Considering that to Joe Public it is the be all and end all of the beautiful game, international football does not have an easy ride. Constantly undermined by dismissive club managers in the past, it is now facing up to a new enemy within: the spoiled brat.
If he is playing at a high enough level, the modern footballer can pretty much have his every whim catered for. Clubs will do all their dirty work for them, feed them, house them, often give them a car, and pay them handsomely. And if the club is not meeting your criteria in any way, you simply move on. At international level this is not so easy. If you are not getting a regular starting place for Scotland, FIFA’s rules do not bend sufficiently for you to get a transfer to the Faroe Islands.
And so this week we have seen two international strikers throw their very expensive toys out of the pram after being overlooked at international level. Scotland’s Kris Boyd and Kevin Kuranyi of Germany both kissed goodbye to international football – in the short-term, at least – by storming out of their respective international camps.
Boyd – once Scotland’s hottest striking prospect – has seven goals in 15 international matches, and decided that not winning his 16th against Norway was the final straw. He came to the conclusion that sitting on a bench while George Burley throws on other strikers is not a productive use of his time. It is clearly a clash of personalities or philosophies between Boyd and Burley, but thankfully international football is not a democracy. Burley is than entrusted with the big decisions for the Scotland team. If he repeatedly makes the wrong ones then he probably won’t be in charge for too long.
For Boyd, it brings into question how much he wants to play for his country. He must know that his chance under Burley would come round sooner or later. He has burned all his bridges now, which is a decision he might live to regret.
Kuranyi’s situation is similar but the circumstances are less complicated. It is a bit like the ginger one threatening to leave Girl’s Aloud – there is plenty of talent left and nobody is likely to notice she is missing. The Brazilian-born striker left the stadium at half-time during Germany’s game against Russia. Apparently, spectator was not the role he had been hoping to play.
Again, you would have to question how much he wanted to play for his chosen nation. If Kuranyi or any of those around him had an ounce of realism they would realise that Germany has a wealth of striking options at the moment. The days of waiting for your chance have obviously passed.
England does have a precedent to this, albeit Jamie Carragher called time on his international career with a tad for dignity. The Liverpool defender and serial England benchwarmer decided that the time commitments of international football did not balance with what he was getting out of it.
These circumstances will no doubt occur with increasing regularity over the coming months and years as the trappings of a millionaire lifestyle and family life become more attractive to footballers of a certain mentality than battling for your place in another team. It will get more difficult for coaches to keep their squad players happy in these conditions.
Boyd and Kuranyi might like to take note that Carragher would almost certainly have started England’s matches against Kazakhstan and Belarus ahead of the shaky Matthew Upson if he was still available for selection.