Luka Modric’s behaviour towards Spurs has been ill advised, immature and totally disrespectful, but it hasn’t been surprising. That so much financial and emotional faith and resources are invested into these players appears to make little difference to their moral compasses.
For all of Levy and Tottenham’s supposed fury at the Croatian’s recent absences from training there seems to be little they can really do about it. If anything, the longer he remains at odds with the club the more untenable his position in north London becomes, thus weakening Tottenham’s hand in negotiations.
When a club has a player tied down to a long contract they can always use the threat of holding him to the end of his deal in order to raise the price of that player. That is of course until it becomes clear that it is impossible for that player to remain at the club. Luka Modric might not quite be at the point of no return, but he’s not far off either.
Ever since Jean-Marc Bosman won his court ruling against the Belgian Football Association in 1995 player-power has been increasing. The threat of leaving for free at the end of their contract has been enough for countless players to either hold their club to ransom or move on to another team without opposition. However, recently we have begun to see that regardless of whether or not a player has multiple years left of their contract they still have the ability to manipulate almost any situation to their advantage.
Modric is the perfect example of this. He signed a six-year contract just two years ago; how then does he have any power of his club? How is it acceptable that he should miss training for a team that pays him a considerable amount of money? The problem for the clubs is that in any other industry you would simply terminate the contract of the individual. That, however, does far more harm to Tottenham than it does to Modric – who would then be able to join whomever he pleased.
Modric isn’t the only high profile player to forced a move to a bigger club whilst in theory the club could have prevented it. Robin van Persie is currently trying to do the exact same thing, but with slightly different tactics. Instead of not turning up to training the Arsenal captain released a statement saying how he disagreed with the way in which the club was run and that he was looking to leave.
Or you could look back to how Rio Ferdinand forced his way out of Leeds in 2002, or how Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas left Arsenal in 2011 or how Berbatov forced a move to Man Utd in 2008.
However, the question that needs to be asked is: are we really talking about player power here or is it more an issue of agent power? It is impossible to deny that player agents are having a negative effect on the game. Only yesterday Alex Ferguson revealed that Eden Hazrd’s agents’ personal demands were £6m and he said that it was the same with Samir Nasri’s agent the year before. If these people are in a position to demand that sort of money it is clear their power has got out of hand.
Moreover, their ability to destabilise relationships between players and their clubs has got to a point whereby UEFA and FIFA really should be considering some kind of cap in terms of how much these agents can earn.
Ultimately the Bosman ruling in ’95 set the tone for things to come. As soon as players had power to move freely at the end of their contracts then clubs had lost the upper hand. The power had shifted, perhaps not irreversibly but certainly to a significant degree. Edgar Davids and Steve McManaman set a precedent with their moves from Ajax and Liverpool respectively, since then a host of players have used the threat of following in their footsteps to force the hand of their clubs.
The problem is that now we have reached a stage where the length of the contract is barely even relevant. If a player kicks up enough of a fuss he can still force a move away from the club and with wages as inflated as they are it is rare that a club can afford to keep that player on the books but in the reserves as punishment.
Player power does not always succeed. If you ask Niko Kranjcar or Gio Dos Santos whether they have the power to force a move away from a club and they might think a little differently. Nevertheless, it is plain to see that the potential for a club to dictate a player’s career is diminishing every year. With every Tevez and Modric comes a dangerous precedent, an example for others to follow. Clearly players should have a say in how their career pans out; agents, though, are manipulating this situation for their own benefit more than anything.