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The only Bukayo Saka question is how much

The choice facing Arsenal with Bukayo Saka’s contract seems complicated. But in reality, there is only one question to ask: how much is necessary?

In hindsight, the smart play for Arsenal would have been to sign Bukayo Saka to a multi-year contract extension as soon as he was called up from the academy. By that point, his talent was well known to Arsenal insiders like Freddie Ljungberg. Unfortunately, when Saka was called up, the club had bigger fish to fry than extending the contract of an academy product who had yet to come good.

Ljungberg was filling in as caretaker manager and the club’s top brass were looking for a new skipper. There were major injuries to players at key positions — which is what forced Saka’s early call-up to begin with — and the club was desperately trying to trim its wage bill. Add that to the fact that no one could have imagined Saka would be this good this quickly, and Arsenal’s failure to extend his contract straight away becomes a little more understandable. Nevertheless, it has left them in a bind.

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Saka is easily the brightest jewel to come out of Arsenal’s academy in years. You could go all the way back to Cesc Fabregas to find another player who had the same impact at so young. Fabregas went on to have a spectacular career at both the club and international level. On top of that, Saka’s a hard worker and the fact that he’s played a defensive role so willingly is the perfect illustration of his positive attitude. Simply put, Saka is the kind of player you build your team’s future around.

Taking all of those facts into consideration, the question surrounding Saka’s north London future doesn’t seem to be one of whether or not the club should offer a raise but how much? It’s certainly going to be a bigger jump than he’d have gotten nine assists and several months ago when he was a relative unknown.

By now, major clubs all around the world are circling like sharks, hoping Saka’s contract situation will lead to the club selling him on the cheap.  All of this puts Saka and his agent in an extremely powerful negotiating position, as Arsenal have experienced before.

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The bushel full of assists and electrifying performances he’s accrued since his call up is suddenly putting as much pressure on the wage bill as it puts on opposing defenders. That’s a problem true enough, but it’s the kind of problem world-class football clubs should want to have.

It is no secret that Arsenal being forced to sell Saka because he’s in the last year of his contract would result in the club recouping a scandalously low fee. No fan wants to suffer through the indignity of watching Saka maraud up and down the pitch for another team. It would be Serge Gnabry all over again, who was sold for £5 million and is now one of the leading wingers in world football.

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That means the only question with Saka is how much the club must pay him and for how many years. The alternative is unthinkable. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to see how Arsenal got themselves into this tricky situation. But now that they are here, the idea of taking the easy way out by selling him for pennies is neither understandable nor forgivable.

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