I don’t know about you but I have been pretty bored by this summer’s transfers so far. We seem to have widespread club v player tussles going on over players who have had their heads turned and want to move, but for once the clubs seem to be standing their ground, causing some of the most drawnout transfer specualtion ever. Usually in scenario’s like these, players manage to force a move and player loyalty comes in to question. Since the Bosman ruling in 1995 we know need to come to terms with the fact that footballers are just employees of a club and under European Union law they have the same rights of any company employee once their contract expires. We have seen players in more control of their futures and in some cases this created a lot of bad feeling between players, fans and their clubs.One that always sticks in my mind from days-gone-by is the case of Sol Campbell. Sol was educated and given his break by Spurs only for him to run his contract down and move to the clubs arch-rivals Arsenal…how’s that for a kick in the face for both fan and club. Since the Bosman ruling players have more power, Sol Campbell was an England international defender who wanted to test himself at the top level, win trophies and earn more doing so, the same way anyone in a ‘normal’ job would move to a bigger company for a better position and more money. Campbell’s move was only ethically wrong because of the element of football, take football out of the equation and it was just a business decision and in business there is little room for sentiment and loyalty.
The very top players have different principles and know they won’t be short of offers, so seeing out a contract in your mid-20’s is no big deal. They now understand that if they are not allowed to leave a club, the ultimate two-finger salute is to let your contract run down to put the control back in the players hands.
Samir Nasri is one player in this very situation this summer (minus the two-finger salute). His contract will expire in the summer of 2012 and he is seeking a move away from Arsenal already as the vultures circle to get him now on the cheap. Arsenal do not want to miss out on a profitable return for one of their best players, but with Fabregas set to leave, they are prepared to take a gamble on Nasri and force the player to stay missing out on a nice return on their investment. In the meantime Nasri will either enjoy success at Arsenal and possibly sign a new deal if the club can match his ambitions or he will continue to be unsettled and leave-either way, the club have taken a strong stance against player power sacrificing profit in return to enhance the chances of on-field success.
Nasri has acted professionally amongst all of this speculation, but across north London at neighbours Spurs there is a different situation occurring with star midfielder Luka Modric. Despite being one of Spurs only truly world-class players he is on a contract that apparently is not reflective of his importance to the team. When you combine this with one of the leagues title challenging sides Chelsea chasing his signature, you have the recipe for head-turning internal club warfare.
Luka reported back at Spurs Lodge in the midst of intense speculation regarding his future after he stated he would like to join London rivals Chelsea. His colleagues/team mates had their say on this, as did Harry Redknapp, and it was clear Modric was unhappy. Daniel Levy has dug his heels in and stated the player is not leaving for any price. How easy is it to replace Modric? Impossible. There is speculation that both Nasri & Modric could still be on the move but it seems it will be on the clubs terms rather than the players even if both players are forced to play when not happy.
One scenario similar to that of the Luka Modric situation is the Cesc Fabregas saga. It is inevitable that at some point in the next two seasons Fabregas will sign for Barcelona, I don’t know many Arsenal fans that have not accepted his destiny. Even though the player wants to leave, Arsenal are in no hurry to sell and where he could try and force a move, because of his contract, the ball is in Arsenal’s court.
When he does leave, he will be going for top dollar and one of the main reasons he probably hasn’t moved yet this summer is over the fee. Central midfielders have been at the centre of boring transfer speculation this summer and it will take only one transfer to be the catalyst for other moves to happen, I just hope it is soon. For example if Modric, Pastore or Sneijder move from their current sides it will set a benchmark in terms of the transfer fee. Arsenal will want as much as is possible for their star player and you could argue that if a lesser proven and lesser recognised player such as Pastore moves for the kind of money that is being mentioned, €40/€50m, then you would expect a greater fee for a player such as Fabregas and rightly so. Just because Barcelona is the only destination does not mean that they will get the player on the cheap, Arsenal are prepared to fight for what is in the clubs best interests rather than the players.
Things are changing and if a player is tied up on a long-term deal but wants to leave, it is tough and only going to happen if the business terms are right for the club. Tevez has been someone who just wants to leave Manchester City but with so much cash they don’t care when it happens as they will still bring in a replacement. Bolton are holding out for a large fee for in-demand centre back Gary Cahill and won’t sell until their valuation is met and QPR have the same stance and have held firm over magician Adel Taarabt despite the player wanting to leave.
As much as players need to accept that when you run a business you want to get as much for your prized assets as possible, it is important that fans start to accept the reality of business principles as well; players are not loyal to clubs in the same way that fans are. To a fan, a club is for life, not just for the January transfer window, whereas clubs are merely employers to players. When players are happy and playing all is good, but when a bigger fish comes knocking we have to understand why a player will want to make a move. It is up to clubs to do the best for themselves and the fans in their transfer dealings, we have seen this in abundance this summer. Although a refreshing stance, let’s be honest, the cat and mouse approach has made for a truly boring summer in the transfer market.