Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughPlayer Power - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Player Power - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Player Power

When your star player signs a new contract nowadays, do you really care? Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo signed one at the back end of the 2006/07 season, swearing his allegiance to Old Trafford for another five years on mega-bucks that we mere mortals can only dream of.  A year after pledging loyalty on paper, there were serious flirtations with Real Madrid on his part and a further twelve months down the line the Portuguese pretty boy had jumped fully into the bed of his Spanish mistress, abandoning the team that made him, just two years after promising five. 

A similar story can be seen down south, where Arsenal’s leader-in-chief Cesc Fabregas currently sits slap-bang in the middle of a ludicrously long eight-year deal signed in 2006.  Although Arsenal have assurances they won’t lose their most prized asset for free anytime soon, anyone witnessing his sub-standard early season form must conclude this Spaniard longs for the return to his footballing roots at Barcelona and will likely get it in the summer of 2011. 

In this day and age, it seems contracts just aren’t worth the bother.  In most cases they are offered to stop the dreaded ‘Bosman’ afflicting any club, preventing a good player from simply walking out for nothing at the end of his contract.  

Players hold the power I’m afraid and through contracts they can exercise this power over the increasingly desperate clubs that pay them.  As I mentioned before, the only benefit clubs get from a new contract is the prospect of receiving a transfer fee when, not if, the young man decides to jump ship.  If a new player signs a five year deal and cites this transfer as “a dream come true”, you’ll be lucky to see him in your team’s colours for three seasons of mediocrity before the inevitable switch to the club he’s “supported since he was a boy”.  

Then of course, there is the issue of the weekly wage.  Those players with itchy feet, in tandem with the snake-like creature known as ‘the agent’, will pimp themselves out across the media saying “so-and-so wants to buy me, blah-blah-blah, yadda-yadda-yadda”, before the player’s club is panicked into offering a boy with thirty first team appearances a new contract worth 5000% more than he was earning the previous season.  Hell, some even do it before thirty games! 

Take Daniel Sturridge, one of English football’s brightest young talents.  Despite his undoubted promise and scintillating performances in the youth and reserve teams of Manchester City, this teenage prospect had the audacity to demand £60,000 a week from a club that had coached him since primary school, despite only a handful of substitute appearances for the first team.  The pre ‘silly money’ Man City refused to buckle and in return Sturridge joined Chelsea for a nominal fee.  The moral of the story?  Stand up to player power and lose your most gifted prospect.  Give in and fork out £60,000 a week to a boy learning his trade.  Oh dear. 

Do not think young Daniel is the only one at it though.  Rewind a couple of years and you have the case of John Obi-Mikel who, having signed a contract in principal to join Manchester United, decided he quite liked the thought of Chelsea better and ensured both clubs spend horrendous amounts of time, money and effort in the courtroom to decide that his future did indeed lie in London.  The young Nigerian at the time was responsible for one of the most expensive sulks in sporting history. 

While the previously accused pair can claim innocence on the grounds of youth, the more experienced culprits of last summers, Liverpool’s Javier Mascherano and Stoke’s Asmir Begovic, do not deserve such pity.  Mascherano’s refusal to play for Liverpool against Man City left then manager Roy Hodgson with no choice but to allow the Argentinean to head for Barcelona, a full two years before his contract actually expired.  Then we come to Begovic, a perennial understudy in English football, who refused to play for his employers Stoke City  in a Carling Cup tie at Shrewsbury because his “mind was a little bit scrambled” about the prospect of a move to Chelsea.  I’m sure you, like me, won’t be sending any messages of condolence to the Begovic household anytime soon. 

The irony is that as these selfish actions become ever more frequent, the reliance of football’s lesser players on contracts becomes greater and greater.  This year, a record number of professionals were released by their clubs, with the likes of William Gallas, Fabio Aurelio and Deco all unemployed at some stage last summer.  

An increasing topic of conversation in football is the emerging gap between the rich and poor.  Not only does this apply to clubs, but now it seems to individual players as well.  Certain players are forcing clubs to accept their most outlandish of demands while those less fortunate scrap around searching for an all-too-elusive place of work.  The sad thing is, with more and more agents now attaching themselves to the ever increasing football money-pot, this problem is only ever going to get worse.  

Jon Vale

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