As the summer transfer window nears its final
stages, something strange is happening.
Many of the moves that were 'definitely'
happening have failed to materialise. A clutch of big names find themselves
languishing at clubs, long after they have made plain their intention to move
Wesley Sneijder, Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel
Adebayor... all were expected to be off within days of the window opening. None
Behind this strange phenomenon, there has been
a fundamental shift in the way these players approach transfer negotiations.
Footballers have long been accused of being
mercenaries, only in it for the paycheck. There is some truth in that
criticism, but others (like Robbie Keane) have a more imaginative approach.
Nevertheless, the money-grabbing stance is at least the product of rational thought.
Much as you'd like to think players chose their
clubs for loftier reasons than money, you can at least see some logical
decision-making in the process of selling your work to the highest bidder.
If there are three clubs offering you a
contract, it is sensible, if a little unromantic, to pick the one who will pay
you the most money. That is the old-fashioned way of being a mercenary.
Nowadays, it has all changed, though.
It seems players (and their agents) are
no longer happy to scan the available offers and snap up the most attractive
Instead they take the hands on approach of assigning
a set value on their services, then see if there is anyone out there willing to
foot the bill.
And in many cases, there isn't. All over
Europe, players are pricing themselves out of transfers.
Sneijder appears to have kiboshed his move to
Manchester United with his oft-quoted £200k-a-week wage demands.
Tevez can't find a buyer willing to keep him in
diamond-encrusted snoods after he scared off Corinthians and Internazionale.
And despite Manchester City's best efforts to
offload Adebayor, he could be staying, since there are probably no more than six
top clubs able to pay his £150,000-a-week salary, and none of them want him. A
move to Anzhi Makachkala awaits.
Even Samir Nasri's move to Manchester City reportedly
stalled over payments to his agent, before City finally sealed the deal.
This points at two things:
1- Greed on such a level as to be
We all want to get paid, but when your avarice
leaves you frozen on the sidelines at your present club, isn't it time to
There are players out there with a vastly
inflated sense of their own worth, and consequently they - with the help of
their Mr Ten Percent - are making bad decisions based on wilful delusion.
The 'highest bid' might be their current
contract, but what does it do to your future earning prospects when you are
rotting on the bench?
2- The downside of unlimited wealth.
Much has been made of Manchester City's ability
to offer wages so staggeringly lofty no rivals can compete.
They can compensate for the club's less
attractive aspects - a modest history by top clubs' standards, little recent
track record of success, a city with a negative reputation among players
(however unjust) - by paying 50 or 100 per cent more than anyone else.
If you can afford to pay massive wages to a
large squad, fine. But the problems begin when the big names become surplus to
For City, writing off Emmanuel Adebayor's £25m
transfer fee is no problem (financial fair play implications aside). Much
harder is trying to get the striker off the payroll.
Who on earth is going to pay for a player who thinks
he is worth 150 grand a week, when that player is Emmanuel Adebayor?
Adebayor, Roque Santa Cruz, Craig Bellamy -
City would love to get shot of all three, but the best they have managed so far
is loaning them out while still paying a chunk of their wages.
Maybe, as the transfer window closes, they will
see sense and accept reduced terms to rejuvenate their career - and boost their
future earning power by actually playing some football.
But at the moment, they are playing hardball
about as well as Gary Neville at a Chicago White Sox game.
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