Should we allow footballers to openly court transfers?

Lost in translation?

Barely an international break goes by without the British press seizing on some soundbite that slowly filters its way back across the continent. This week it was the turn of Fulham striker Moussa Dembele to be put under the spotlight after he apparently ‘courted’ Tottenham’s interest whilst away with Belgium.

The Flemish daily newspaper De Standaard very loosely quoted Dembele as saying that a move to Spurs would be a ‘step up’ and that ‘has always been his goal.’ So naturally, he’s courting a move to Tottenham.

The day after, cue the inevitable retraction and clarification with Dembele suggesting the whole thing was lost in translation somewhere down the line. The 24-year-old appeased the Cottagers fears he was off by saying, “I was asked about the links with Spurs and I did respond that I was flattered by interest in me because it means I am playing well, nothing more. I am happy at Fulham and I am under contract here.” Those final dreaded words.

This story is nothing more than cross-continental tabloid jigger-pokery on what are notoriously slow news weeks. There’s nothing to write about so an inane transfer question is lobbed in, half-heartedly played down, re-hashed, spiced up and turned into a transfer exclusive across the channel. Sex sells.

The real question here though is, should players still have to deny ambition and politically correctly claim allegiance to a club that they will more than likely be, at some point, plotting their departure from anyway?

Todays footballers through a networks of agents, middle-men and media contacts have naturally become more inclined to voice messages of dissatisfaction through the press – Carlos Tevez being the most notable, obnoxious example. Pleas projected via the media have become commonplace in todays game with the transfer gossip columns effectively becoming a lonely hearts column for those lost souls seeking new affection.

How much of it is actually attributable to the players and their inner circle or unnamed ‘sources’ invented by the news-breaker is unclear, but the notion of players using the media to discuss such matters is widely derided by those on the terraces. But is this not just another example of double standards from football fans? One of their players wants off and they’re money-mad mercenaries yet should someone be declaring a penchant for moving in their direction and the news is greeted with open arms.

The same contradictions apply to many aspects of player loyalty yet the angst from purported hard-done by fans rarely stretches past criticisms of chasing cash. Hypothetically, if Dembele had wanted to join Spurs, could Fulham fans really blame him and would they view him in any lesser light than their very own Bryan Ruiz, who left FC Twente to challenge himself in the English league? And would Spurs have welcomed a player who was so ready to leave a club higher in the table, when they were so critical of Luka Modric for wanting to do likewise?

Of course the argument stretches further and wider than Dembele, Fulham and Spurs, but this case only further highlights the constant propaganda charade that players, clubs and fans alike all perform as individual entities.

Clubs are constantly involved in an evolutionary process to better themselves and recruits brought in to improve the team are often included to the detriment of another former asset who could easily be disposed of with little conscience or afterthought. Loyalty works one way in football, and thats fan to club. Club to player and player to club is nothing more than an employer-employee relationship with one using the other for as much as they’re worth.

The lengthy contracts players sign are another dual agreement. Clubs know they can effectively tie individuals to them knowing they can recoup a transfer fee, and often elevate that fee mid-term. Overall, the liberty of being allowed to seek work elsewhere is a basic civil employment right, just as many people reading this very article will have a recruitment website open on another browsing tab and looking at it rationally, this notion has long since become a reality with the denial of the post-modernist game only slightly tinged by the sepia-toned visions football fans still glint their eyes to see. The footballers are the pantomime villains but rarely are they the real crooks of the piece.

Follow John Baines on twitter @bainesyDiego10


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