Barcelona and Real Madrid’s tapping up habits are getting out of hand. Sandro Rosell’s recent comments about Bale and Real Madrid’s announced interest in Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere cannot be seen as anything other than a blatant flaunting of the tapping up rules. But wait, what are those rules again? ‘Any clubs caught tapping up players are heavily punished unless you are Barcelona or Real Madrid’ – ah yes that’s it.
In all seriousness though any club wishing to buy a player must go through the club first and ideally give up if their inquiry is rebuffed, try telling the Spanish and Catalan capitals that. The inconsistencies in the punishment of tapping up players have seen Arsenal, and Chelsea punished for tapping up of numerous players whilst Clubs like the Spanish giants consistently get away with it.
The tapping up of Arsenal’s Ashley Cole saw Jose Mourinho, Peter Kenyon, Cole and his agent all punished with six figure fines in 2005. Rightly so too, their approach for Cole and Chelsea were in breach of Premier League rule K5 which states that which states that no approach can be made by club or player for a potential transfer without first receiving permission from the parent club.
Chelsea were also punished by FIFA who initially banned Chelsea from signing players for two transfer windows for causing Gael Kakuta to break with his contract with club FC Lens in 2007. Whilst eventually it was decided that Kakuta’s contract with his French club had not been binding and therefore the ban was repealed the fact remains that FIFA were quick to come down on Chelsea for what they perceived to be wrongdoing.
Arsenal too have been at the centre of tapping up rows for the signing of Nicolas Anelka and the potential signings of Gabriel Agbonlahor and Joleon Lescott. The case with the latter two was something that was staunchly denied by Pat Rice in 2009 when the Arsenal Assistant manager said: “Arsenal have never been and will never be a club that taps up or illegally approaches a player it wants.” To be fair to Arsenal there was little evidence for any of these occurrences but ultimately they too have been under high levels of scrutiny for their transfer dealings. So why doesn’t the same apply to the Spanish clubs?
The problem that we face today is how to define the ‘meetings’ that constitute the tapping up of players. Tottenham have not given permission to Barcelona to start inciting rumours about a transfer to Barcelona much the same as Arsenal didn’t with Fabregas. Real Madrid too have come out and said that Wilshere is part of their ‘two year plan’ and that they intend to sign him. Is unsettling players in this way not the same as approaching them with a view to a possible transfer? Just because they may not meet face-to-face it doesn’t mean that the concept isn’t still the same.
Barcelona seem to think that just because Guardiola himself doesn’t like to get involved in press releases like this that it is ok for the rest of the club to do it. Over the past few years Arsenal have had to put up with comments about Fabregas from the club president and the majority of the Barcelona first team too, just as they had to when Arsenal said they didn’t want sell Thierry Henry either. This war of attrition may appear to be harmless wishful thinking announced to the press but in reality it is a carefully executed plan to unsettle a player which normally results in a slight loss of form and increased pressure to sell.
If that isn’t tapping up I don’t know what is. And now the same will presumably happen with Bale. Real Madrid will also now begin with Wilshere, Goetze and Hazard. Many will think that this kind of complaint is hypocrisy from Arsenal as they are repeatedly linked with players but to be honest you never actually hear any of the Arsenal players or staff saying anything more than they think a player is ‘good’. And even that would be an extravagant divulgence from Wenger.
Barcelona in particular have become the masters of this form of approaching players and it is about time FIFA grew a pair and took on the Catalan club and punished them. Why is it that clubs in England are pulled up and punished over this issue whilst others get away? Spurs fans may enjoy seeing their rival’s players being tapped up and pinched but they will soon realise that they too will be on the receiving end of such deals. They have ambition of becoming a major club but will find it hard to maintain certain levels quality if episodes like the Modric one begin to happen every summer.
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