Writer: Stef C
Date:Friday January 20 2006
Arsenal have completed the much hyped signing of Saints 16-year old striker Theo Walcott.
In a deal that dragged on for much of the transfer window, Arsene Wenger has finally signed Walcott for around £12.5 million, a world record fee for a scholarship player.
Technically he could have walked away from St Mary's and had his fee decided by tribunal, and likewise could walk away from Highbury until he's 17 on March 16th.
Rupert Lowe announced the deal in a press conference at St Mary's today stating:
'We are bitterly disappointed. The purpose of developing the best Academy in the country is not to sell scholars to larger clubs. We have done everything to keep Theo at Southampton but his family and advisors are determined that he leave this club and go to Arsenal'
'Theo has shown what he is capable of in his first season of senior football and I know every Saints fan will feel let down. The sad fact of this transaction is that every Scholarship Agreement, which is a standard FA document, contains a provision for the Scholar to cancel the agreement for any reason. We have therefore been put in a situation where, (on the advice of Theo's advisors) we either negotiated compensation with Theo's preferred club or faced ending up in front of the Football League Appeals Committee following cancellation. The largest upfront award that body has ever made was £400,000'
'I will be blamed for this situation by a part of the fan base but if the Board and I have been at fault; it has been in playing and therefore showcasing a young player who is not under a full professional contract. The loophole this episode has revealed needs to be remedied by the football establishment as a matter of urgency before the Academy system is discredited. Perhaps England should move to a system such as that in the Czech Republic where young players can be signed as a professional at sixteen. The game needs young people like Theo but this won't happen if the Clubs who produce them suffer the same fate as we would in this case'
Saint will only receive around £5 million upfront in the deal, with the remainder being in staged payments dependant on Theo's development.
As much as it's a shame to see such a talented player leave us, we have to accept that were now a Championship club and if Theo is to become a top international player he needs to be playing at a higher level, with world class players around him.
It seems he's made the right decision choosing Arsenal over Chelsea as the way they play will suit his style, he'll be given far more first team opportunities and can learn from his idol Thierry Henry.
We wish Theo all the best for the future and hope he fulfils his huge potential for England!
Date:Friday January 20 2006
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