IT has been another week that has highlighted the mercenary nature of professional footballers and the true value of a contract – the agreement between employer and employee that seemingly binds the relationship for a given period. We have also been reminded of the manipulative approach adopted by the men behind the smoked glass windows in helping their “clients” agitate for a move.
Footballers have always been idolised, going back to the early 20th century, but in the current age, their absurdly inflated wages and behaviour creates a slightly obscene world in which they feel they can do anything they please, command untold riches, loosely adhere to their contracts and play the victim in order to push for a transfer. And while this goes on, the fans continue to worship them, buy the shirts, pay the extortionate ticket prices and pledge their allegiance to the cause. Football fans, despite being taken for fools so often, still come running. The players not only have the clubs by the crotch, but also the hordes of supporters.
The Diego Costa saga is just the latest episode. He’s under contract until June 2019, so more than two years remaining on a deal signed in July 2014. It is not unusual for a player to start making rumblings about a move in such a timeframe. He’s 28, so it is arguable that his best earning potential is going to be with his next deal. At the same time, if Chelsea feel they are going to lose Costa, now is the time to cash in – he has two years to go on his contract and he’s at the peak of his form. What’s more, if China was to lure him away, Chelsea would temporarily mourn the loss of their prolific goalscorer, but the money would be useful, no? And given he would not be going to a competitor, Chelsea could more easily lose Costa to Tianjian and line-up a replacement in the form of Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez or a similar big name.
But what’s unpalatable about the Costa affair is that it appears to have all the trademarks of a manufactured attempt to either secure a move or an enhanced contract. It has been accompanied by a “bust-up” at the training ground, rumours of another move back to Spain and talk of a “troublesome injury”. Ever since Costa arrived at Chelsea, there’s been constant talk of him “wanting away”. Perhaps the club should let him go, cash-in and let him disappear to China, where he will become even richer but probably never play international football again.
Likewise, the Dimitri Payet story represents the unacceptable face of modern football. He was relatively unknown before signing for West Ham in 2015 from Marseille for £ 10.7m. He enjoyed an excellent season in 2015-16, netting 12 goals in 38 games and earned a place in France’s Euro 2016 squad. This season, with West Ham struggling in their new home and Payet hampered by injury and loss of form, he has scored three goals in 22. Apparently, he doesn’t want to play for the club again, according to media reports that picture him driving out of West Ham’s training ground in his Ferrari.
Payet signed a contract extension less than a year ago that took him up to 2021. He will be 34 at that stage – you have to wonder at West Ham’s wisdom. Now Payet has asked to leave, despite tying himself – in the loosest possible way – to the Hammers for another four years. Arguably, his stock has fallen this season, but he’s keen to return to France. The problem is he claims he wants to go home for his family, and West Ham will be tarnished as hard-nosed if they don’t let him go. Again, he’s at an age where his next contract may be his last really lucrative deal. It is likely, though, that transfer or not, we won’t hear much about Payet post-Premier, and once he’s rejoined Marseille, his track record suggests he will be on the move again in two years.
But while Costa and Payet are really operating within what has become accepted practice, the case of Jeremain Lens really does highlight the state of the game today. Signed by Sunderland in 2015, he went out on a season-long loan to Fenerbahçe in August. He’s done well in Turkey and was reported as saying that Sunderland’s relegation to the Championship would help his cause of a move. “Disgracefully disrespectful,” said Sunderland manager David Moyes, and you cannot blame him.
Each transfer window brings similar stories to the fore. Players aggravating their employers, agents circling like vultures and games of cat-and-mouse that come to fruition on the final day of the window. It’s a charade and an insult to the supporters. It makes a mockery of the scene that is played out every time a goal is scored, the player clutching his heart as a signal of affection to the club and the kissing of the badge like it’s some sort of holy ritual. Some of these people are as shallow as a puddle…
Contract expires June 2017, currently angling for an extension as I have an injured thumb caused by a training ground incident involving a pen and keyboard. My agent is talking to Blogspot and other interested parties.