“We sold him for just £200k but now he’s worth £52M and better than many present Arsenal players and we regret selling him”- Arsenal Sporting Director claimed that the club made a major transfer blunder by telling a ‘great’ Arsenal talent to depart a few years ago.
Arsenal will rue the £200,000 sale of their “sizzling” youngster, who is now worth £52 million.
Arsenal’s academy has produced several excellent players throughout the years, but the club made a mistake by allowing one of them depart for peanuts.
Over the years, Arsenal have reaped the benefits of uncovering talent from the academy, with Mikel Arteta’s current crop demonstrating how far hard effort can catapult starlets looking to graduate from Hale End.
The Gunners had a hugely successful 2022/23 season, which sparked a bid for the Premier League title led by the likes of Bukayo Saka, possibly the club’s best ever academy graduate.
Saka, who joined Arsenal’s youth set-up at the age of eight, progressed through the ranks, and he is now a vital player at the club, earning £195k a week and enjoying his status as a 2023 Ballon D’Or Nominee.
The 22-year-old wonder is not the only star to have recently broken through the Hale End doors to influence the first team, with Eddie Nketiah and Emilia Smith-Rowe following suit, but not every great talent from the north London set-up has chosen Arsenal as the location to mature as a senior player.
Folarin Balogun, a Gunners academy striker, left his boyhood club to sign for Monaco this summer in a £35 million deal after thriving on a season-long loan spell with Ligue 1 outfit Reims.
While Arsenal earned a reasonable amount for the 22-year-old, past exits from the capital have proven to be massive financial blunders by the club, none more so than the loss of Donyell Malen.
Donyell Malen had a successful tenure at Arsenal
Malen, a Dutch prodigy, arrived at Hale End from Ajax at the age of 16 in 2015, as the Gunners spotted potential in the dynamic teen attacker.
The 1999-born prodigy had a successful two years in England, appearing in 67 games at both U18 and U21 levels and scoring 27 goals for the club.
At halftime, #AFCU23 trail 2-1 at Emirates Stadium.
Here’s a shot of Donyell Malen’s goal, which cut the lead in half.twitter.com/xKLGhWXUTG
March 13, 2017 — Arsenal (@Arsenal)
Dennis Bergkamp, his previous coach at Ajax U10s and a much-loved figure in Islington, inspired his time at Arsenal, with his statue sculpted in bronze outside the Emirates Stadium.
During his time in the academy, the then-teenager was tipped to have a bright future, with his former agent Mini Raiola backing him to become a “revelation” in north London one day.
Donyell Malen left Arsenal for a pittance.
Despite enjoying his time in England, the forward chose to pursue his career in his country in 2017 rather than extend his stay with Arsenal, citing possible prospects in the Netherlands.
Malen’s ambitions were granted quickly, as he was signed by PSV Eindhoven that year for a cost rumored to be in the region of £200k.
It immediately became clear where the departed forward’s career was heading, and with that came the realization of how terrible the choice to permit his release for less than £1m was.
In the summer of 2018, Football Transfers chronicled the beginning of Malen’s climb in worth, with his expected transfer value (xTV) sitting at €4m (£3.4m) just a year after his £200k departure.
As shown in the table above, the Dutchman’s xTV nearly doubled year after year after that, compounding Arsenal’s anguish at losing the forward at such a low figure just a year before his professional debut.
The meteoric rise of Donyell Malen at PSV
Malen became an established member of PSV’s first squad a year after his debut, following his heroics with the U21’s during the 2017/18 season, in which he struck 13 goals and collected three assists in 22 games.
During that season, the Dutch international made four Eredivisie appearances, setting the way for his senior debut the following season, when he appeared in 31 games.
The clever forward scored ten goals and earned five assists in the 2018/19 Eredivisie, and his record increased the following season with 11 goals despite only playing 14 games due to a severe knee injury that kept him out for nearly 200 days.
Following surgery, there was some concern that the teenager might lose some of his pace and proficiency in the final third, but this was far from the case, as he scored 27 goals in 32 appearances in the 2020/21 Eredivisie.
Malen finished that season as the league’s second-highest scorer at the age of 22, and it wasn’t long before his abilities were recognized outside of his home nation.
Donyell Malen made his big journey to Europe.
Following Jadon Sancho’s spectacular departure to Manchester United in 2021, Borussia Dortmund were looking for attacking reinforcements and saw Malen as the perfect fit to fill the vacuum left by the Englishman.
Dortmund paid PSV €30 million (£26 million) for the Dutchman, which is 12900% more than the price Arsenal paid PSV for Malen.
While Dortmund hoped to see home comparisons between the former Arsenal starlet and Sancho in the 2021/22 season, their similarities in the final third were far from the same.
Malen and Sancho both had a slow start at their respective clubs, with the Dutch international scoring nine goals and assisting six times in 38 appearances for Dortmund that season, while Sancho scored five times and assisted three times.
Last season, the £26m man produced 18 goals in 35 games, scoring 10 and assisting eight, and he’s already on track to break that record with four goals and two assists in 12 appearances in 2023/24.
Donyell Malen’s market worth has risen dramatically.
Malen’s xTV peaked at €48.8 million (£42.4 million) in the summer of 2022, with his current market value estimated by CIES Football Observatory to be €60 million (£52 million).
Described as a “sizzling” earlier this year by U23 scout Antonio Mango for his form at Dortmund, Arsenal are constantly reminded of the £200k price tag that they lost the former academy star for, with his current value reading 25900% greater.
While it’s more pleasing to see a once-promising prodigy thrive on the grandest stages of domestic football, the Gunners truly missed out on Malen.