This is an article written for and published on Les Artilleurs by
@andysternAFC that we are helping to publicise for him.Personally I dont agree 100% but near enough.It makes some great points.
Loyalty is a funny thing in football. Is there any loyalty left in football, or indeed, did it ever exist? Whereas an abundance of loyalty can only lead one to become a fan favourite, disloyalty is one of the cardinal sins of football, and the player (or indeed manager) to commit such a sin will undoubtedly become a villain for the rest of their life. Of course, every cloud has a silver lining, and more often than not, the traitor will be welcomed with open arms at their new club.
I’m writing this article to coincide with not only the transfer from Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich of Mario Gotze, but also with the one player who is probably most revered at the moment amongst the Arsenal fans (see this poll for more evidence; at the time of writing, he [RVP] is top, with 32.26% of the votes) set to walk out on Sunday with a guard of honour, against his former club, that showed all the loyalty that they could during his career there. But this isn’t a backlash article, it’s one I’ve been thinking about for a long time, and I hope that comes across.
As a starting point, the Mario Gotze transfer is as good as they come, fortunately for me! For all the talk about how fantastically well run Bayern Munich are, they most certainly are not a homegrown side. Far from it, and whilst most of their players are German, they’re not all Bayern through and through (the obvious two Bayern blooded players are Schweinsteiger and Lahm). They’ve got a knack of snapping up the best talent from around Germany, and thus not only improving themselves, but also diminishing their rivals’ chances for the next season. Plus, it eliminates any fears over whether or not they’ll be able to adapt to a new league. Clever, eh? Mario Gomez, Neuer and Mandukic were all plucked from Bundesliga clubs, but this isn’t a recent trend. Our very own Podolski was taken from F.C. Koln, and going even further back, Van Buyten, Ballack and Lucio were all plying their trade in the Bundesliga before their moves to Bayern. Now Gotze can be added to the list, and perhaps Lewandowski too.
Okay, so maybe Bayern are an anomaly? After all, they are by far the most prestigious club in Germany, and one of the greatest in the world. What about their probable opponents in the 2013 Champions League final, Borussia Dortmund? Yes, so their squad has been assembled for less than £29m. But that assumes that either they’ve promoted players, or they’ve bought cheaply. Hummels, Subotic, Gundogen, Kuba, Bender, Reus and Lewandowski (Kagawa too, although they made a tidy profit of around £13m on him) were all bought, or signed on a free transfer. The only big players missing there are Gotze and Kehl, and whilst the former is off to Bavaria, the latter is coming towards the end of his playing days with Dortmund. Whilst these players will have very fond memories of playing for Dortmund, they don’t have the same emotional attachment to the club as you’d expect Gotze to have, given that he’s been there since he’s been 9.
Emotional attachment plays a large role in loyalty, particularly in the world of football. Just look at Fabregas – no-one’s voted for him in the aforementioned poll, despite the claims of striking, as well as the acrimonious transfer. Cesc was always going to go back to the club he was raised at (we didn’t make him, unfortunately – we developed him into the world class player he is now, but the foundations were clearly there). This inevitability went some way to softening the blow for us, and there was definitely a sense that he’d given his all for Arsenal; it was only ever us or Barcelona. Unfortunately, Barcelona were also the best club in the world – who wouldn’t want to go back there, especially when you’d be reunited with your childhood amigos. But suppose it doesn’t work out at Barca – he’d come back to Arsenal, because of the emotional attachments. They’re just not as strong as the ones pulling him to the Catalan club.
But to be honest, it’s rare that one gets to play for the club that one has supported all ones life. If that was the case, Arsenal would have millions of players on their books, and Wigan would have 17. Especially when that club is Barcelona, given the unique skill set required, and the standard to which that skill set must be honed to. If they really wanted him, I’ve got no doubt that Arteta would jump ship to rejoin Barcelona, having been a La Masia graduate. No matter how professional you are, playing for a club as a fan is only going to happen once, so you’d probably take it.
Sometimes, you have to play for a rival club at a young age – this must be very tough indeed. Whilst this sometimes doesn’t work out, those that do often result in extraordinary cases. I’m thinking primarily of Jamie Carragher and Andres Iniesta – two very different players, but each with similar histories. Carragher was an Everton fan, and Iniesta claimed that his dream was to win the Champions League…with Real Madrid. Look at them now? Carragher’s been the mainstay of Liverpool teams for the past 10 years or so, and Iniesta has been one of the key influences in Barcelona’s meteoric rise over the last few seasons (but once more, Barcelona’s a special case here, given the ratio of La Masia graduates in the first team right now).
Of course, there are other factors in transfers, and one of these is success – Barcelona has that too, but let’s just forget that for a minute. Sol Campbell joined Arsenal because we were a successful club, and because he knew that he would win things at Arsenal. On principle, that’s bad – he’s not only left, but he’s joined a rival, so that he can win the league at their ground. But I guess that’s just why Arsenal fans love him so much. Going back to an earlier point, that’s why so many big players join Bayern – they can almost always be guaranteed silverware at some point or another.
The terms upon which one leaves, and the comments that are made about the club after the move can often determine the future relationship with the fans of the club that player leaves. To use Arsenal examples here, Fabregas and Henry are always both glowing about Arsenal, which sets them apart from RVP, who seems to have blotted out any memory of us from his mind, and Na$ri just tends to be rude about us, unless he’s talking about Wenger. I don’t believe that Na$ri left for the money, I think he left for the trophies. However, he chose City for the extortionate wages. I personally think that he was good enough to have won the title for United last season, had he been there. They didn’t offer enough to him, and thus he went to City, and played a role in winning them the league.
Is success a good enough reason to move clubs, even if it means annoying multiple sets of fans? Ibrahimovic certainly thinks so – “If you move to five different places it is a real test. If you succeed that’s when you become a real champion, that’s when you get more respect”. Whether you like it or not, he talks sense – it can be easy to plod along at one club for you whole career and win very little, but in order to challenge yourself, you may well have to move. As for his move to P$G, well that’s clearly about the money, but at the same time, he could well win Ligue 1, which would add yet another trophy to his (presumably IKEA) cabinet. Another player (who ironically also shone against England in 2012) who likes to wander around a little bit is Andrea Pirlo – AC Milan, Internazionale and Juventus have all had success when he’s been at each club. I guess Zlatan and Pirlo can be justified then.
But then again, I guess that’s what hurts so much about RVP’s loss to Manchester United. He was justified in his move, unfortunately – that’s clear from the fact he’s spearheaded them to the league title in his first season there, and arguably he’s been playing worse than he was last season, where he came fourth. The same goes for Ashley Cole – he’s won almost everything at Chelsea, and he didn’t at Arsenal. They might have left for financial reasons, but unfortunately, their moves were justified by the success they’ve both had.
A lot’s been said about Arsenal’s British core, and how Wenger wants to build a team around Wilshere, Ramsey, Gibbs, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jenkinson and to some extent Walcott (who’s slightly older) and Szczesny (who’s an honorary cockney). Loyalty-wise, Jack and Jenkinson look set, and Chamberlain is a self professed Arsenal fan too. Ramsey though? He strikes me as a model professional (playing out of position but not moaning, no pay rise in new long term contract etc.), but should Cardiff come knocking at the door with lots of money and the promise of lots of trophies, would he say no? I can imagine him going there. As for Walcott, I think he’ll be fine (as will Gibbs), but only as long as we suit his needs, namely playing him up front, either with someone else or alone (preferably the former).
Loyalty in football isn’t a given, by any stretch of the imagination – yes, you get players like Zanetti or Maldini, but they’re so special because they’re so rare. Leaving a club doesn’t have to be acrimonious, and it’s easy to spot when someone genuinely has an affection for a club (i.e. Henry) – whilst some transfers are unpredictable, almost always there are reasons why a player moves. These loyalty issues aren’t new, they can be traced back a long way, but naturally they’ve been augmented by the injections of cash into many teams. One can’t always expect loyalty, but one should expect respect – the way in which players leave clubs often determines the regard in which they are held, and whether they’re booed or cheered when they return in opposing colours.
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it – please share if you did enjoy it!