I have to say that the recent pictures of Dimitar Berbatov grinning whilst wearing his brand spanking new Manchester United strip left me seething, and I am not even a Spurs fan. It left me wondering whether supposed ‘ambition’ to climb the footballing ladder is slowly eating away at the very fabric of the game.
One-club men are fewer and further between than ever before, and if the game continues on its current path, then they will soon become a thing of the past. This leads me to ponder two things. Firstly, can this trend ever be reversed and secondly, when did ambition become more important than loyalty?
When Dimitar exclaimed that Manchester United is the club he has always wanted to join, I couldn’t help but laugh, not because the club aren’t the biggest club on the planet (which by the way they are), but because he would have dolled out the exact same sentence and sentiment had it been Real Madrid that stumped up the cash for his signature. I don’t believe that money was a huge motivator for his move because, lets face it, he must already be a millionaire a few times over by now. However, this need and desire to accrue silverware has somehow trumped showing faith and support to the very club that put you in the position of power you currently hold.
Robbie Keane decided to play the “club I have supported since I was a boy” card, which may or may not be true (some reports suggest that Celtic are in fact his lifelong passion), but the point is that there is a way to treat a club and a way to disrespect them. Claiming you love a team and wouldn’t dream of moving and then, weeks later, doing the exact opposite will not win you many fans. Cristiano Ronaldo decided to play the ‘slave’ card with the help of idiot Sepp Blatter, and simultaneously managed to make football contracts seemingly worthless. Players that commit to one club throughout their careers deserve all the praise that can be heaped on them and that goes for those who happen to play for the best club in the world or for those that struggle year-in year-out.
Steven Gerrard is a case in point. In my book, a hugely talented player who turned down moves to clubs just about every summer in order to pursue his Anfield dreams, a dream that now appears to be the chase for the Premier League, as he has captured every other major honour with the Merseyside outfit anyway. You can be sure he has been tempted by a move abroad on a number of occasions, but has decided to try to take the club he loves to the pinnacle rather than taking the easy way out and joining a club that already sits at the top of the tree.
Tottenham skipper Ledley King, whilst obviously not as talented an individual as Gerrard, is a workmanlike talent who still remains at White Hart Lane through thick and thin. After eleven years at the club, he still proudly wears the shirt and will probably never play for another club side, but how many such players can say likewise?
Whilst now there are a handful of players who have spent a decade-plus at their clubs, ranging from the likes of John Terry at Chelsea , Jamie Carragher at Liverpool , the former Fergie babes Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs and Gareth Barry at Aston Villa (just about!), twenty years ago the list would have surely have been triple what it is today. Can this be solely down to money and the stunning success, in financial terms at least, of the Premier League?
Whilst it’s obvious that individuals want to better themselves and fulfill their own personal goals, there surely must be scope for trying to achieve such goals at their current clubs, regardless of whether this is a real possibility. There must be some sense of trying to repay the club you represent by trying your best to make the CLUB the best it can be.
Oh and by the way, it should become a yellow card offence to kiss your club badge if you a) have done the same thing with another side sometime in your career or b) have played for any other side before (excluding loan spells of course) and c) if you are planning on leaving the club whose badge you’re kissing anytime soon! So whilst it would be churlish to wish ill of Berbatov now that he has the move he so badly wanted, I am sure he knows just how childishly he conducted himself and I hope he has learned something about himself. I am sure that there is a little part of him that envies the likes of Ledley King, someone who may well be half the player in terms of skill level, but twice the man in terms of loyalty.