According to Brazilian sports news website Coluna do Fla and seemingly confirmed by Flamengo’s VP in a videoconference, Arsenal have exercised (or have told Flamengo they will exercise) their option to buy Pablo Mari that was included in the loan deal from earlier this season.
David Ornstein reported back in late April that per Mikel Arteta’s desire for a left-footed centerback, Arsenal were likely to make the loan move a permanent deal for around £10M more in fees. The loan deal cost the Gunners £4.5M upfront. The details of the loan-to-permanent move aren’t confirmed, but reports have it at just under £3M more right now plus just under £1M per 10 appearances Mari makes for Arsenal up to 80.
It’s difficult to judge the move because we’ve seen so little of Mari. He managed just 204 first team minutes over three appearances before picking up a season-ending ankle injury against Manchester City in Arsenal’s first match back. Obviously, Mikel Arteta and the club have seen enough from him in training and his limited time to feel comfortable making the move permanent.
It’s also tough to evaluate the transfer because we have no idea what £10M-£15M in fees looks like relative to the overall transfer budget and financial health of the club, which has undoubtedly taken a hit because of the shutdown and loss of gate revenue. We don’t know how much money the club has to spend in the upcoming window, who might be available, or whether clubs are going to be active.
In a vacuum, the deal is fine. He seems to be good-enough, and he fills a specific need for Mikel Arteta’s system. The appearance-contingent fee structure makes sense, especially when you consider the unknown severity of his injury. His current contract expires at the end of December 2022, which means that without an extension, he’s not likely to get to 80 appearances for the club.
Mari may not be a long-term solution at centerback, but that’s fine. Arsenal need stopgaps right now. David Luiz could be out of contract in two weeks. Sokratis is out of contract at the end of next season. Both are on the wrong side of 30. Shkodran Mustafi is perennially being shopped. Rob Holding and Calum Chambers are still young(ish) but have been slowed by injuries and haven’t exactly lit the world on fire in the chances they’ve gotten. William Saliba is an exciting young player, but he has yet to play a minute in the Premier League.
Turning Pablo Mari’s loan into a permanent deal is an unexciting, low-risk move, which could be exactly the type of transfer Arsenal need right now.