The majority of us have one. A personal vendetta with a man you’ve never met. A man who could not have done much worse had he slept with your wife.
These are the players that rinse your club for every last penny. The players that see your club as a stepping stone or proclaim their undying love one week only to sulk and talk themselves into a move the next.
For Spurs see Dimitar Berbatov, Arsenal; Ashley Cole, Liverpool had Michael Owen and I think some would even put Chelsea’s Frank Lampard in that category.
Now I’m sure many Spurs, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea fans are nodding their heads in agreement with me here, but the question I’d like to ask is to what extent do you empathise with the men after the money?
As an Arsenal supporter myself I lend only complete and utter disdain towards Ashley Cole and his character, irrespective of whether there is 3 lions on his chest or a solitary blue one.
I boo his very appearance upon my television, cheer any tackle on him and rejoice in sordid tales surrounding his troubled personal life (though I think that has more to do with my hope Cheryl will come knocking on my door one day) .
As for the controversy surrounding his booing at Wembley against Kazakhstan, I could only laugh. Far from worrying about the effect this could have on a fickle England sides confidence, I instead saw it as confirmation of his status as England’s most hated player.
For, whatever your affinity with Arsenal, be it good or bad, you can empathise with us based purely on the way Cole set about his dirty business.
Whilst in a Waterstones book outlet yesterday I faced the dilemma of picking up his autobiography, purely out of curiosity. As it was I settled with leaving it, knowing I wouldn’t be wasting my time on a figure I so loath. As it is I have selected a couple of quotes that depict a pretty desperate defence:
‘I’m not asking for sympathy â€” just an awareness of what’s gone on, how I didn’t want to leave and how I feel the board messed things up. Not me. This situation couldn’t have just been my fault. I’m not disloyal. I’m a loyal and honest person and I’ve got principles. I can wake up in the morning and look at myself in the mirror, knowing that I’ve done no wrong. I tried to be fair. I tried to be decent. I wonder if the Arsenal board could say the same?’
‘The deal he offered was a £10,000-a-week increase to £35,000. A hell of a lot of money. But, when taken in the context of football wages and his own estimated value of me of £20 million, and when placed next to those other Arsenal wages of between £80,000 and £100,000 a week, his offer was a p*ss-take. It was a slap in the face, not a pat on the back.’
And people are surprised as to why he gets booed.
Now, I know that some of you will be reading this and thinking 1) get over it and 2) how childishly my opinion manifests itself. However, my passion for Arsenal far outweighs my sense of logic in this instance.
And that’s what makes it so hard to understand where Ashley was coming from when stating his reasons behind wanting to leave.
‘When I heard Jonathan (Barnett) repeat the figure of £55k, I nearly swerved off the road. “He is taking the p*ss, Jonathan!” I yelled down the phone. I was so incensed. I was trembling with anger. I couldn’t believe what I’d heard. I suppose it all started to fall apart for me from then on. I’d trusted Mr Dein to push the deal through.’
As a lifelong Arsenal fan, surely £10,000 a week (on top of £55,000 I might add) would come second in priority to playing for the club you so adore?
I know that for some money is priority, that some of the footballers from the poorer parts of Africa for example have a responsibility to provide for families that have to contend with serious poverty and famine. So of course an extra £10,000 will be a lot more beneficial. Of course £10,000 is relative to your own upbringing and wealth so to begrudge players (of a poor background) a move on the basis they only need the money may be slightly unethical, compared to someone who in all honesty may not need nearly as much.
In the case of Cole, the fact that he prioritised his bank account ahead of the club he loved (not to mention the way he went about it) resonates badly with fans of all clubs and it was perhaps the most contentious transfer in Premier League history.
Similarly the circumstances surrounding Michael Owen’s transfer to Real Madrid caused a lot of contempt from Liverpool fans after he was accused of holding the club to ransom over his own high wage demands. Not only that, he was sold at a cut price £8 million, costing the club the difference in his market value.
Despite growing up an Everton fan, Owen was nonetheless a fan favourite at Anfield, thus causing all the more confusion when he eventually departed. His comeuppance would come in the form of the Champions League arriving at Liverpool not even a year since his exit.
Frank Lampard is someone I’m surprised is still so popular at Stamford Bridge after his summer exploits at the hands of Inter Milan and Jose Mourinho.
Despite committing to Chelsea for another 5 years, Frank’s flirtation with Inter Milan over the summer surely had a part to play in his astronomical wage rise.
Quotes from Lampard admitting his admiration for the Milan club coupled with Jose Mourinho’s public coveting of the England midfielder served to force Chelsea’s hand further than it appeared they’d like.
Surprising, given Lampard’s incessant badge kissing at the Bridge.
As an Arsenal supporter I dream only of having the red and white shirt on, not the white of Madrid nor the red and blue of Barcelona. Despite my acknowledgement that these are perhaps in some respects bigger than Arsenal but I know that where I in the shoes of some of today’s footballers I would do my utmost to move to Arsenal and stay there.
I know in the cases of some players Barcelona or AC Milan might well be the clubs they supported as a child, as we have seen in the protracted Cristiano Ronaldo to Madrid saga (one I doubt is any where near over). But in his instance they were his boyhood club so I think a lot of people empathise with his longing for a move, especially when you consider that he has won all major trophies at Manchester United.
The massive wages on offer may have clouded some peoples views regarding the Ronaldo matter but I would maintain his desire to play in the royal white of Madrid outweighs that of filling his wallet.
This summer alone the term ‘dream club’ has become commonplace, though for different reasons.
Robbie Keane moved to Liverpool, a club he supported as a boy.
Dimitar Berbatov moved to Manchester United, the English and European Champions.
David Bentley moved to Spurs to have a chance of playing in the Champions League.
So of all these cases what would you consider concurrent with your own ideas of a dream move?
Would you prioritise the dream of playing for your boyhood club?
Does success take precedence over the club you play for?
Or do you think the chance of an extra £30,000 would be enough to take you away from your beloved team?
Adebayor this summer talked himself into a hole regarding wages, arguing last years 30 goal haul should give him parity with what Thierry Henry was earning whilst at the club. Now I’d imagine Adebayor’s agent was the main offender in this case, although it was very naive of Adebayor to believe his one good season was proof of his replacing of Henry. Seven more years like the last one and maybe you’ll have a point. Unfortunately I think it might be a bit longer before we forgive him – badge kissing and all. Yet for all the Togolese’ unsavoury conduct he was soon treated to a new £80,000 a week contract. Incredible.
The fact clubs are willing to pay such obscene amounts of money to these characters only accelerates the problem.
The idea of playing for Arsenal is a dream to me, let alone being paid to do so. I would have to say that the pride of having the cannon on my chest would far prevail over a few extra zeroes on the wage slip at the end of the week (How the hell do you spend £100,000 a week anyway?!), and I imagine the majority of you would agree with me (well not the cannon part but you get the gist).
That said, everyone has their price. Can you imagine what yours would be?
I know there are many variables involved in making such decisions, I.e. family etc but when eliminating such factors and making a decision based purely on money, success or club what would you choose?
A lot of questions but can you answer them all and honestly say you’d put your club over money?
A final thought comes from a question I asked a fellow Gooner not too long ago.
I posed a dilemma.
He was to take the penalty which would keep Barcelona alive in the Champions League final against Arsenal – to miss of course would mean
Barca would lose.
Champions League glory on the one hand.
Disdain and derision on the other.
“I’d sky it”.
I could only smile in agreement.
This article is a submission for the Soccerlens 2008 Writing Competition; to participate, please read the details here. The competition is sponsored by Subside Sports (premier online store for football shirts) and Icons (official signed football jerseys).