It’s not so long ago that Arsenal and Manchester United were competing at the top of English football for its biggest prize.
A lot of things have changed since then, though, and it’s coming up to a decade since either side last won a Premier League title.
The rivalry between fans remains as fierce as ever, with each group constantly looking to one-up the other through endless fiercely fought social media debates.
Both players are set to sign for Manchester United and Arsenal respectively this week, as marquee right-sided central defenders.
Questions, though, have been raised as to why the Frenchman, who has won four Champions Leagues, three La Ligas and the World Cup in his playing career, will cost around £42million, while White, who has one Championship trophy and two England caps to his name, is set to cost £50m.
Logic would dictate that it is United who are getting the better deal as the result of this, but under a little scrutiny the argument is not quite as simple as it seems.
Firstly, the players’ respective contract lengths play a big part in their fees.
Varane has just 12 months remaining on his contract at Real, while White has three years left on his deal with Brighton. If the situation were the other way round you would assume the fees would be vastly different.
Then there are wages to consider.
Varane is reportedly set to pocket around £350,000 per week at Old Trafford, which is well over triple what White will earn at Arsenal.
Most importantly though when looking at the worth of each deal, it is crucial to consider the needs of the respective teams right now.
Manchester United are a club whose brand is built on buying superstar names ready to deliver immediately to attract fans around the world to watch their games and keep them financially successful.
Save for a few notable exceptions in Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe, Arsenal don’t tend to do this. Instead, the Gunners look to invest in the long-term with their acquisitions which is exactly what they have done so far in this window.
The signings of Nuno Tavares and Albert Sambi Lokonga, as well as the impending arrival of White, show that Mikel Arteta and Edu are building a side for the future, capable of challenging sustainably in the long-term.
This has been shown across their business this summer, with hardly any of their reported transfer targets in any of the positions they are looking to recruit being over the age of 24.
The Gunners haven’t always acted with coherency and direction in the transfer market, but from their acquisitions this summer, it does look as though progress has been made on that front.
United, meanwhile, are signing 28-year-old Varane for the here and now.
You could argue over the merits of the two clubs’ respective transfer strategies. United’s ‘galacticos’ approach will always contrast heavily with Arsenal’s more ‘Moneyball’ approach.
Many will rightly say, given the Gunners’ wealthy ownership, that perhaps they should be showing a similar ambition and aggression demonstrated by United’s recruitment so far this summer.
But, ultimately, comparisons between the two are somewhat pointless given the intricate differences in the make-up of the two clubs. Ben White is a good signing for Arsenal’s needs right now, while Raphael Varane is exactly the same for United’s.
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