Labor contracts are funny things. They bind you to something or someone for a set period of time, during which you are compensated for your labor at a defined rate of pay. They also spell out things like work conditions, restrictions on outside work, etc. But the funniest thing about a contract is that, if you are one of the parties to an executed contract, it’s all visible to you - you know everything in it, in no small part because you, or your appointed representative, agreed to everything in it.
Which makes this revelation about Laurent Koscielny all the more surprising:
Koscielny has been dismayed at how Arsenal have triggered a one-year option on his contract to extend him until next summer, believing that he was set to become a free agent in this window.
Having seen out the mandatory portion of his contract, on July 1 Kos entered the club option portion, which is exactly as it sounds - the club had the option to extend his contract for a year, and they chose to do so.
Why did they choose to do so? Easy. Kos is one of Arsenal’s steadiest and best defenders, and even at age 33, Arsenal didn’t want to let him go just yet. All of this was relayed to Kos at the end of last season, when things were looking good for either exercising the option or extending his deal:
Arsenal/Koscielny talks late last season looked +ve. Back from break, asked for release, refused. Relayed tour decision Wed, confirmed @ Colney today. Flight 1230 without him. Not stripped of captaincy yet, must train or breach contract. #AFC have no offers, he does if free agent— David Ornstein (@bbcsport_david) July 11, 2019
So, there we have it. Sometime between May and Monday, Kos decided he didn’t want to play for Arsenal any more, and asked to be released from his contract. Arsenal, in accordance with the contract they have with Kos, refused (I assume politely, because that’s how they roll). Kos apparently really wants to leave, because he...didn’t leave with the team for their tour of the US.
Why does Kos want to leave? I mean, there could be any number of reasons. He’s 33, so maybe he wants one last shot at a title somewhere, or maybe he’s tired of being Arsenal’s only healthy competent defender, or maybe he wants to wind up his career in France.
Either way, it’s a bit of a shock from Koscielny, who up till now has been a loyal servant of the club. Arsenal are, understandably, loath to let him go, and have even taken the rare-for-them step of publicly condemning his actions, saying
“Laurent Koscielny has refused to travel to the US for our pre-season tour. We are very disappointed by Laurent’s actions, which are against our clear instructions. We hope to resolve this matter and will not be providing any further comment at this time.”
This is, to oversimplify, not what Arsenal need. If Kos wanted to leave, he should have made that clear at the end of the season when the club was talking to him about it; they probably would have accommodated him, not least because he still has some value in the market, and Arsenal need all the players like that they can get right now.
I’m not sure what changed in his mind, but to wait until after your option was exercised (which, again, was not a secret - contracts end June 30 and start July 1, always have) is a bit of a dick move on Kos’ part.
A tweet was recently brought to my attention that I did not see when writing this piece:
Laurent Koscielny has for several weeks been asking Arsenal for a mutual termination agreement so that he can accept 1 of the 3 firm offers he has from Ligue 1. They've so far refused.— Get French Football News (@GFFN) July 11, 2019
This obviously changes the tone of things quite a bit. All that writing, wasted! Sigh.
It turns out Kos does know how contracts work! There will obviously be more twists and turns in this thing, so buckle up.