Anton Ferdinand jumped ship from West Ham to Sunderland this week. James Milner turned in a transfer request at Newcastle United, presumably so Aston Villa can snap him up before the transfer window ends. Dimitar Berbatov is reported to be holding ‘crisis talks’ with Tottenham officials who themselves are waiting for Pavlyuchenko to sign (or maybe someone else as well) before letting the Bulgarian head to Manchester United.
Why are they leaving? Is it for the money or is it for the chance of success?
For Berbatov it’s clear – both. Manchester United can offer Berbatov the wages and the chance to challenge for top domestic and European honours – similar to Keane’s situation with Liverpool – and when your footballing culture is built on glorifying heroes and forgetting the rest, and when your social status is based more on what you earn than who you are, it’s hard to fault Berbatov for his choice.
In addition, like Robbie Keane, Berbatov simply doesn’t believe that Tottenham can qualify for the Champions League – at least not enough to bet his career on it. It’s down to the manager and the club as a whole to instill that belief in their players and whether it’s the teammates or the board, either way they haven’t come through if they can’t keep strikers of Keane’s and Berbatov’s quality onside.
With Milner and Ferdinand it’s different in the sense that Villa and Sunderland, while on the up, are not immediately MUCH better clubs than Newcastle and West Ham. In fact, West Ham would argue that they still have a good chance of finishing ahead of Sunderland than the reverse, so you have to look at other factors than just league/European ambitions.
Faith in the manager is one thing. I’ve always thought of Curbs as a good man but an average manager – he doesn’t have the inspirational qualities of a Mourinho nor the motivational capabilities of a Ferguson. Hell, Redknapp and Keane are better man-managers. It’s something that West Ham’s board will have looked at closely and will need to fix next summer (now it’s too late) – I don’t think Ferdinand believes that Curbs can take West Ham to Europe, but he apparently does think that playing for Keane at Sunderland gives them a better chance of matching the likes of Everton and Villa and Pompey, not to mention improve his chances at the international level.
And Milner? For a player to hand in a transfer request at this stage of the summer means he’s obviously tried to get out the roundabout way and is now trying to force the issue before the summer’s over. He’s a good kid but seems to have stalled after showing initial promise. It’s not unreasonable to assume that Villa are after him but he could just as easily be headed to Everton if they stump up the cash.
And like Ferdinand, he’ll be looking at his international prospects as well and might consider that playing for a different club, without the pressures that playing for Newcastle United brings, may help him grow to the point where he can get a crack at England’s 2010 World Cup squad.
It’s easy to criticise players, especially those who push for moves that wouldn’t help their career (Chimbonda away from Wigan, before he was ready for it, or Adebayor away from Arsenal, again before he was ready for it), but sometimes they need to move for their own good – and at that point sacrificing them at the altar of your club’s failings may be asking for too much.