As Jose Antonio Reyes attempt to play down the fact that he is absolutely begging at the feet of Real Madrid to rescue him from Arsenal, we realized that this summer has been rather interesting as a number of supporters are discussing, and cursing, the supposed lack of loyalty of key players.
Ashley Cole has been the worst offender, trying to engineer a move to Chelsea via an awful book yet attempting to play the good guy to the press. Cristiano Ronaldo’s future remains cloudy after his post-World Cup outbursts, Michael Carrick decided against staying with Tottenham even though Martin Jol’s tactics and coaching allowed him to play at a level to get Manchester United’s attention in the first place.
But why do we expect such superhuman displays of character from footballers that we rarely find in real life? If any of us were suddenly offered twice the wages and twice the prestiege at a new company, most would bugger off with little more than a two-fingered salute on the way out, and maybe a quick snog with the receptionist.
More importantly, do we really show loyalty to the players? Other than a select few, often the minute a player looks out of form or struggles over the course of a season the fans demand he be sold and replaced. If we are not willing to stick by a player if they aren’t delivering the goods, why should they be willing to stay with our clubs when there are almost always better options to be found?
Of course, the counter argument is that we may feel differently if there were thousands, if not millions, of people cheering us on and relying on us for their happiness – football isn’t like every other job and has its own rules and traditions. Thierry Henry, in all his splendor, remains the model of footballer loyalty after he rejected Barcelona against all odds on the result of a single match, despite already picking out a house in Spain. Steven Gerrard displayed similar resolve by rejecting Chelsea on numerous occasions to continue to captain Liverpool, though even he has admitted the odd bit of regret.
Gerrard’s example especially suggests that no matter how much a club may mean to a player, sometimes the ambition to achieve something in football during their short careers is more important. And why not?
No matter how hard we try to be, even the most realistic of us feel a tinge of hurt when a player we adore suddenly doesn’t want us anymore, did we not cheer loud enough? Did the chairman fail to get his chequebook out? Are we a shit club?
The consensus generally ends up being that the player is a c*nt, but is it really fair to expect anything more?