Theo Walcott already made history last year when he becamse the youngest player to make a first team appearance for Southampton (16 years, 143 days). Friday, he made headlines around the world as the object of what could be a £12 million transfer to Arsenal. From the Guardian’s Jon Brodkin.
Asked whether paying so much for a player with only 23 first-team appearances was the biggest gamble of his career, Arsene Wenger said: “Financially, certainly.” Yet he feels comfortable with an outlay that could rise to £12m.
“You have to accept that when you take a boy at 16 it is a huge gamble, and I am ready to take that gamble because of the vibe I feel. After that, if I am wrong it will be only my fault not his fault, but I am very confident that I will be right.”
Walcott remains on £90 a week until he signs a professional contract on his 17th birthday in March, and has 10 days off before he starts training. Wenger declined to put a timescale on Walcott’s Arsenal debut but is expected to use him this season. Walcott, kept from the spotlight by speaking only to Arsenal’s television station, has no fears about the Premiership.
“I’ve played in the Championship, played over 20 games now, and played against men,” he said. “Apparently it’s really quick in the Championship and you get a little bit more time in the Premiership, I’ve heard. I’ve played with men so I think it should be no problem really.”
Walcott said it was “amazing” to think he was at school a few months ago and is now at a top Premiership club. He confirmed one of the attractions of Arsenal was the opportunity presented to youngsters. “I think they get a chance to play,” he said. “It’s all about my development as a youngster, and just to train with world-class player is what I’m looking forward to.”
Wenger said he had not considered trying to buy Walcott more cheaply at a tribunal because the player had a “moral agreement with Southampton to sign a professional contract”.