Why football fans shouldn’t expect anything different

It’s the summer transfer window, and players are moving about all over the place, as is traditional. Some players have agitated for moves, and these players are mercenaries, whose greed causes them to stab their employers in the back and prevents them from acting in a dignified manner, as they seek more money and let down those who have worshipped them and supported them throughout the years.

Well, not really. Samir Nasri, seemingly on his way out of Arsenal, is reported to have said the following:
“With no titles under your belt, you can’t be in list for Ballon D’Or. I came to England for trophies because I’ve not won anything in my career, apart from an Under 17 European Championship in 2004. We already earn huge wages. The priority is to make a big career and to win titles. This is more important than everything else.”

Fair enough. He wants to win stuff. What footballer wouldn’t? For most players this is a case of hoping for the odd triumph or two, but for the elite footballers, there will be an expectation of a fruitful career laden with trophies, and time spent competing for the big prizes. Life doesn’t always work out that way though.
Some of the criticism of Nasri that I have read this week revolves around the following argument: if he wants to win stuff, then he should do it with Arsenal, and perhaps play better as he was part of non-winning team. It’s an argument that literally makes no sense, but there you go.

Playing football is a “job” for footballers. A stupendously obvious statement, but one that seems beyond the grasp of many. The old days are long-gone when the players got the bus to the ground, when the whole team were born within a Darren Gibson mis-shot away from the front gates, when they earned tuppence ha’penny a week and worked down the mines in their spare time. Times have changed. It is a short career too. At best, you’ve got about 20 years at the top level, but with one piece of bad luck it could just as likely end tomorrow.
It is easy for Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs to be raised on a pedestal as players of great loyalty – of course they were loyal, their club kept winning stuff – they had no reason to leave. If United has gone through a long lean spell, you would have seen that loyalty severely tested. We’ll never know.

Yes players at the top are already handsomely rewarded for kicking a football around, but everyone always wants more money, it is human nature. It is an easy label to attach to a player – greed. But apart from the fact the taxman gets half of it immediately, countless players donate money back to their home country, fund charity projects around the world and do endless other good deeds. Let’s not lump all players into the blinged-up, partying, orgy-filled clichéd lifestyle, desperate for more money so that they can host another £500,000 Cristal champagne party at China White. And rock stars and film stars can earn obscene amounts of money without any criticism, so why not footballers?

And since when was ambition such a bad thing? Nasri wants to win trophies. So does Fernando Torres, whose domestic spoils are virtually non-existent. Torres felt he had a better chance of that at Chelsea, which is probably true (in the short-term). Nasri feels he needs to go elsewhere to win something – again, whatever your opinion, that is what he thinks, and is entitled to think. Arsenal haven’t won anything for six years, so it is reasonable to project more lean times ahead.

That’s not to say it’s right to totally excuse footballers when they want out. They still have a duty to act with respect, to their employer and to their fans. One of the main “beefs” of the Liverpool fans with the departure of Torres was not just the fact that he wanted to leave, but more at how he handled the whole process. And there are occasions when players do owe a debt to a club – when that club has stood by them after indiscretions, when that club has supported them, given them a second chance, helped them back on track when they did not need to. My arguments refer to the general rule though – each transfer situation is in the end unique. I have heard many a time too the argument “after all we have done for the player!” Hogwash. Do you think players are bought out of charity? Of course not, they are bought because the manager or chairman sniffs a good deal, and if they do turn their careers around (presuming they are still in contract) they are adequately remunerated for their revival should they move on.

Of course this is not to say players can’t get more out of their job. They can become legends at a club, revered, part of the history, part of the folklore of where they work. They can be more than just an employee, and these are the players we truly love, and remember, and overlook their faults. But all I am arguing is that no player has an obligation to do this – that is their choice. If they want to hop from club to club, then that is their prerogative. Carlos Tevez will never be a club legend, but I doubt he cares.

As a Manchester City fan, the player mentioned above must be discussed –a certain Carlos Alberto Tevez. So should I be angry at Tevez for his lack of loyalty, for the constant rumblings of discontent over the past year? Not really. He wants to go, so he can go – for a fair price for the club. Any discontent is not due to a lack of loyalty, but how he (and especially his agent) have handled the whole affair. Either go or shut up. And stop moaning about a city you made no attempt to discover (where the sun is currently shining brightly), in a country whose language you couldn’t be bothered to learn. Some respect is always appreciated from fans – but I would not criticise any player for wanting to leave if that’s what they want to do. That is life – Tevez always gave his all on the pitch, I don’t see any reason to like him off the pitch, and the rumour is a few of his colleagues feel the same, but that is another matter entirely.

There is also a certain degree of hypocrisy in how we view players, and other clubs’ dealings in the transfer market. After all, for all those fans that criticise lack of loyalty in players – tell me how your club made their signings in the first place? No doubt you were happy for players to show no loyalty if it bagged your club a great new signing? If so, you can’t have it both ways.

And the contract they have signed and should adhere to? It is naive to expect contracts to be honoured – their true value is in compensating a club should a player leave, not in tying down players for 5 years. Once more, it is a two-way street. Clubs are happy to discard players when they see fit – it is hard to moan about loyalty when the player himself makes the decision to leave – after all, a year down the line he might be surplus to requirements anyway. And there’s nothing more hypocritical than a manager pleading for loyalty from one of his players when that manager himself would clear his desk quicker than Ryan Giggs shins down drainpipes the moment a better offer came along.

I used to think differently. I used to think that players were a disgrace when agitating for a move and any player that wanted to leave could rot in the reserves for the following three years. That would teach them a lesson. I was disgusted that any player wouldn‘t want to remain a part of my team’s bunch of averagely-skilled cloggers and underachievers. But the people who run clubs, for all their faults, live in a more realistic world, as do managers, and realise that if a player wishes to leave, then it is best not to stand in their way – it benefits no one to create obstacles. A case of cutting off your nose to spite your face. I love my home city, but if I was a South American footballer, I would rather live in Barcelona or Madrid, it’s a no-brainer. Sometimes fans have to accept that other clubs are more attractive to players at your club. Or as is often the real reason, more attractive to the family of the player.

It’s just started raining again.

 


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