From the moment that the first reports emerged towards the end of last season that suggested there was Premier League interest in Joe Gomez, it seemed unrealistic to expect him to still be a Charlton player come August.
With those clubs in or on the fringes of the top four said to be tracking the young centre-back, it would have needed an unlikely change of ethos from those at the top of the club for Gomez not to have been sold.
Roland Duchatelet’s model, for his individual clubs and for the network as a whole, is to make profit. The several millions that could be offered by the giants of the English game for a player who had cost Charlton no transfer fee were not going to be rejected.
And so it has proved, with Liverpool reportedly closing in on the England U19 international for a fee in the region of £5-6m, which could potentially rise to £10m based on add-ons. Considerably more acceptable than the £3.5m figure that had earlier been suggested.
It is therefore needless to say that I am not surprised by these developments. Katrien Meire’s suggestion that the key members of this squad would be kept always seemed like a unrealistic and dangerous promise, while Guy Luzon’s plea for Gomez to stay, implying he wasn’t yet ready for the Premier League, seemed desperate.
Desperate, and also ignoring the fact that Gomez wasn’t the man with the power in this situation.
The youngster himself said he wanted to stay, and everything I have been told about his character suggests he is mature and level-headed enough to truly have meant that and know the benefits of it.
Gomez is as good as any teenager that I’ve seen play for the Addicks, which is especially impressive considering he plays in a position where experience is so often vital. But his reading of the game, composure and defensive ability is already at the level of a seasoned professional.
Regardless, with just 21 Championship games under his best, the 18-year-old could certainly do with another season at this level. Another season of growth in a division which he is already well above the average standard would allow him to move onto the Premier League in a stronger position to compete for first team football and benefit
Duchatelet’s Charlton’s bank balance even more.
But, unlike with Diego Poyet last summer, it is not Gomez who is in charge of this transfer mini-saga. It’s largely Charlton, and partly those clubs that are after him.
Gomez may wish to stay, but the decision is almost entirely taken out of his hands with Charlton willing to sell and Liverpool willing to bid such a substantial amount. He could, of course, reject the move, but it would be incredibly difficult for him to do with the club seemingly wanting the cash.
Despite all those positive noises at the end of last season, Gomez was never going to stay, and I have nothing against him as an individual snapping up a chance to move to one of the biggest clubs in England.
Nonetheless, I’m not sure that the sale being an inevitability and something we must realistically accept makes it the right decision.
For starters, it’s apparent from my Twitter feed that the decision to sell after promising he wouldn’t be has angered supporters. Another blow to the already frail trust between board and fans.
But the more important concern is based around our, and Duchatelet’s, ambition. Why must we constantly sell our best players without much of a fight? We can’t we hold onto our academy graduates for the length of time that suits all partiers? Why can’t Duchatelet invest in the squad without first dismantling it?
In fact, Richard Murray stated after Duchatelet’s takeover that the club were no longer “in a position where we have to sell our best assets before they have realised either their full potential playing for us or their full potential in the transfer market”. That should be the case, and can be the case very easily given Duchatelet’s wealth, but it is evidently not.
Of course, we are a medium-sized Championship club, and must accept our place on the football food chain, but we’re not going to move up if we’re unwilling to stamp our foot down to prevent players being sold and invest without first selling.
As such, selling does not show the ambition Johann Berg Gudmundsson is after. You worry Gomez’s sale will have a domino effect.
However, it remains possible the Gomez’s sale could have the opposite impact.
There should be several millions available for the squad to now be improved. The loss of Gomez should be able to be offset by securing the signings of a number of high quality players that improve the overall health of the squad. Those signings could convince Gudmundsson and others that Charlton can match their ambitions.
The sale has been compared to that of Carl Jenkinson’s to Arsenal in 2011. The £1.5m or so that the club were awarded by a tribunal for a player who had made just a handful of appearances for the Addicks allowed Chris Powell to put together his title winning squad.
But this is a very different position. Gomez is a better, more important, player than Jenkinson. The Gomez money will not win the league – that amount nowhere the transfer budgets of those Championship clubs with realistic aims of winning promotion – while the transfer and recruitment policy is very different, and carries more risk, to the one used in 2011/12.
There is even a very realistic chance the money will not be spent on improving the squad, which would be catastrophic for both the relationship between board and supporters and Charlton’s chances of any sort of relative success. Standard Liege’s transfer dealings last summer don’t fill you with much optimism.
But this is a huge opportunity for Duchatelet to provide some hope for those whose genuine and reasonable doubts have lingered for some time and grown larger today.
Spending Gomez’s fee may not win the league, but it can certainly bring in a handful of very good players. Spending all the fee won’t resolve these questions over ambition, but it will show there is some cause for optimism. Gomez’s sale isn’t right, but improvement on the pitch will soon make it forgotten.
The sale makes it evident, if it were not already, that Duchatelet’s ambitions are based around financial rather than footballing success. But reinvesting the transfer fee wisely will at least show there remains enough genuine ambition to push the Addicks forward, and prevent the growth of this rather uncomfortable feeling that we are merely a cog in a money-making scheme.