Charlie Patino is leaving Arsenal: How has it come to this?
It’s been less than two years since Charlie Patino enjoyed the debut of dreams for Arsenal, coming off the bench as a 17-year-old to score at the Emirates Stadium in a Carabao Cup quarter-final win over Sunderland. Patino seemed destined to follow in the footsteps of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe and be the next Hale End graduate to make a major impact with the first-team.
But the midfielder has made just one senior appearance since then, a start in the FA Cup against Nottingham Forest last year. And now, less than 18 months since that memorable night, he is on the verge of leaving Arsenal for good - with the club having agreed to help him move on permanently this summer.
So how has it come to this? Why is a player many felt would go on make his name at Arsenal being allowed to leave?
GOAL takes a look at the situation...
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How it started
Patino was playing for Luton Town when he was first spotted by Arsenal scout Brian Stapleton at the age of just 11. “Of all the years I’ve been scouting, he’s the best kid I’ve ever seen,” Stapleton told GOAL when recalling that moment. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. He was 11 and I think he was playing in the Under-13s, and I was like ‘wow’.
“I made a phone call to the head of my department at Arsenal at the time, Sean O’Connor. He asked what I thought and I said, ‘well, I’m not coming back again. I don’t need to see any more, you need to sign this kid straight away.’"
Arsenal had to act fast to land Patino, with Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham all interested. They did just that, bringing him to the club in 2015, and he was immediately identified by the academy coaching staff as having the talent to push towards the first-team.
It always felt like a matter of time before Patino had his breakthrough moment, such was the level of hype about his talent as he progressed through the youth ranks. Each cup game during the first half of the 2021-22 season felt like the moment he could be involved, but each time Mikel Arteta kept everyone waiting.
Patino’s big day finally arrived on December 21 when he was named amongst the substitutes for the Carabao Cup quarter-final against Sunderland at the Emirates. With Arsenal leading 4-1, Arteta brought him on 10 minutes from time and soon after he popped up in the box to calmly side foot Nicolas Pepe’s cross into the net to mark his debut in the best possible way.
“It was an amazing night,” Patino recalled during an exclusive interview with GOAL last year. “When I came on, it was an amazing feeling hearing everyone chanting my name. It gave me so much confidence. I felt free, I felt like I could play like I normally play.
“Then when I got my first pass off, it brought even more confidence. Then to score after Pepe crossed it in, it was just amazing, honestly.”
But as is the way with football, highs can be followed by lows, and Patino’s next appearance came just three games later when he started in the FA Cup third round at Forest. A much-changed Arsenal team struggled against the Championship outfit and were beaten 1-0.
Patino was replaced with just over 20 minutes remaining, with many feeling he was not quite ready physically to cope with the demands of senior football. That would prove to be his final competitive appearance for the Arsenal first team.
Patino did start last summer in and around Arteta’s squad. He played in some early pre-season warm-up games and travelled to Germany, where he produced an eye-catching cameo off the bench in a 5-3 win against Nurnberg.
It seemed at that point that the teenager would travel to America for the pre-season tour and he was hopeful of making the squad. But he was then informed he would not be travelling, with Arteta opting to take the likes of Lucas Torreira and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, even though it was clear they had no long-term future at the club.
Patino and his representatives then pushed for the midfielder to be allowed to leave on loan because they felt a season in senior football would be far better for his development than playing in the U21s.
A move to Blackpool was agreed and many wondered whether Patino would be able to cope with the physical nature of playing in the Championship for a side that was expected to be involved in a relegation battle. But the Arsenal loanee silenced the doubters by making an immediate impression with the Seasiders, quickly becoming a fan favourite with the Lancashire club.
“He’s sensational,” Patino’s Blackpool team-mate Jerry Yates said. “He deserves all the credit. He’s only young, but the way he has taken to the Championship is unbelievable. He’ll be a top, top player.”
So far, Patino has made 36 appearances for Blackpool, scoring three goals. He has flourished away from London, not just on the pitch but off it, where he has had to deal with living on his own for the first time in a completely new environment.
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The contract extension
Arsenal informed Patino in December that they would be taking up an option that was included in his first professional contract that he signed when he turned 17. That option triggered a two-year extension on his current deal, which would take it up to the summer of 2025.
But as it was just an option being triggered, meaning Patino stayed on his original terms. It wasn’t an improved contract, one that rewarded him for the strides he had made since breaking into senior football. It was just taken up to protect Arsenal, as otherwise the midfielder would have been out of contract this summer and available on a free transfer.
When Arsenal took up the option they indicated that further talks would take place imminently about the youngster’s long-term future.
Those talks have now taken place and it has been agreed that Patino will be able to leave this summer, should a suitable offer arrive. The talks were understood to be amicable, with all parties focused on getting the best possible outcome for the player.
Having had a taste of first-team football, Patino does not want to go back to the U21s, and with just two years left on his contract, another loan would not be an ideal situation for the club or the player. If Arsenal are going to get the best possible price for Patino, they are aware they need to sell this summer, rather than allowing him to get down to the final year of his deal.
Ideally, Arsenal would have liked to have kept Patino, but they are unable to really offer him any clear pathway to the first-team at present, which is something they accept. The youngster already has several senior players ahead of him in the pecking order, and Arsenal are expected to invest heavily this summer to strengthen the midfield further, with the likes of Declan Rice, Moises Caicedo and Mason Mount all players being considered as the Gunners aim to build a squad capable of competing not just for the Premier League, but also the Champions League.
With that in mind, the decision has been taken to let Patino to move on to continue with his development elsewhere.
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What comes next?
There is already strong interest in Patino, both from teams in England and abroad. The fact that he has a Spanish passport due to his father, Jules, being from Spain, makes him a very appealing option to clubs on the continent.
Arsenal’s priority now will be on trying to get the best possible deal for the midfielder. It’s unlikely they will get a significant transfer fee upfront, but they will look to ensure any deal includes several clauses which will allow that fee to rise over time.
It is highly likely that they will include a matching rights clause in any agreement, so if Patino’s next club should agree to sell the midfielder further down the line, Arsenal would be able to match that transfer fee and enter into talks about a return to north London, should they so wish.