The Chinese government’s decision to introduce a salary cap to its country’s Super League was just the ticket to alert Walter Sabatini (and a host of others) to the possibility of Bologna grabbing the services of former Stoke City and West Ham striker Marko Arnautovic.
Arnautovic, reputedly earning £200,000-a-week (about $18m CAD per year) playing for Shanghai Port FC is immediately unaffected by the change, as is any other player still under existing contract, but when his deal expires at the end of 2022, he’ll be subject to a maximum $3.5m CAD per year.
Chinese Football Association chairman Chen Xuyuan spoke out in favour of the salary caps, insisting that CSL clubs had ‘burned’ too much money in recent years.
This is bound to prompt an exodus of former star players at European clubs such as Maroune Fellaini, Oscar and Hulk upon completion of their contracts.
But what of the rumours emerging from Italy that Bologna/Montreal technical director Walter Sabatini has begun negotiations to take the player, who returned to Shanghai without his family this month, to Bologna?
It apparently includes terms for Arnautovic to continue his career in Montreal after 18 months in Serie A.
Sabatini would hope to claim the player’s signature for free, then negotiate reduced wages.
For his part Arnautovuc appears keen on a return to Europe.
It appears what’s on the table is a contract with Bologna until June 2022, when the player will have turned 33, after which he moves to MLS with Montreal.
If true it appears to fly in the face somewhat of the new philosophy adopted by Olivier Renard and CF Montreal in recruiting and developing potential before moving it on. Renard though has previously hinted that certain flexibility exists, should any particular move in the transfer market make sense, even if not appearing consistent with the new philosophy.
It’s a peculiar position for Montreal. If Arnautovic retains his desire and enthusiasm for the game, it could be a good move for both parties, all three in fact. Should he not, or if the incumbent Montreal coach does not want the player, then what happens?
If Sabatini gets his man the next eighteen months represent the great unknown. I don’t see how CF Montreal can plan ahead by considering Arnautovic a done-deal for mid-2022. They must look ahead without thinking about the arrival of the 33 year-old Austrian during summer, 2022.
There appears to be much competition for Arnautovic’s signature if UK book-making firm SkyBet have their sources right.
Former club West Ham who seemed recently to have exited the race for their their former player’s services remain the bookies favourite to be his next club. Bologna are not even in the betting for which the popular market currently doesn’t yet extend beyond 33/1.
And the bookies rarely get it wrong...
9/2 - West Ham
9/1 - Internazionale
20/1 - Wolverhampton Wanderers
33/1 - Arsenal, Leeds United, Tottenham.