We’re reaching the time of year in the Barclays Premier League, where blueprints begin getting devised and exit routes enter the planning phase. As the season rattles on into December, despite the utter model of inconsistency the top flight has seemed to become this year, players will begin to gauge a fair idea of where their club will be looking to finish.
And for those that don’t like what they see, the cogs of forward thinking will already be in motion – primarily in the guise of engineering a move away from the club. Or at the very least, clamouring to a decent excuse to find a get-out clause.
Some, are certainly a little more up front about it. Indeed, although he appeared to ambiguously backtrack on his original statements, Everton’s Marouane Fellaini certainly didn’t muck around earlier on in the season.
“I am just starting my fifth season at Everton, this will be one of my last,” said the Belgian.
“I have seen everything. In January or at the end of the season I will turn to another club or championship.”
Well that’s certainly one way of doing it. Regardless of whether Fellaini does or doesn’t leave Goodison Park in the near future, you certainly had to admire his honestly; no rubbish, no feeding the fans lies and no mindless posturing.
But the truth is that clear-cut, ballsy like statements of intent a la Fellaini, aren’t par for the course. In fact, they’re a damn right rarity. This is of course, the age of the 21st century Premier League footballer. Where the wages dwarf the GDP of a small island in the Pacific and the players seemingly have a divine right to success.
Indeed, where as once the term success and the relentless quest for silverware was once an ideal fought for the club and supporters, it now appears to be hijacked by the one man crusade that is the singular footballer. And it’s a term that we’re all too unfamiliar with.
Classics along the lines of “The club have to match my ambition,” or “I demand success this season,” are now well-wielded weapons in the professional’s vocal armoury. Immortalised by William “I did not join Arsenal to finish third,” Gallas, it’s a notion that we’ve become all too familiar with over the last few years.
Some of you may be wondering what the fuss is about here, let alone the relevance it has in the current day. If a club has a half decent player and the team is underperforming, does he not have a right to kick off? Isn’t it only natural that he seeks to elevate himself onto bigger and better things?
In one respect, yes, of course he does. For unless you happen to support a club that is challenging for titles week in week out, the rest of us are all too begrudgingly aware of the cliché depicting the cream rising to the top. If a player is good enough, naturally, nine times out of then he will always find his way to one of the continent’s best. The author has recently endured this experience with Luka Modric and has a similar one penned in with Gareth Bale later on next year.
But more often than not, it doesn’t feel as if it’s the mercurial talents that have single handedly carried a team for a season, are the ones coming out and kicking off. Naturally, the ones that bestow the most talent, don’t’ always have to go looking for attention. That usually tends to find them.
And past that rare percentage of players, this is where the gripes with players demanding success really kicks in.
The last time we checked, football is a game played by a team. It takes a squad of men to lift a trophy, to gain a shot at glory and harvest silverware. Success is earned as a collective – not handed to you with a silver spoon as an individual. There is a wonderful irony in the player demanding more from the clubs – in no small part due to the rather prominent part that he plays in achieving it.
While there are a selection of bandit owners and murky chairman that exist within British football, are all clubs not striving for a common goal in success? What gives the right for a player to deride a club for not matching their ambition? Ambition is bred within the hearts of all supporters, you know, the ones who go a long way to actually paying these players’ wages.
The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. But do these players making these quotes not remember the journey that got them there in the first place? Football is fluid, things change quickly and fortunes can fade often for the worse. But when they arrived at the club, at some point, they shared a common goal. There is a painful absurdity to them asking the club to match their ambitions.
The phrase ‘no player is bigger than the club’ is batted around with such regularity that to many, it must ring hollow. But in many ways, it still rankles as one of the truest sentiments football has to offer. As a collective, it is the club, the supporters and the players whom can demand success and set ambitions. Not one solitary individual.
Players will come and go and motivations will always fluctuate. If a player has naturally outgrown his club, the scope for understanding – no matter how hard that may be – will always be there. But in demanding the club match his ambition and desire for success, maybe he always will get his move. Because the delusions and misconceptions of his own ambition, are never going to be particularly conducive with that of whose really matter – the club’s.