To sell or not to sell is question over Pompey’s key asset

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It was 16 years ago Pompey cashed in their prized asset.

Shortly after becoming the club’s manager, Harry Redknapp took the decision to take the £5m on offer from Aston Villa for Peter Crouch’s services.

Matt Clarke. Picture: Joe Pepler

Matt Clarke. Picture: Joe Pepler

It was a decision which received a fair degree of criticism back then, as the club’s top scorer and player of the season departed.

Yet, all that agitation is now long forgotten amid what ensued over the next 12 months.

Pompey, of course, stormed to the Division One title in record-breaking fashion – record points and record goals. It was the departure of Crouch which had everything to do with that success.

Men like Arjan De Zeeuw, Matt Taylor, Hayden Foxe, Vincent Pericard, Gianluca Festa and a certain Paul Merson came in off the back of his exit, with the fact Svetoslav Todorov arrived a couple of weeks before his exit evidently no accident.

Fast forward to today and Pompey find themselves at a very similar crossroads with Matt Clarke – yet a vastly different outcome currently appears to be on the cards.

In the past three years we’ve seen the club sell their most bankable players on two occasions, as Jed Wallace (2015) and Adam Webster (2016) departed.

We’re told that happened through necessity with the club needing to balance the books in the community era. Making the sums add up in Webster’s case meant covering the fees and wages for the players Paul Cook brought in to deliver the League Two title to Fratton Park.

With Clarke himself part of the deal which also generated nearly £700,000, that figure was used to cover around £400,000 in various fees with there also a hike in player wages.

Today, though, the pressure to cash in no longer remains – and this week that became very apparent.

It appears Eisner has made his position abundantly clear: Clarke’s not for sale and he’s not interested in entertaining offers.

In a period where clubs are seeing how the land lies when it comes to what the tipping point is to pull Clarke away from Fratton Park, they are politely being given short shrift.

Which raises the very interesting point, even if not for sale, what is a fair valuation to place on the 21-year-old’s head?

His age itself is arguably the greatest single factor to push the price up, especially as it’s married with the level of experience Clarke’s accrued. The lad from Suffolk’s already got 120 senior appearances to his name, with 115 arriving in royal blue.

Then there’s the amount of Championship and Premier League clubs who’ve been rumoured to be interested in the player, with a bidding war always the best scenario in a selling situation.

In February, Pompey tied down the player’s future until 2020, meaning his value is not diminished by an end to his agreement being on the horizon.

Peterborough recently slapped a £6.5m price tag on League One’s top scorer Jack Marriott, with Watford buying young League Two defender Ben Wilmot from Stevenage for £1m last week. Chelsea were also ordered to pay £2.5m for Exeter’s teenage defender Ethan Ampadu last month.

With all that in mind, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to put Clarke valuation somewhere between £3m and £4m.

It’s worth highlighting how the game has been littered with disaffected players denied big moves down the years. Equally, though, Clarke’s impeccable character and levels of professionalism should be underlined.

It all appears to be a fruitless argument, given Eisner’s headstrong stance on the issue for a player evidently viewed as crucial to next season’s promotion hopes.

To sell or not to sell was the question. For Pompey’s owners it appears one not worth consideration.