Emmanuel Adebayor gave Arsenal their best news of the summer transfer window so far when the striker ended the doubts over his immediate future at the club by agreeing to sign a new deal that will keep him contracted until 2012.
After a summer in which Arsène Wenger's squad was at breaking point as Europe's biggest names came after his best young players, the Arsenal manager at last secured the future of one of his main men.
Adebayor, 24, has signed a one-year extension in addition to the three years on his existing deal and is also understood to have doubled his wages to around £70,000 a week. Nevertheless it is a far cry from the £120,000 a week that the Togo striker was initially understood to have demanded once he realised he was a leading target for Milan and Barcelona. Wenger also yesterday attacked the conduct of the European teams who had made illegal approaches to his players at the end of last season.
Alexander Hleb, Mathieu Flamini and Gilberto Silva may have all departed but, with Adebayor's future secured, Wenger said that he was only seeking one more experienced midfielder to complete his squad, who face Juventus and Real Madrid over the weekend in the pre-season Emirates Cup. "There is no reason why with such a young squad why we will be less good this year," Wenger said. "We have lost Flamini, Hleb and Gilberto, but we have replaced Hleb with Samir Nasri who is a very good player. Gilberto only played 12 games last year."
With an entourage of agents all claiming to represent him, and an outspoken declaration of his own value to Arsenal at a sponsor's event in Vienna during Euro 2008, Adebayor's future at Arsenal has been precarious indeed. However, Wenger's meeting with the player in Austria shortly afterwards tipped the deal back in Arsenal's favour – along with the striker's discovery that his suitors in Italy and Spain were not quite as prepared to pay him the wages that they had promised.
Strenuously denying that he had ever wished to leave – and conveniently blaming the newspapers for any misunderstanding – Adebayor said that it was his loyalty to Wenger that was the key to him staying. "[Our relationship is] always strong," he said. "When we started talking about my contract I never told him I'd be leaving this club and he knew my desire, my desire was to stay at this club so for me he's like my father, he's my boss so whatever he tells me I'll do it.
"When I was on holiday... I didn't know what was happening [about his future]. When I came back I realised what was happening but you know the thing has happened already so now the most important thing is behind me and I'll show everyone this club has given me a lot of things. It gave me a chance to be who I am today so I have to thank them and I think the boss understands that as well, so now we are in the same boat, now we have to work hard together as a family and to deliver better than what we did last season."
As ever with Adebayor there is some confusion over the exact length of the deal and, with another season of underachievement, you can imagine that Arsenal will go through all this again next season. Adebayor was explicit in Austria in June that the club owed him nothing and there was a telling caveat to this latest display of loyalty when he said "at the moment my heart is with Arsenal."
Wenger was damning of the clubs he believed had "destabilised" his players last season. The Arsenal manager, who confirmed that William Gallas will be his captain next season, said: "There is a game going on in Europe where the big clubs tap up our players. They let us do the work and develop the players and then they think they can just come in and offer him big wages.
"I told you our players were destabilised at the end of the season, during an important part of last season. Not only directly by the club. You know how it works, it goes through agents. It's a problem we had. I have no special problem with Real Madrid. But the rules are quite clear. If you want a player you call the club and ask how much they want for him, and if they are ready to sell him? If it's 'No' you don't need to speak to the player, because 'No' is 'No'."
With that principle in mind, Wenger would not talk directly about whether Gareth Barry was a viable target. "If we can do one more signing we will do it but it will need to be quality. We don't need money to buy someone, but it's not just about buying it has to be the right person. That is at the moment very difficult. We have enough young players who can step in but we lost experience and if we can get a midfielder with experience who can play a tactical role we will do it."