Player Power Petering Out?

The concept of ‘player power’ is one that has significantly risen in stock in the money-driven world of modern professional football. It is a term that relates to footballers having almost complete control over their own rights and movements, with very little regard for their employers or what is written within their contracts.

Traditionally, in days long ago, footballers were treated no differently to other members of the professional workforce. Inadequately paid and rather poorly treated by their employers, footballers had very little to say on what went on within their own careers and were traded like cattle.

However in recent times, the influence of money in the game seems to have led to an enormous shift in power, with the players often holding all the cards, acting in a manner that would be unheard of in most other professions. Contracts seem to mean extremely little to footballers in the current financial climate of the game, and it seems the days of playing simply for the unwavering love of the beautiful game have long gone.

Footballers can now decide whether or not to stick to their contracts and earn every single penny they have been promised, or they can decide they will move on at any stage making it very difficult for clubs to keep hold of them and therefore rendering their contracts utterly meaningless.

When expressing their ambitions to move clubs, players often recycle a number of reasons for doing so and it is often difficult to decipher whether or not they are being entirely truthful. These reasons can include a need to win trophies, a furthering of personal ambition or simply a yearning to move back to familiar territory. Perfectly reasonable you may think, but such excuses have been used on so many separate occasions by so many footballers across the globe that supporters have grown rather tired of such dated clichés and players now attempting to use such lines are attacked for a serious lack of loyalty.

With players under contract, clubs are well within their rights to demand fees that may far exceed the approximate market value of a certain player. If we examine a number of the largest transfer sagas currently dominating the press during this current summer, it might appear as if player power is actually decreasing and the clubs are beginning to wrestle back the mantle of power, largely by holding firm on such inflated valuations.

Diminutive Croatian playmaker Luka Modric has made no secret of his desire to leave Tottenham Hotspur since London rivals Chelsea began courting his attention. However despite Modric making his feelings known, Spurs are seemingly determined to hold onto him until their exact asking price is met, with, at the time of writing, Chelsea having failed in more than one bid for his services. It seems Redknapp and company will not be bullied over Modric, determined not to wilt under the intense scrutiny of one of the so-called ‘top four’, with the player having relatively little say on the outcome of negotiations.

Argentinian frontman Carlos Tevez has also been the subject of much transfer speculation in recent weeks, with the player seemingly intent on leaving Eastlands for pastures new. Using the familiar line about wishing to move closer back to his family in his native South America, Brazilian giants Corinthians look favourites to land his signature but appear to be having difficulties agreeing on a suitable financial package as the Blues hold out for a sizeable fee, another clear example of a club refusing to be held to ransom by one of its star players.

Now while it is rather impractical to expect a player to remain at a club after he has voiced his wish to move on, these current transfer situations do at least show that clubs are determined to hold out for as much as possible for their stars. And, in select cases where valuations are not met, certain clubs seem perfectly happy to hold onto their disillusioned prima donna’s until their demands can be met in full.

The examples of Cesc Fabregas and Ronaldo are very apt here. In the case of the former, the young Spaniard has clearly always been keen on a move back to Barcelona, but thus far Arsenal have seemingly held their own during negotiations and Fabregas remains a Gunner. The player is reportedly far from happy with the stubborn attitude adopted by Arsenal since the Catalan club first voiced their interest in Fabregas, but the club appear to be employing an admirably unmovable stance on their captain, regardless of what he wants.

Similarly with Ronaldo, it was clear for all to see for a significant period of time that the player had his hopes firmly set on a move to Real Madrid and with a move to the Spanish capital seemingly imminent, Manchester United remained determined to keep hold of him and did just that. Not only did they get another consistent season out of him, but United were only eventually convinced to part with their biggest asset for a cool £80 million, comfortably the highest transfer fee in the history of the sport.

Ronaldo is a fine example of a club fighting back against the growth in player power, but it is of course well worth noting that Manchester United’s undoubted pedigree as one of the biggest clubs in world football puts them in a far stronger position than that of smaller clubs, who are obviously far more vulnerable financially.

While it would appear as if some clubs are beginning to stage a fight back against the dominance of the players they employ, it would certainly be extremely foolish to suggest that the era of player power is at an end. Although we have seen examples of a number of the game’s clubs attempting to at least curb the influence of player power by hugely inflating their transfer fees and ensuring they are soundly compensated for their losses, for the most part it is still the player who decides when and where he will move on and that will remain the case for the foreseeable future.

George Flood


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