VIRGIL van Dijk is a decent player and one that is surely going to get better with time. But he’s playing the “not in the right frame of mind” game that is usually the precursor to a move to another club. Does he really think we’re buying this?
If van Dijk is not in the right frame of mind, it is because his agent and his desire to move clubs is shifting his focus. It is incredible the amount of players that have problems with their head, and we’re not talking about the poor devils who have suffered from years of heading a heavy football or anyone having genuine psychological problems. We’ve also seen it with non-league players, who have had to have a break from their club because “I need to get my head together”. This normally means they disappear from their club and turn up at another a couple of weeks later, usually for more money.
Such is the sensitivity around mental illness today that we cannot ignore any claim by a footballer that his head “is not right”. But it is surely nonsense that so many players, from the top to the bottom, claim to have issues.
Perhaps the current generation is over-sensitive. Certainly when a player is dropped today, from non-league to women’s football, inevitably there is a post-mortem.
More likely, “got to get my head together” is a cover-all excuse for a player being unhappy, underpaid, unloved or under-appreciated. Or at least, that’s the interpetation.
Look at the Neymar situation. The rumblings start, talk of a move hits the media, no doubt encouragd by his agent/manager and before you know it, he’s having a training ground brawl and there’s news of a medical in the middle east. Alexis Sanchez, determined to leave Arsenal, is suddenly unwell, sulking and pictured with his domestic pet to show the fans that he’s a caring, sensitive fellow really – but one that’s trying to work his way out of a club where he’s signed a contract. Meanwhile, his manager is in denial!
One thing’s for sure, an ordinary mortal – i.e. someone with a regular job – could never use “my head’s not right” as a reason to be off work or in dispute.
Increasingly, the fans don’t buy this. Some years ago, Gordon Durie, an excellent footballer, wanted to leave Chelsea because he needed to move north (i.e. back to Scotland). He did indeed move north, some 20 miles up the road to Tottenham Hotspur. Chelsea’s supporters were annoyed – understandably.
Players need to be more truthful and there needs to be greater scrutiny of contracts. Why tie players up for four years when you know damn well that they are not going to honour them. Sanchez is a classic case. He has a year to go, so Arsenal will be anxious to either sell him or extend his deal. Sanchez can play hard ball because he knows that if he runs to term, the Gunners will get nothing. It’s all carefully choreographed and it happens time after time. It is cheating the clubs and the supporters.
Next time a player kisses a badge or sends a social media message thanking the fans for their support, “but it is time to move on”, ignore it. It is time that the fans showed their displeasure at the way players game the system. They are treating the people that help make matchdays with disdain. There’s incredible power in the fanbase if only people realised it, but too often they just keep feeding the machine.