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Loyalty In Football – We Need More

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I know we are being flooded by Cristiano Ronaldo articles just about now, but this is actually meant to be a response to a brilliant article posted earlier in the week.

I am a Manchester United fan. I am devastated. No. Scratch that. I knew this was going to happen – we all did. All the same, there is a distinct feeling of disappointment that all those loyal to Ferguson’s troops feel. The lack of divine intervention is the cause of it.

We would have all liked Ronaldo to stay. This includes Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Leeds United and maybe Cardiff fans – because there is one less world class player in England. But it is more than that for United fans. The emotion that I tried to explain about 80 words ago is actually betrayal. I feel betrayed – as if somebody cheated me – as if something disastrous happened and all I can do is just watch and shake my head from time to time. Gatsby died… again.

But why should I have this feeling? Ronaldo has given United all that he would ever have and this was as high a price as we were ever going to get for him. Assuming a decline that usually befalls great Latin players at about 26 or 27 you might even say that this is a good deal. That Ronaldo gave us the eighty million and the chance to move on.

The trouble is that Ronaldo does not owe us eighty million; he does not owe us one hundred million; he does not owe us Pele, Zidane and Cruijff at their best. What he owes Manchester United is himself.

This might sound pretentious. After all, players switch clubs, looking for better deals, on a daily basis. So why should Ronaldo receive extra criticism for something that everybody does? Two reasons: one, he is an amazing player and thus prone to preferential treatment; two, because of all that the club has done for him.

We watched patiently how he would dribble around his tail without ever passing the ball. We stood by him when he reached puberty (hissy fits after hissy fits in his early seasons), when every other person in England jeered at him, when he got sent off because he heard a mystical whistle, when he would dive at every opportunity, when he wore ridiculously short shorts and a flower. We tolerated his inability – or better said unwillingness, because he is a very fit player – to track back. We even pampered him so that he would never feel rejected or unwanted or treated like other players.

Ronaldo has had more protection from the United fans and management than any other I can remember at Old Trafford. In return for all this we got one hundred goals, or so, ‘it’s an honour to play for Real Madrid’ and eighty million pounds cash down.

Maybe football fans exaggerate. Maybe the fact that Ronaldo gave us about one hundred goals should make us happy. But it is rather difficult to just let him go after all the emotional investment that Manchester United fans have dedicated to his highness. We have learned to sanctify him and his unlimited ego. Now we are being told to ‘f off’ because he’s got the opportunity to move to a country where there is more sun and where the ladies have bigger asses.

I guess I now know how Bayern felt when Hargreaves gave them the finger; how Lyon feels every summer since 2000; how the Ajax fans have felt from Neeskens to Sneijder. It is sometimes advisable to be on the wrong end of the spectrum to understand the pain discomfort that others go through. But what can we do about it? This is reality in the fascist society that football revolves around.

Loyalty is over-rated you say? Football would be much more entertaining if players understood its value. Or, if not entertaining then fair. Yes, it would be a much more fair sport if footballers understood its meaning.

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