Everyone’s favorite reality show, Finally Signing the Fekirs, switched networks yesterday. Next season, it will be syndicated in Spain, not France.
Am I being dramatic? Abso-feking-lutely not. It’s a transfer saga that’s gone on for over a year, one that’s emotionally drained Lyon fans, Liverpool fans, and everyone else in between.
So here’s what we know: The final transfer fee for Nabil Fekir is €19.75m with up to €10m in bonuses, as well as a 20% resale clause. His brother, Yassin, is also part of this deal, no transfer fee but a 50% resale clause. However, Yassin will immediately be loaned to second division Cádiz CF, only an hour away from Seville.
It’s an absolute steal for Real Betis. At this time last year, Fekir had just won the World Cup and was on the verge of a €72m move to Liverpool. Often touted as one of the best young playmakers in Europe, he was destined for great things. Fast forward to one year later, where he’s signed for a midtable La Liga club that was playing in the second division only a few years ago.
No one actually knows why Fekir’s move to Liverpool fell through, especially since he had been photographed and interviewed in their jersey. Among the many rumors were:
- Liverpool didn’t like the state of his knee
- Aulas was asking for too much money
- The financial demands of Fekir’s family (most notably, his brother-in-law)
- The demand that Yassin also be part of any deal
- This one is a little interesting. The general concensus is that Yassin can’t make it on his own, so their father is forcing Yassin to be a part of Nabil’s contract negotiations. However, I’m convinced it’s the other way around – I think it’s Nabil who wants Yassin due to his own insecurities. But that’s just my theory.
For whatever reason, Lyon and Liverpool abruptly terminated negotiations. All parties kept quiet, but the cloud of unhappiness around Fekir was immediately apparent. And as the season dragged on, it was clear that it wasn’t going to get better. With Fekir uninterested in signing an extension, and with only one year left on his contract, the club had no choice but to put him on the market.
But the buyers never came. Whether it was because of the suspicions around his knee (you would think other clubs would want to perform a medical themselves to see what’s up), a lackluster season with dramatic under-performances, his messy family situation, or even the fact that the number 10 role is becoming obsolete, Fekir did not receive the kind of offers he was hoping for.
(Cute video of him leading the “Ahou”:)
Only Real Betis showed concrete interest (ok so did a Chinese club, but Fekir dismissed them immediately). Betis offered to double his salary, and more importantly, sign Yassin along with him. And that was enough for Fekir. Despite Valencia and Napoli also showing interest, Fekir chose not to wait.
Is Betis a step down? Many say yes, but if a fresh start is what Fekir is after, perhaps it’s the best place for him. Away from the pressure and spotlight of the Champions League, he can regain his form in relative peace and quiet, and if he does return to his thundering 2018 self, perhaps that big move will eventually come to pass.
Better yet, at Betis he’ll be the central player, one whom the team will be built around. Given the limitations of his position, his lack of speed, and his disinterest in tracking back, having tactics circle around him is his best option. Betis is a young and exciting team, and perhaps there is some magic to be had once Fekir begins linking up with many of Betis’s young talents, ex-Lyon target Diego Lainez among them.
Joining OL at the age of 12, Fekir leaves with 69 goals, 41 assists, and over 200 professional appearances.However, there are also risks. Had Fekir stayed at Lyon, he would have had another season of Champions League football, which is the best platform in which to shine for prospective clubs (whereas Betis aren’t even in the Europa League). Lyon have a new manager who might have helped Fekir win his first ever domestic trophy. And more importantly, staying at Lyon would have meant staying on Didier Deschamp’s radar. By moving to Betis, not only has he jeopardized his national team prospects (Didi is a snob when it comes to clubs), but a less than stellar season at Betis will only confirm why the big clubs stayed away from Fekir.
Ultimately, the decision to leave was Fekir’s. Lyon had entreated him to stay, but he was unmoved. And so, after passing his medical yesterday, he’s no longer a Lyon player. We won’t see him pissing off Saint Etienne players at the next derby. He won’t be there to bail out Lyon in the Champions League. We’ll no longer hear his awkward post match interviews or see his goofy smiles.
He belongs to other fans now. We can only thank him for the beautiful years he’s given us and wish him the very best (and also hope for that 20% resale fee).
Good luck, Nabil.