The recent transfer sagas involving Tottenham Hotspur’s Gareth Bale, Luis Suarez of Liverpool and Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney have once again brought to the fore the issue of player power versus club in transfers.
The question is; should players be allowed to pull the strings when it comes to transfers? In other words can players pull the plug on a contract at will or do they owe their clubs some degree of loyalty?
On the other hand is it right for a club to hold onto a player even against his will simply because there is a valid, long term contract? Should a club sell only because they feel it is now right to do so?
All three transfer sagas have dragged on for much of the off-season, giving the oft-used term “silly season” much credence at a time like this when serious football is at its lowest ebb.
Beginning with the Suarez affair, Liverpool can really feel hard done by if the Uruguayan departs for Arsenal or Real Madrid if, as may happen the latter fail in their world record bid for Bale.
For the Reds did all they can to stand by him in the infamous racism row with Patrice Evra and the unsavoury biting incident involving Branislav Ivanovic of Chelsea.
Both incidents occurred in high profile games which left the reputation of the club in tatters particularly when they adopted a ‘see evil – but defend the evil’ policy even when common sense dictated otherwise.
It is not wholly inaccurate to suggest that this may have contributed to Kenny Dalglish losing his job especially when you consider the ramifications that racism has all over the whole world, not least in the USA where the club’s owners are based.
Now with two UEFA Champions League suitors tempting him with an irresistible carrot, the irritatingly gifted and wonderful footballer seems to have found an escape route. It is also worth noting that the player has come out on Uruguayan television blasting the British media for supposedly hounding him out of the country.
Why then would he opt for the bright lights of London where the hungry press hounds will be lying in wait even the more? Is it merely about playing in the UCL or about leaving the British Isles; or more likely a convenient escape route from Brendan Rodgers’ long-term project to restore Liverpool to the pinnacle of England?
It is obvious this project will take a couple of years before Liverpool is a sure-fire UCL team. Does Liverpool get rid of the talented striker with all his baggage or they dig in and resist other clubs’ overtures? And are Arsenal not taking a risk in the feisty forward?
Food for thought I guess, but what is clear is the word loyalty is an antithesis of problem resolution in Luis Suarez’ dictionary. A quick look at his past clubs confirms this.
In Wayne Rooney’s case, we have only been informed by a trigger-happy press that “Rooney is unhappy”. This is the media that is only happy to hark back to a once –problematic relationship between the striker’s previous and the then Everton manager, who as fate decreed is now Rooney’s new manager at United. The striker has not issued any statement and even his personal Facebook page has given no clues of his intentions.
Chelsea has attempted to seize on this uncertainty by submitting a bid which has been swiftly rebuffed by the Old Trafford club. Unless he submits a written transfer request expect this one not to go too far.
It would have been interesting to see how United would have reacted if a bid had been submitted by say, Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich. In truth though, both sides still need each other.
As appealing an idea it may be to link up with Jose Mourinho, Rooney will do well to knuckle down and fight for his place at Manchester United. Not that his place in the team is in any doubt and even Moyes will privately acknowledge this; but it his place of prominence in the team.
For the Liverpool –born forward wants to be the main man and not to live in the shadow of Robin van Persie but the only way he can achieve this is to let his football do the talking.
United certainly need his big-game talents especially in a difficult transfer window that has so far yielded no joy for Moyes. Even if either one of Thiago Alcantara or Cesc Fabregas had signed for the EPL champions, Rooney is still indispensable in my opinion.
The situation with the reigning Barclays Premier League Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year is more complex and intriguing though and certainly tops the bill for the silly season.
Can any football chairman resist £80million? Probably not... Unless of course the man in question is Spurs chairman Daniel Levy.
They don’t come more hard- nosed than this shrewd businessman whose intransigence must be a nightmare for any club attempting to buy a Spurs player. He will certainly start by plugging his ears, then when the bids rise he rejects them with a famous ‘not for sale’ riposte all the while keeping an eye on the deadline day.
Finally with the deadline almost upon them, the buying club will be told to pay an astronomical figure which they normally have to accept with a minor trimming if lucky, or as is.
£60million is more than a fair price for the Welsh wizard, but Levy knows too well that this purchase is not only intended to re-affirm Madrid’s dominance on the market but that it is also intended as a response by Florentino Perez and Zinedine Zidane to Barcelona’s pairing of Lionel Messi and the new Brazilian sensation Neymar Junior.
And what of Bale himself? What is his stance? Nothing official from him about wanting to leave, but crucially for potential suitors that include no-hopers Manchester United, nothing about staying either.
The answer to this may well lie with his agent Jonathan Barnett. I mean put yourself into his shoes for one minute; Real Madrid come calling with an offer that is a once in a lifetime opportunity for both player and agent: would not even the most loyal head be turned by £85 million or £100 million if Levy has an unbridled run?
Perhaps the most poignant thought to all this lies in Will Roche’s article on loyalty in which the term is debated at length. Even though it refers to the retail sector, football is a business and players are often traded (or choose to be traded) like hot commodities; “Loyalty? If you want loyalty buy a dog.”
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