No sooner had reports been heard of Everton’s belief that they could land the player, so Lopez gave an interview to Sky Sports.
“I think he is currently one of the top five central defenders in Europe,” he said.
“His statistics, which are not well covered outside of France, show that his percentage of duel wins is quite unknown in an extremely physical league. “
These are not the words of a president who desperately seeks to keep one of his precious assets under his nose and out of the clutches of teams with money to spend.
On the contrary, it seems. It was more like a sales pitch.
But it’s no secret that a central part of the operation of the Ligue 1 club, its finances and the club’s growth, is to reap the benefits of player trading.
Their record in this department is very impressive and to Luis Campos, their sports director, they have a man who has found players who have made his last two clubs around 500 million pounds sterling in profits.
Gabriel would be the last to add to Lille’s list of successes because a player signed in Avai, Brazil, for 1.5 million pounds sterling in the summer of 2016, would increase his bank account by 28.5 million pounds sterling, if it is sold at what appears to be the asking price.
But more on this a little later.
In an interview with the Financial Times earlier this year, Lopez explained how he raised € 140 million for the club through a loan from a large investment group called Elliot Management.
“They funded this club to start a process of investing in players, creating value, selling some of the players, keeping others to develop the club,” Lopez told FT.
He also added: “To me, I tell you that we are the best club in the world in the player trade probably wouldn’t be too far from the truth.
“If not the best, we’re probably in the top three, four or five clubs. “
And without the income from qualifying for the Champions League (Lille ranks fourth in the rankings and is currently out of the game), then selling players for profit is vital.
Indeed, it would be the proceeds from the sale of Gabriel that could help make a big difference at the end of the accounting year.
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Last summer, Arsenal paid a club record (at both ends of the deal) £ 72 million to sign Nicolas Pepe of Lille and although Marco Silva wanted it too, but it was too expensive for Everton as well consider the idea of bidding.
But the financial uncertainty of football is such that the profit margins suddenly seem to decrease day by day, but will the price asked by Lille for Gabriel, hold when the transfer window opens?
Perhaps. Maybe not. Lopez, it seems, will not waste time discovering it and would prefer to tie a deal as soon as possible.
And arousing interest in the player, as the president seems to be doing, may be the only way to help maintain Gabriel’s value at current levels.
It remains to be seen how many millions the Blues are ready to bid for the 22-year-old Brazilian defender, whose football director Marcel Brands has loved the player for months, but he’s not one to get drawn into wars auction, that’s for sure.
It will be interesting to see how far Everton is ready to go.
Just a few weeks ago, the message from Goodison was that it was difficult to put in place firm plans given that there are many unknowns in the game, including when the market opens and in what shape football finances will be in shape.
There is, however, a growing feeling that when football breaks out of the lock and the window opens, it can be a buyer’s market.
This of course helps and annoys Everton.
The Blues are still trying to unload a load of dead wood that is on the team while generating funds to buy players for the first full season of Carlo Ancelotti in charge.
As for Lille and Lopez, they hope to carve out a reputation as one of the most intelligent sales clubs in the world and Everton wishes to do business for Gabriel.
But who knows what the transfer business will look like in a few months?
The feeling is not the same as it was.