Birmingham City chairman David Gold has moved to assure supporters that the sale of Fabrice Muamba is not the start of a summer sale of the club’s best players.
The England Under-21 international joined Bolton Wanderers this week for £5.75 million and speculation persists that Wigan Athletic and Newcastle United are lining up a move for French midfielder Olivier Kapo. United manager Kevin Keegan is also said to be keen on midfielder Sebastian Larsson.
While Gold accepts it is sometimes impossible to keep your best players if they are determined to leave, he said the club did not need to sell for financial reasons and players would only be allowed to leave if manager Alex McLeish believes it would benefit the squad.
While 20-year-old Muamba was a great athlete who was excellent at breaking up threatening attacks, he wasn’t as effective in possession of the ball and McLeish will use the funds raised to bring in a more creative midfield partner for new signing Lee Carsley.
“We have a great determination to keep our best players,” Gold said. “But we trust Alex’s judgment and he felt that, at the price offered, the sale was a good opportunity to make changes.
“While Fabrice had great energy, Alex is looking for a different type of midfielder, more like Carsley. Alex wants to change the way the midfield plays and he will pick the players he feels are best, and if he thought Fabrice was integral to his plans he would have kept him.”
While Gold said he was wishing Larsson every success in Euro 2008, he admitted he was relieved that the 23-year-old Swede did not make a massive impact in his first major international tournament.
Birmingham’s Player of the Year, who has been offered a new five-year contract, made only one substitute appearance during the three group games and is heading home after Sweden’s defeat at the hands of Russia on Wednesday. Gold feared that if Larsson had been given more opportunity to showcase his talents Blues would have faced a difficult task to keep him.
“I wanted him to do well and I am sure he will play in the next World Cup,” Gold said. “But I must confess I am relieved he didn’t come on and score a hat-trick because it could have presented us with a problem. He is our Player of the Year and that means he is special, but we will do everything we can to keep him.
“However, it is not always possible to keep your best players. Look at Manchester United with Ronaldo now and David Beckham before, and Gareth Barry at Aston Villa. Sometimes you can fight all you want but it isn’t enough, but we will do everything we can to keep the players Alex wants to keep.”
While there has been speculation about the players who could be leaving, there have also been plenty of names linked with St Andrew’s. Austrian midfielder Jurgen Samuel, Czech Republic striker Jan Koller and Portsmouth duo Sean Davis and David Nugent are all said to be on McLeish’s radar. “Players will leave but they will be replaced by players who will excite the fans,” Gold said. “We may be disappointed to lose someone like Fabrice but we are all excited to have signed a player of the skill and guile of Carsley.
“I am excited about the prospect of the new season. Obviously it is a tough time for the club but when the fixtures came out I was excited about the challenge we face, as I am sure Alex and the players are.
“If we get promoted, we will become the first team ever to be relegated twice and promoted twice in four seasons. That is the challenge.”