A warning for the contract rebels

The recent revelation that Danny Welbeck was unimpressed with United’s treble-your-wage contract offer has left many, including his club, feeling slightly shocked. The striker is apparently holding out for around £60,000 as opposed to the £45,000 per week he has been offered, which has lead to contract talks between the club and Welbeck’s representatives breaking down. Unsurprisingly. There can’t be many other industries in which an employee would take the trebling of their wages as an insulting and somewhat patronising gesture, but then most industries don’t have agents for every employee, and most industries don’t have the media hyping up the quality of everything that their employees do. Such is the curse of footballers, and it can come around to bite them.

The level of hubris demonstrated by so many young players is truly remarkable. There are many pitfalls for young footballers, but not many as dangerous as succumbing to their own narcissistic tendencies. Being on the wrong end of such egotistical whims is something that Manchester United knows only too well. Welbeck’s reluctance to sign comes after similar problems with youngsters Ravel Morrison and Paul Pogba. Although to be fair to the eighteen year olds their gripe seems to be centred more on playing time than wage increases. Some players, like Wayne Rooney, even go so far as to threaten to quit for a rival club in order to attain the contract they believe they warrant.

It is hardly anything new; however, since the Bosman ruling and the supercilious spread of agents through the sport the players do now have more power than they used to. The difficulty in dealing with situations such as this is that the club will inevitably end up in a position they would rather avoid. Either they give in to the player’s demands and pay them a wage that does not align with their abilities, they are forced to sell or worse still they allow that player to run down their contract.

As I said, all clubs have to deal with this problem. Chelsea are currently facing a similar problem with Daniel Sturridge, Arsenal were forced to allow Mathieu Flamini to leave for free and are, at present, in a situation where winger Theo Walcott’s contract demands vastly outstrip his on-field performances. What makes the matter worse is that with so much money in the modern game you can bet that if your club refuse to give in to such demands, somebody else will be happy to pay them.

Clubs such as Manchester City, at best inadvertently and at worst deliberately, have caused a wage inflation that has influenced young players’ own valuation of themselves, regardless of whether or not it is either sustainable or realistic.

To make matters worse it seems that so many players get away with this behaviour. For every Nicolas Anelka who moves away for more money only to spend the next disappointing decade wandering around the world in a way that can only be compared to nomadic herdsmen, or Jermaine Pennant who found himself transforming from the next big thing to…well not really anything, there are plenty of young players whose arrogance is rewarded with contracts that act as extensions of their egos rather than just reward for their efforts.

I’m not saying that Danny Welbeck, or Sturridge for that matter, are not good players. They are; but, whether they are being ill-advised or not, they are playing a dangerous game with clubs that have their best interests at heart and will do all they can to ensure they succeed. David Bentley, Jay Bothroyd, Jermaine Pennant and many others could warn these young players of the perils believing their own hype, whether or not those warnings would be heeded is another matter entirely.

Follow me on Twitter @H_Mackay

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