One of the remaining romanticisms of football is the notion of a player’s loyalty to a particular club.
Like other such ideals (sportsmanship, for example), this too, shall pass.
Football players are not necessarily greedy or heartless. However, their first responsibility is to themselves, their own career and ambitions, and as such they do ‘whatever it takes’ to meet those goals – sometimes at the cost of abandoning their club.
There are many examples of players ditching their clubs to go play with arch rivals, mainly to further their career. Sol Campbell may be a traitor but it’s doubtful that he would have any Premierships with Tottenham. Alan Smith can claim a Premiership medal and the honor of being loved by millions of fans – even though he is Judas to Leeds fans and there’s a good chance that he wrecked his career by going to Manchester United.
Then there are players who are forced to move for a lack of first-team opportunities. Phil Neville and Nicky Butt are two such players – brought through the United youth system and played for United for almost all their careers before being forced to leave in search for first-team football. Pragmatism over loyalty, but isn’t this leaving your own club as well?
I think I know why fans get so pissed at players who jump ship. Leaving aside the thoughts that the player may have pledged allegiance to the club (Henry, Smith) or that they went to arch rivals, I think the real reason most fans get angry at players leaving clubs is because that player is leaving for his ambition – to win more titles.
Ashley Cole and Thierry Henry left Arsenal to win titles. Ruud wanted to leave Man Utd (reportedly) two seasons ago for the same reasons. Gerrard almost left Liverpool for this.
At the end of the day, the player wants to win trophies, and if he’s good enough, he’ll be picked up by better clubs.
That sucks, but that’s the way it is.