Shkodran Mustafi has rejected a contract extension offer from Arsenal and has told the club he plans to leave this summer. The German centerback is under contract through the end of the season and would like a move to Italy to be closer to his wife’s family, according to football.london.
Mustafi was in the midst of a renaissance of sorts under Mikel Arteta, starting 15 of 17 matches before tearing his hamstring. For my money, on pre-injury form, he was the best centerback at the club. Arteta expressed his desire to keep Mustafi early in his time at Arsenal and has reiterated the sentiment since then.
While there are plenty of Arsenal fans who would be more than happy to see Mustafi leave the club (in fact I’d bet many of them would carry his bags to the door), letting him go on a free wouldn’t be good business. He’s a professional footballer who is good enough to contribute to a high mid-table club in one of the top leagues. That has value. Arsenal could probably get 10-15M for him.
It’s alarming how frequently Arsenal have found themselves in this position over the last few seasons — Aaron Ramsey, Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Özil. And while they are all of a different caliber of player than Mustafi, none of those contract situations turned out well. I’d be fine with a new 3- or 4-year deal for Mustafi, even if you sell him after the first season (or even this summer).
Arsenal may have a glut of centerbacks right now, but it’s not the most convincing bunch. Gabriel is the only one that inspires confidence for the future. David Luiz is on a one-year deal and probably won’t get another. Sokratis doesn’t factor into the equation at all. Rob Holding and Calum Chambers have shown flashes but have both had serious injuries within the last two years and struggle to stay fit. We have no idea what Arsenal have in Pablo Mari other than Mikel Arteta wanted him. And William Saliba, for whatever reason, can’t seem to crack the first team lineup. Mustafi could be the second-best centerback at the club next season if he stays.
A final note: Chris Wheatley, the author of that football.london piece, seems to have a line to Mesut Özil’s agent, based on the “exclusive” stories that he’s written over the years. That’s not a knock on Wheatley — he’s a journalist and is using the sources he has to get stories. But it’s worth keeping in mind when evaluating the report and considering the other agendas that might be in play.