Adebayor is back in the Premier League having recently signed for Crystal Palace. I came across a tweet that took a dig at the player’s lack of loyalty and referring to him as a mercenary. Some time ago, I may have shared that sentiment; but, the Togolese forward’s letter of warning – posted some time back on Facebook – to fellow professionals especially from Africa, placed his departure from Arsenal and subsequent moves into perspective.
This got me thinking, not for the first time, about greed, the modern footballer, and implications for Arsenal Football Club.
Some of you may immediately be thinking yes, Arsenal can’t match the offers that City, Chelsea, PSG, United et al. make so we can’t attract the right players or top players. Of course, the more extreme view of this line of thought is that Wenger or the board doesn’t want to break the bank because they’re not ambitious enough.
The perspective holds weight; or, at least the less extreme part of it does! Anyway, I can’t help but wonder if there’s another angle to it all.
The angle revolves around player personality and motivation. Before I continue, I’d like to say that yes I understand the potential return-on-investment risks involved in breaking the wage structure from both a financial point of view and upsetting the dressing room point of view; but, that’s not in the scope for this post. Carrying on…
Becoming a professional footballer and making it to the premier league of any country isn’t easy. Apart from the skill level required to be achieved, one is also sacrificing some levels of education and the chance at a stable career outside of sports. However, if one makes it to a premier league team, or even a second division team; one is compensated sufficiently nowadays. If the player is smart enough with his/her finances, s/he can retire with a peace of mind when the time comes.
The question is: How much compensation is enough?
I oft wonder, what on earth I would do if I earned £15k/week, never mind 50k or even 100k! Per week, not per month or even per year; per week! Then I wonder what footballers want to do with all that money and why they need more. The same question then applies to the band of corrupt-to-the-core politicians of my country; they just continuously want to rob the country and continue accumulating their wealth – for what? How much more do they want and why?
No, I’m not likening footballers to corrupt politicians.
However, at what point does professional football become about money for the modern day footballer? I assume that every footballer started his/her path towards professional football out of passion for the game. Achievement would entail playing for a known club, if not their favourite club, and winning trophies or even personal honours.
Some may say it’s the agents’ influence, some may say family, some may say that some players are simply materialistic by nature.
Whatever the reason(s) may be, either way, money becomes a priority for certain players. It could be argued that those players are extrinsically motivated.
We all have a right to chase money, so what? Is what some of you may be thinking. You’re right, we do.
The question is: Are players that prioritize financial reward more likely to be aligned with your club’s goals and vision as compared to players who don’t prioritize financial reward?
The answer can be both yes and no. Yes because at the end of the day the player will need to perform to keep his contract. However, if the club can’t meet his/her demands at any point due to under performance/underachievement; what’s the guarantee that the player will stick around if better financial package is offered elsewhere?
Another question can be pointed towards the temperament of players that chase money. Will life’s luxuries that money can buy distract them or impact their professional commitment? I’ll come back to this later.
Compare this to players who are perhaps more intrinsically motivated. Intrinsic motivation hinges on a sense of personal achievement – whether it’s personal development, a personal award, or even personal contribution to achievement by the collective.
So, what can be deemed as a sense of personal achievement? Signing and becoming a key player at a top club or boyhood club for one; being part of a trophy winning squad another, developing as the club develops and achieving success – whatever success may be deemed as – could be another.
The club’s cause becomes the player’s cause. The player is more likely to invest more time, whether physically, mentally, or emotionally, to ensure s/he does his/her best so the club achieves its goals. The player just may be more likely to stick around longer as well because either goals are not being met so s/he will assign the responsibility to him/herself rather than blame external factors and strive to do better; or, if goals are being met then there’ll be a romantic in the player who wants to sustain and build on the success.
If you were a recruiter, not necessarily at a football club, what sort of person would you want to take on board?
Organizations, at least prominent multi-nationals, conduct personality tests as part of their hiring process because they want to hire a certain type of personality. The type of personality wanted will vary from organization to organization but importance is given to personality nonetheless.
Imagine being a recruiter and hiring someone who is extrinsically motivated; but, you interpret that as ambition and that sounds great. You invest plenty of resources on that individual to develop him/her so s/he can play a major role in your organization in the future. Two years later, s/he asks for a significant raise which you can’t afford to give, s/he leaves for greener pastures; pun intended. You have to start from scratch.
Back to football!
Arsenal and Wages
Several times we have heard – rumour or fact – that Arsenal did not manage to sign certain players because the club could not meet the wage demands.
I can’t help but wonder if Wenger or the board ever actually regrets that they are not able to meet such demands? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Wenger seems to lend weight to a player’s personality as well when considering him as a prospect. Apparently not just players but coaches as well as Tim Stillman has observed here.
Arsenal has managed to keep together a squad, whilst making star additions, without any notable exits, for the last three seasons. What motivated some of those players to join and motivated them to stay?
Wages, surely, is not the answer in this case – except for Theo perhaps.
I earlier questioned impact of money on certain players; Ruud Gullit has recently criticized Memphis Depay for letting the money get the better of him and insinuating that it’s affecting the youngster’s football. Of course, it’s speculation on Gullit’s part as far as the performance is concerned but the man does have experience as well.
Imagine if there is a proven correlation between a player’s investment in lifestyle and performance, a negative one, would you want such players at your club?
Cristiano Ronaldo pushed for a move to Real Madrid because of what Real Madrid represents; for him, playing for Real Madrid meant that he has really made it to the big time. I’m not saying Manchester United weren’t big at the time; but, for the Portuguese superstar, who grew up knowing of Real Madrid as THE team, this was it.
Ronaldo’s record at the Spanish giants speaks for itself; but, his motivation is quite different to Depay’s, which sort of commitment would you rather have?
Arsenal holds a different value proposition but it’s a value proposition nonetheless. It’s a proposition that appeals to the intrinsically motivated. We can see from the togetherness in the squad, the humility in some of the superstars, and their quest for success that this isn’t as much about money for them as it is about achieving. It’s about bringing trophies back to the Arsenal – a club that is steeped in rich history and tradition, a club that has a footballing philosophy, and a club that challenges for honours.
Is that a bad thing?
If a player is not willing to join the Gunners because of money, where does that player’s priority lie? Would that priority be a healthy addition to the club?
Perhaps Wenger does not take all this into consideration and perhaps he does regret some transfers that weren’t able to take place because of a disagreement on wages; but, perhaps, it’s also been a blessing in disguise.
I’ll leave you with this piece by Dave Seager on Perry Groves, may add more perspective to what I’ve tried to say. If not, it’s still an excellent read!