Opinion Monday- New or used Honda?

Keisuke Honda will wear a different set of stripes now or in January - Dmitry Korotayev

With decisive meetings scheduled tomorrow regarding Keisuke Honda, should Milan buy him now or wait until January and save a few euros?

Hello everyone, I am Tony Scerra and I am one of the new contributors to AC Milan Offside. Most of my pieces will be the Monday Opinion piece, with the occasional article on the weekend. You can follow me on twitter @tonyscerra. Feel free to comment either on here or twitter. I love responding to comments (even if you dare disagree with me :-D). I am very excited to be a part of the Offside!

Now that the intro is done, we can get down to business- Keisuke Honda. Galliani announced today that a decisive meeting regarding Honda is taking place tomorrow. The man that has comprised most of the Milan transfer headlines this summer is rumored to arrive at any moment. With Milan representatives currently in Moscow with CSKA in attempt to close the deal, Honda could arrive sooner rather than later. To gain a broader understanding of this transfer situation, let’s look at the facts.

· Honda IS COMING TO MILAN. Both clubs have confirmed this as Honda has agreed personal terms with Milan. His contract with CSKA expires on December 31. The question that remains is whether Honda will join now or in January.

· CSKA are willing to keep Honda until January. CSKA qualified for this season’s Champion’s League (CL) and they have said that if Honda stays and they qualify for the knockout stages, then foregoing the transfer fee would be worth it (a very valid point).

· Milan must qualify for this season’s CL group stage. With the qualifying games in late August, the Rossoneri have extra urgency in their preparations for the season. If they wait until January to sign Honda, he will be cup-tied.

· Milan have called for their sponsors to assist in their fee for buying Honda. The reported numbers are a 3 mil bid from Milan (including sponsor help) while CSKA is holding out for 5 mil.

Now lets put all this into perspective. First, let’s look at it from CSKA’s point of view. Honda is one of their most valuable assets. He is a quality player that has done extremely well over his 3 years with the club. He has helped the club qualify for the CL 2 of those years and win the league last season. CSKA are a good team with Honda.

But now they are going to lose him. The question is now or in January. The deal is stalled because Milan are trying to get the lowest price while CSKA is holding out for the highest (both clubs are businesses after all). If CSKA manages to keep Honda until January, they are a much more legitimate threat to advance to the knockout stages of the CL. Advancing means big money: additional prize money from UEFA, ticket sales, and broadcasting money. In other words, Milan must convince CSKA that are better off by taking the money now and perhaps investing in a replacement for Honda rather than holding off. This is where Uncle Fester is at his best.

Now, Milan’s point of view. Milan instituted a huge change in transfer policy and are now more frugal than ever (partly because of FFP and partly because of Berlusconi’s fines and lawyer fees over the last few years). Gone are the days of the early 2000s spending 30 mil on a player every year. Now Milan are focusing on smaller investments with big upside. Honda is definitely fits this bill.

Granted this is not a very big transfer fee we are talking about. Perhaps you are thinking, "let’s just pay the extra 2 mil and get him now. It would be better for everyone involved." Well there are several reasons why this is not good. It’s shortsighted. If Milan give into CSKA’s full demands, then it sets a bad precedent for Milan when negotiating on future sales/purchases. Milan also have to be wary of the books for 2 reasons. FFP is rearing up to be in full swing next season (i.e. the books have to be balanced), and every penny saved makes a difference with the bottom line. Secondly, every penny saved can be spent on another player. Think it’s too small of an amount to make a difference? Borussia Dortmund bought Lewandowski for 5 mil.

The CL is in our DNA. It’s no question which trophy has been the priority for Milan over its history. This era is no different. With CSKA in the group stages, waiting to January would get Milan a cup-tied player. This would be very bad for Milan. Imagine if Balotelli was not cup-tied. Imagine if he was the one with the breakaway against Barca. (Disclaimer: this is no knock against Niang. I like Niang and think he will be a great player. But against Barca this past season, SuperMario would 100% have been the better option.) Milan need a creative player like Honda. We have needed since Ronaldinho and Pirlo left. Bringing him cup-tied would in some ways show that Serie A is a higher priority than the CL, and we don’t want to stoop down to Juve’s level.

Another issue to bring into concern here is the commercial revenues associated with this move. Japan is a significant market that wants a European team to love. Signing Honda will earn Milan many Japanese fans (ask Manchester United about the effects of singing Shinji Kagawa). Jersey sales, general merchandise, potential friendlies in Japan, sponsorship possibilities and an expanded TV market are just a few of the possibilities open to Milan to capitalize on this signing. Its not inconceivable to say that 7-10 mil in new yearly revenue can come to Milan as a part of the deal. To put it simply, this is an incredible investment in financial terms for Milan. His transfer fee and salary will be wise investments.

Bottom line, I believe it is imperative to bring Keisuke Honda to Milan right away. CL availability, much needed quality to the squad, and commercial revenues make this deal a no-brainer for Milan. Now they must close the deal with CSKA. This is where Galliani and his magic at the negotiating table come in.

Closing thought: Many of Milan’s Serie A counterparts have been very active in the transfer market. Roma, Fiorentina, Napoli and (to a much lesser extent) Juve have changed some or all of their identity during this transfer window, while Milan have more so added to their identity with schrewd, inexpensive signings that have great upside. Chemistry takes time to form. This is where Milan could jump out to a lead early in the season (for a change) over their rivals by signing Honda now so that he can start acclimating to calcio and Milan sooner.

That’s all for now. As always, FORZA MILAN.

You can follow Tony on twitter @tonyscerra

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