Bacary Sagna admits he was surprised that Arsenal agreed to sell Alex Song, but at the same time, he recognises that in Abou Diaby, Arsene Wenger has a huge midfield talent.
There were few surprises when Robin van Persie was offloaded during the summer, as the Dutch striker refused to extend a contract which had entered its final 12 months. Song, who was second only to the striker when it came to most influential players at the Emirates Stadium last season, was a different story as he still had time left on his deal.
The Cameroon international, though, was sold to Barcelona in a £15million transfer last month, and this came as something of a shock to many including Sagna. The fullback, who is recovering from a broken leg, recognised the 24-year-old as one of Wenger’s key players of recent times, and believes his loss could prove to be a costly one.
“I expected the departure of Robin van Persie. We all expected it. It was obvious,” he told L’Equipe. “But the Alex Song one, it was a surprise! He is 24-years-old, he has three years remaining on his contract. I still do not understand. It is huge loss for the club.”
There have been suggestions that Song had become difficult to deal with in recent months, as it became known that Barca were interested in signing him. It has been reported that he had become unprofessional, turning up late for training and showing a general lack of interest. This has, of course, been denied by his camp, and a source close to the player told The Guardian that such claims had been leaked by the club to ‘cover themselves’.
Whatever the reason for his departure, Wenger couldn’t bring in a like-for-like replacement ahead of the 31 August deadline. However, maybe the French coach thought that, in Diaby, he already has an all-round midfielder who could have a bigger impact than the African. The former Auxerre youngster has struggled with injuries of late, but he has started all three games this season and was particularly impressive in the 2-0 win at Liverpool.
Diaby’s Les Bleus pal Sagna, who is recovering from a broken leg, has been quick to sing the praises of his pal, and has offered the opinion that the 26-year-old will get even better once he manages to rid himself of the fear of an injury relapse. Indeed, even though Didier Deschamps has a number of midfield talents to pick from, including Yohan Cabaye of Newcastle United, Sagna believes none are the equal of Diaby.
“He has been amazing!” said the 29-year-old. “He replied to those who questioned his ability to be back. He is not at his best so far. He will be better and better, and the day the little fear of relapse will disappear, he will be stronger. Abou is the best French midfielder.”
If Diaby can maintain his form and fitness and establish himself as a mainstay of the Arsenal team, perhaps even Sagna will soon understand the £15million departure of Song.