News dropped late Monday that Olympique Marsaille accepted a huge bid of around £32m for striker Michy Batshuayi, and was planning to offer wages of £110k/week, which made all of us at Cartilage Free Captain stop and stare slack-jawed at our computer screens for a second. Crystal Palace?! What?
Michy’s been a long-time target of Tottenham Hotspur, of course, and has been subject to a lot of interest from West Ham as well. Juventus and Spurs were probably considered the two most likely clubs to end up signing him, but in recent weeks scuttlebutt suggested that Spurs were cooling on their interest thanks to rising concerns about his transfer fee and high wages.
So perhaps it’s not entirely surprising that another London club, newly awash in Premier League TV money, might make a bid for him. After all, Marseille are apparently in severe financial difficulties and need to raise a boatload of money by the first week of July.
But seriously, Crystal Palace? Are you kidding?
Well, hold on. If Mirror correspondent Ed Malyon is right, there’s probably a lot more going on here than what’s on the surface.
The more people you talk to, the more it appears Palace have been used by Batshuayi and co. Bold move to bid, but seems impossible.— Ed Malyon (@eaamalyon) June 28, 2016
There's a high probability Palace knew all this, it was part of Mandanda negotiations and it helps Marseille resolve Michy's future.— Ed Malyon (@eaamalyon) June 28, 2016
Best-case scenario was CPFC get one of Europe's most in-demand strikers. Worst? Mandanda a little cheaper. Good relationship with Marseille.— Ed Malyon (@eaamalyon) June 28, 2016
Steve Mandanda is a target that’s much more attainable for Palace, even with the new TV money – he’s OM’s starting keeper and Hugo’s primary backup on the French national team. He’s also probably Crystal Palace’s primary target. A bid for Batshuayi is more or less a swing for the fences here and represents a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” situation. A Palace bid for Michy is more a statement of intent from Marseille than an actual serious bid for the young striker: it “sets the market” for Batshuayi and indicates that if any club bids £32m for him, it’s probably going to be accepted.
In exchange, OM is likely to give a bit of a deal to Palace in their pursuit of Mandanda, with the hopes that at the end of the day they’ll come out a little bit ahead. So there’s probably very little chance that Michy Batshuayi will end up at Palace next year, if what Malyon is saying is correct. Pardew, you sneaky little devil.
However, if OM is really in such dire financial straits as what’s been claimed, this may be them overplaying their hand a bit. I’d suspect that they know they can’t keep ahold of Batshuayi this summer, and they also know that given a choice he’d rather sign for Tottenham because Spurs can offer Champions League football.
I’m pretty sure Marseille doesn’t really think they’re going to get £32m for Batshuayi, because I’m also pretty sure Michy has no intention of actually signing for either Palace or West Ham, which is why he’s apparently “stalling” on negotiations. But if a bit of gamesmanship can increase the final sale price to Tottenham or Juventus by a couple million pounds, that’s probably a net win in OM’s book.
Spurs probably don’t want to spend that much money on a striker if they don’t have to, which is why they’re also negotiating with AZ Alkmaar for Vincent Janssen and Roma for Antonio Sanabria. In this light, Palace’s bid for Batshuayi is an attempt for Marseille to regain a bit of leverage in negotiations. This is turning into a chess match, and the game’s far from over.