“Yes, I think in the future you will see that more and more. Players going to the end of their contracts. Why? Because transfers become so high, even for normal players, that you will see more and more players going to the end of their contract because nobody will want to pay the amount of money that is demanded and I am convinced that in the next 10 years that will become usual.”
These words from Arsène Wenger really struck me, the man really is something different when it comes to thinking ahead – especially about football.
I never really thought about this but it makes a lot of sense, no Club will have enough resources to keep up with the ridiculous fees that football players command today, even the average ones; I already wrote about it a few weeks ago, you know that something is very wrong when a Club is willing to pay £24m for someone like Marko Arnautović; I don’t want to single out the Austrian forward but he represents the quintessence of the inconsistent, unproductive attacking footballer and – at the age of 28 – he cannot even be considered as a prospect who could still blossom and fulfil his potential.
Why would a mid-table Club like West Ham invest so much money into such an unreliable performer?
The fact that TVs are literally throwing money at Premier League Clubs might make some of them feel invincible but it will end, at some point. And it won’t end well.
When the Bosman ruling became effective in 1995, the consequences were difficult to foresee as you had all kind of opinions but – more than twenty years later – it finally struck: players and their agents are starting to realize that they own the power to determine their career’s path regardless of their Club’s will.
In that sense, Arsène Wenger’s words are rather illuminating because players will indeed try to get into the final year of their contract and will do their best to impress the audience – either to get an improved contract from their current Club or attract the interest of a new employer.
The better they perform, the bigger the chances to get a lucrative deal so there won’t be any room for complacency, going forward.
I never realized how few high-profile players choose the Bosman rule since it became official: Edgar Davids and Steve McManaman were the first ones, then Sol Campbell, Luís Figo, Michael Ballack and Robert Lewandowski.
There are a few others who could be seen as a huge success but – either because of their age or because of their performances – cannot be considered as major coups: Cesc Fàbregas and Paul Pogba were unproven youngsters and Andrea Pirlo, Raúl, Cafú, Gianluca Vialli and Roberto Baggio were too old, while Michael Reiziger, Winston Bogarde, Edwin van der Sar and Christoph Metzelder can hardly be considered as successful business.
Captures like Esteban Cambiasso to Inter or Philip Cocu to Barcelona were great but the Argentinian came as a surprise package and the Dutch arrived as a versatile, utility player – none of them being nowhere near the status of world-beater.
It’s not an “ideal” situation as Arsène Wenger was claiming but we’re not too far off the mark, as you can totally expect full commitment and complete focus from a player whose contract is set to expire; of course, it won’t be the kind of commitment a fan would cherish as it will be individual more than collective but, as professionals, players will do their best and everyone will benefit from it.
It looks like we’re slowly moving to a different kind of environment, much like the NBA, MLB or NLF ones where players are either traded – with no transfer fees – or become free agents and get offers from different clubs (Franchises, if you prefer).
The downbeat of this whole thing is that the romance in football will be officially dead. It is already, since a very long time, but this Bosman 2.0 era will be the real eye-opener for many fans, all those who can’t or don’t want to accept the reality: all the badge-tapping, shirt-kissing is bulls**t and has (almost) always been.
This new model could raise some serious questions as small and medium sized Clubs will be under threat, given that they won’t be getting any money from transfers, something they usually use to finance a whole footballing season – including salaries for employees.
Also, bigger Clubs will try to sign players at a younger age to push them through the ranks as opportunities to trade will be limited – which could potentially put too much pressure on kids and shatter some of them – physically and psychologically.
Finally, I’m not sure that the insane amount of money currently spent in football will diminish: instead, it could just change owner as Clubs will go from paying £ X to the Club and £ Y to the player to pay £ Y + a big part of £ X to the player they sign (and his agent).
While journalists focused on creating hilarious headlines about the “ideal” situation and how the Arsène Wenger would be happy to lose Mesut Özil, Alexis Sánchez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for free, they could have taken a couple of minutes to think about how football is evolving.
Some things never change, the majority of the press is still stuck with “comical Wenger” and the ridiculous claim that we could go a whole season unbeaten; while football evolves, journalism is regressing at twice the speed – as perfectly explained by fellow writer Brad Smith in his debut blog.
Alexis Sánchez and Mesut Özil are winners and I have no doubt they will put their maximum effort until they are Arsenal players, because it’s in their own interest; of course I would love to see them penning new deals but I’m far more interested in seeing them banging goals and assists and lead us to a successful season, instead.
After all, if they perform well, we have a good chance to be successful and if we have a successful season, they might commit for the future. Players aim to win; the Club aims to win – there is a chance we could all come out of this as winners.