Are Football Clubs Finally Winning This War?
Cast your minds back to 19 October 2010, a time that marked perhaps the most turbulent week off-the-pitch for Manchester United in recent years. A delusional Wayne Rooney voices his intentions to leave arguably the greatest club side in the world because he wasn’t given any assurances about the future of the squad. The world gasps, Barcelona and Real Madrid immediately announce their interest whilst Sir Alex Ferguson is declared clinically ‘dumbfounded’.
However just days later normality is resumed when Rooney signs a bumper new deal, which will see him remain at Old Trafford for a further five years as the club’s highest earner. Ferguson breathes a sigh of relief as ‘Wazza’ attributes his bizarre behaviour to his meddling agent and other ‘outside influences’, proving that he can pass blame almost as well as he can pass the ball. The fallout is significant, Rooney is quickly welcomed back into the arms of his supporters with his reputation relatively intact whilst the rest of country accepts that ‘power plays’ are now a prominent feature in modern football.
Since then we’ve seen Cesc Fabregas’ tear-soaked plea to Arsene Wenger rewarded with a move home to Barcelona and Carlos Tevez worm his way back into the title-winning Manchester City squad after effectively going on strike. Are football clubs merely puppets for their prized superstars or do the employers still hold all the cards in such situations?
Fans of long, drawn out transfer sagas have been rewarded with not one but two shining examples in North London this summer. Robin Van Persie is eyeing up one last ‘big’ move after questioning Arsenal’s ambition whilst Luka Modric is very keen on becoming the latest Galactico, but I think he’d settle for Champions League football. Despite the players differing contract situations, both parent clubs have stonewalled any potential move unless a certain valuation is met. A refreshing stance in the eyes of many, especially as many buying clubs seem to believe that a player’s desire to leave somehow reduces their market value.
In my opinion the transfer value of a footballer is dictated solely by how important or valuable they’re to their current club, which is why we see players leave for peanuts when they’re no longer wanted and extortionate sums if they are. Of course there are other contributing factors but this is the reason Andy Carroll was ‘worth’ £35m and you can acquire Dimitar Berbatov for a paltry £5m.
In the case at Arsenal, Wenger is understandably reluctant to let his star striker join a league rival, all the while signing players that make Van Persie’s ‘ambition’ comments look rather futile. Unfortunately Arsenal are still a far cry from title contenders, which is therefore unlikely to deter the Dutchman in his quest to leave. Wenger has undoubtedly learnt a great deal since watching a smug Samir Nasri lift the Premier League title with Manchester City.
Over at White Hart Lane, new manager Andre Villas-Boas appears to have found his perfect partner in the form of chairman Daniel Levy. Villas-Boas suffered a torrid time at Chelsea as key players within the squad staged a mutiny but because of Levy’s strict leadership, he is unlikely to endure a similar fate this season. Both men boast a stubborn approach when it comes to rogue individuals, which should provide the foundations for a successful period in the wake of ‘pally’ manager Harry Redknapp.
Speaking of Redknapp, the currently unemployed wheeler-dealer was one of many individuals to voice their concern about player power in the aftermath of the Rooney saga in 2010.
“I worry about it with kids now. We’ve ended up in a situation where you give young kids long contracts now, for fear of losing them. They come in here at 17; suddenly they get a four- or five-year contract.
“They’ve got their feet under the table; they can go and do what they want; they’re getting plenty of money. When you’re dealing with top players, it’s a difficult one. When you’re dealing with kids, I personally would take a chance on losing them.”
“If they don’t want to stay at your club, well okay, fine.” (Telegraph)
Sir Alex Ferguson would appear to share a similar view, having refused to bow down the demands of young starlets Ravel Morrison and more recently Paul Pogba. Both players embody an ugly trend within the next generation of stars who lack both the respect and brain cells to realise how privileged they are to exist at club with United’s reputation and history.
Of course it would be naive of me to consider the impact of ‘player power’ without acknowledging the flip side of the coin. Football is a brutal business, for every dream made, hundreds are shattered as clubs continually look to trim their wage bill and offload any perceived deadwood. Should we pity the unfortunate players who suffer such harsh realities anymore than we hate those players who happen to be in demand? There are no heroes or villains in this football fairytale, only human beings driven by personal gain.
The speculation will continue to circulate above the futures of both Modric and Van Persie, much to the delight of tabloid newspapers who appear to be the only winners in such situations. However should either player remain at their respective club once the transfer window slams shut then you can rest assured they will be back in the team come October. The reason they are perceived to have such ‘power’ stems simply for their incredible skills as a footballer, teams cannot and will not let such talent waste away in the reserves. In the same vein, few footballers will be able to cope with the humiliation of sinking below Marouane Chamakh in the pecking order.
If a week is a long time in football then a month is an eternity, which perhaps suggests player power is only worth considering in the short term. At the right time, in the right environment a player can easily bring a club to its knees but with enough determination and resilience, the club should always come out on top.
It is safe to say that money still talks in football, but perhaps one day fewer people will listen as careers go south and reputations tarnished beyond repair as a result of a transfer tantrum.
Join me on Twitter @theunusedsub where I’m hoping Wilf Zaha doesn’t end up throwing the toys out of his diamond encrusted pram