have to go, although the selling club can tell the player that if he stays he won’t get any more games.

So there we are.  Six reasons why players run down their contracts.  It happens to Arsenal far less than to some other clubs, and yet the “typical Arsenal” story – this time from the manager of South Shields.  You can of course believe it if you wish.

6 Replies to “Saka to leave on a free transfer? The real story behind the allegation.”

  1. Phillips, Agbonlahor, Mills, Bent, Merson, Wright, Jordan – they’re all at it constantly, chipping away with “helpful” suggestions and opinions.

    Agbonlahor’s statement that Aubameyang was treated badly (according to teamtalk) is a good case in point. I don’t think anybody with an ounce of sense could say that £330,000 p/w is bad treatment. Surely responsibility is a factor here. Quid pro quo springs to mind. Lots of quid, but a diminishing supply of quo.

    “Gabby” also goes on to say that Aubameyang will be getting between £200,000 and £250,000 p/w at Barcelona. I had heard somewhere around £85,000, which makes much more sense considering the recent payroll reduction programme at the Nou Camp.

  2. I see Football365 are taking up the Kevin Phillips baton and running with it, see their headline….
    ‘Pundit tips Saka to replace Salah in ‘typical’ Arsenal blunder’
    Pathetic excuse for journalism.

  3. The agent of Bakayo Saka will love all these rumours as we head into the summer and negotiations on a new deal, it means a spanking new pay rise for Bakayo and a few bob for the agent. End of story!

  4. mick shelly

    This football365 is just another media outlet that seems hell bent on slagging Arsenal off at every opportunity. I don’t know if you saw it but I linked another misleading article they did in the ‘tricks they play’ article. Here’s what I said and the link to what is an absolute pile of misleading garbage:


    Then it says:

    “The Mailbox agrees with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on Mikel Arteta being Arsenal’s problem”.

    A small extract:

    “Arteta is the problem. So I’ve had a few days to mull over our transfer window and Aubameyang announcing today that Arteta was the problem… again!”

    He continues rambling in this vein. If you would like to spend 5 minutes of your life that you’ll never get back it’s behind the link bellow.

    Now by inference you would think ‘The Mailbox’ was a bunch of comments slagging of Arteta. That definitely seems to be the intention, but it’s nothing of the sort. As it turns out ‘The Mail Box’ is in fact just an article offering an extremely odd take on events from a certain Andrew Diacopoulos who I gather is actually an Arsenal fan on the pay roll, and may even be the editor, it’s actually hard to tell.

    But following his ‘Article’ there is a genuine ‘comments’ section where just about everyone of the meager number of respondents appear to agree with Artetas approach.

    So the negative headline is just Football365’s anti Arteta/Arsenal take on it all, and the suggestion they have a ‘Mail Box’ supporting that opinion is completely misleading.

    I think it’s a perfect example of the ‘tricks’ you allude to that are used by the media to paint us in a negative light.

    As I say mick, complete and utter garbage.

  5. mick shelly

    And just expanding on that piece I linked to in football365, you don’t have to look any further than one of the most successful mangers in history to see that it’s just something that happens.
    Whether you’re a grizzled old sod or a wet behind the ears newbie, you know what. You are the boss. You take no shit. They shape up, or ship out. Simples !

    Artetas not the first he wont be the last. It happens to the best. Here are 10 Manchester United Players Who Fell out with Sir Alex Ferguson.

    The following is a few snippets from the article:


    Sir Alex and Gordon Strachan began their falling out whilst Ferguson was Strachan’s manager at Aberdeen.

    “I decided this man could not be trusted an inch—I would not want to expose my back to him in a hurry.”

    Strachan only lasted a couple of years at United before moving on to Leeds.


    “His relationship with Ferguson was always reported to be strained and the manager ended up calling him a “big-time Charlie” and showed his distaste at Ince’s decision to take his self-proclaimed “Guvnor” nickname too far”.


    “If that wasn’t enough to make the United fans’ blood boil, the player then went on to say the reason he left was due to bad relations with Ferguson”.


    “Another argument seemed to point a growing concern from Ferguson that van Nistelrooy’s work rate was lacking in the bigger matches. Either way, Fergie thought his time was up.


    “Ferguson was furious that his captain had broken ranks and after stripping Keane of the armband, allowed him to join Celtic as soon as possible. It was a scenario that no one saw coming.”


    “So it came as nothing less than an extreme shock when it was announced just two games into the new season that Stam had been sold to Italian giants Lazio. The decision from Ferguson would never have come about had Stam not made some controversial comments in his autobiography”.


    “When his popularity sky rocketed in Manchester, it was against everything Sir Alex had brought his young players up to be. Beckham’s constant late night, jetting around the country lifestyle finally became too much for Ferguson to handle. He shipped him off to Real Madrid in 2003”


    Funny how when Fergie falls out with players he praised as a hard line Glaswegian disciplinarian who you mess with at your peril. Arteta on the other is criticized for not being able to handle players. As far as I can see Fergie dumped 2 players, Ince and Beckham, simply because he saw them as ‘too big for their boots’ Now if that’s not being able to handle a player I don’t know what is ?

    Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticizing Fergie or comparing them as mangers. I’m just attempting to show that showing a player who’s boss and dealing with them by shipping them out is nothing new, and is for some, not all, but some, a perfectly acceptable weapon in their armory when dealing with these enormous ego’s.

    Again it’s just criticism for criticisms take, but hey, it’s Arsenal, that’s what they do.

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