Former Arsenal youngster, Donyell Malen, sold for just £540k, is set for a big money move to Borrussia Dortmund very soon, but why did Donyell Malen leave Arsenal?

Donyell Malen
Donyell Malen with Arsenal

Donyell Malen arrived at Arsenal from Ajax’s Academy in 2015 but was sold for just £540k in 2017, the player impatient to get into a first team.

Since then, his value has rocketed and is now worth £27m and was being chased by a host of clubs, including West Ham, Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund, before the Germans sealed a deal to sign him. 

As Malen is still on the original contract he signed after leaving Arsenal, Dortmund will pay Arsenal 1% of the transfer fee. The fee is currently set at around £25m, meaning Arsenal will take £250,000.

Why did Donyell Malen leave Arsenal?

When Donyell Malen signed for PSG as an 18-year-old, it took many by surprise. Malen was a promising player in Arsenal’s youth team, having joined from Ajax’s academy in 2015. He featured for the club during the pre-season tour of Australia and China, and looked to be making big strides forward.

However, it seems the lure of more first-team football was difficult to resist. “It was going well in England, but I still wanted to leave Arsenal because I had the opportunity to sign for PSV. I took that chance,” he told Eindhovens Dagblad.

The whole situation probably wasn’t helped by Andries Jonker, then in charge of the youth setup at Arsenal, calling Malen ‘too fat’.

“I heard him say that I came in too fat. That surprised me,” Malen told Algemeen Dagblad.

“They had been working at Arsenal for two months when I came. Of course, you are not immediately on the same level. I was not yet in a good fit, but too fat? No.”

At 0.36 in this interview, Jonker says, “A little too much kilos,” rather than ‘too fat’ but you get the gist.

Jonker, in another interview, added in relation to Malen’s time at Arsenal, “That boy has had a remarkable time at Arsenal. When he came he was seen as a great talent, but he turned out not to be fit at all and we had doubts as to whether he really went for it.”

Malen made 67 appearances for Arsenal’s youth teams, scoring 27 times. He played either as a striker or on the wing, catching the eye with his pace and direct running at the opposition.

Malen’s sale was part of an exodus of young players that summer which included the likes of Chris Willock, Dan Crowley, Ismael Bennacer and Kaylen Hinds.

Jonker, meanwhile, left Arsenal before Malen, to become the manager of Wolfsburg where he lasted seven months, two of which were June and July.

Donyell Malen signing for Arsenal annoyed Ajax

Former Ajax manager Frank de Boer admitted that the club were less than pleased to lose Donyell Malen to Arsenal in 2015.

“He has a lot of talent,” de Boer said. “I know him from his Ajax period. He actually was to be the successor to (Kasper) Dolberg. He then went to Arsenal and did not come back. He is really a good player, but is still a young talent.

“He is certainly a nice boy. He played at Ajax in youth. We were a bit p***ed [off] because he went to Arsenal. We saw him as a full-fledged Ajax player.”