The potential peril of goal bonuses

Money makes the football world go round and if you don’t have cash, you have nothing. Just ask professional idiot Leon Knight.

Everybody in football wants to earn as much as their talents allow them which is fair enough; if people are willing to pay stupid amounts of money in wages for talent (no matter how dubious it is. Hello again Leon) then that’s their prerogative.

However, perhaps there is an element of this that is damaging to football clubs in another way outside of the huge danger to living beyond one’s means as a business.

If banking had a bonus culture that caused a world full of problems, football may well have it’s own particular bonus problem.

Reports this week suggested that Michael Owen’s transfer to Stoke on a free was greased through based on a huge goal bonus to supplement a salary Owen’s representatives felt was not large enough.

On the face of it, a goal bonus suits all parties. Stoke do not have to pay a massive basic wage to a player who could indeed be past it but Owen backs himself to still score goals enough to augment a salary he does not feel is enough for his talents.

If he doesn’t score, Stoke pay less in wages. If he does score, Owen earns more and Stoke inevitably place higher in the league.

Win win, no?

Well, no.

There is a risk with goal bonuses and it depends on a player’s mentality and what they think about in-game.

Say the ball drops to Owen in the last minute, with Stoke 1-0 down to a rival. He looks up from a position around 15 yards out. He spots a teammate in a better position to score than him but he has got glory and his goal bonus on his mind. He strikes for goal and the opposing keeper gathers it with ease. His teammate goes mental.

I’m not saying that Owen is a greedy footballer (he probably isn’t as he seems like one of life’s good guys and besides, he has enough business interests outside of football) but there is always an element of selfishness with strikers as that is what makes the best ones so lethal.

However, if his teammates get it into his mind that he deliberately went for goal in an attempt to get his bonus, could this lead to a divide in the dressing room and an erosion of team spirit?

This has the potential to be a particularly big problem at a club like Stoke where team spirit is crucial at a club where the team is greater than the sum of it’s parts.

It remains to be seen whether this is a problem that could materialise but while the deal is benefical to all parties on the face of it, scratching beneath the surface could discover some potential pitfalls.

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