It’s no secret that contracts in the world of football aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. The modern game is built on fairytale riches, the quest for silverware and turning the concept of loyalty into a fallacy. As an increasing number of financial restrictions begin to take effect, keeping hold of your prize assets is an essential priority, which is why so many clubs are willing to hand out new deals like they’re going out of fashion.
At Arsenal, the harsh reality of failing to secure long-term agreements is painfully evident. During the past two seasons both Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie have used their looming expiry dates to engineer a move away from the club. Many will argue that Arsene Wenger deserves praise for extracting substantial funds from the Manchester duo but money in the bank does not win you football matches.
Even players still basking in the infancy of a newly signed contract can still instigate problems if they kick up enough fuss. Wayne Rooney successfully earned himself a significant pay rise after questioning the ambitions of the club while the likes of Luka Modric have thrown impressive tantrums as they become aware of interest elsewhere.
Only last year Marouane Fellaini signed a five year-deal at Everton but can anyone see him remaining at the club beyond next summer? If the Toffees repel the inevitable offers that come his way, which they have every right to do so, they risk angering their new talisman and jeopardising their impressive squad harmony.
Alan Pardew echoed the sentiments of an entire nation when he spoke of his “astonishment” at being handed his distinctive eight-year contract on Tyneside. The influential figures at Newcastle will declare this a statement of intent as they build for the future, but I believe the priority is to stop envious eyes from flirting with ‘Pardiola’ should he continue to work wonders with the Toon Army. It would appear the financial rewards on offer in football break through the barriers of realism and far exceed any other industry in the world.
Of course agents have been pivotal in creating a climate of hysteria and agitation when it comes to contract negotiations. However, this is by no means a criticism, after all who can begrudge them when they are simply trying to acquire the best financial package for their client. The temperamental nature of football’s elite is at such a surreal level that agents are constantly sourcing interest from potential suitors and planting stories in the media, just in case a player suddenly decides he wants to leave.
There is a real worry that these increasing financial demands are heaping unnecessary pressure on the bank accounts of football clubs. The mind boggles when you consider the number of outgoing payments involved in drafting up a new contract. Players and indeed managers will warrant signing-on fees, image right payments, win bonuses plus a ‘loyalty fee’, which concerns the money a player is entitled to if they don’t hand in a transfer request throughout the duration of their contract.
All of these elements are on top of their basic page and doesn’t take into account the compensation packages, which will increase as the length of contract skyrockets that have to be paid out if it all goes the shape of the pear. There is an incredible level of risk for what is a very unrealistic likelihood of reward. What happens if Newcastle go 5, 10 or even 15 games without a win? Mike Ashley has essentially backed himself into a very tight corner that only an extortionate amount of money can free him from.
If clubs manage to tie down their best players then they can at least drive their asking price upwards should relations suffer a monumental breakdown. That is perhaps the only advantage, as more and more players appear confident enough to throw their weight around. The growing consensus is that football is entering into an age of sensible financial practise but the recent philosophy towards contract negotiations would suggest clubs are being more reckless then ever before.
Join me on Twitter @theunusedsub where Udinese’s performance at Anfield last night reignited my affection for Antonio Di Natale.