There was a day, way back when a club could sell players without too much dissent and where the player’s employers held all the cards. That was a long time ago when shorts were long and then, eventually tighter, with the introduction of the unglamorous budgie smugglers. However, it’s no longer the same, the modern football player has the lion’s share of the power in his deal with the club.
Nowadays, the modern football player appears to be king with contracts which are almost always in favour of the player rather than the club. There’s no 50/50 here, the player can say what he likes, when he likes, play when he wants, seek his treatment, or liaise with his personal team of medical experts in the country of his choosing.
Paul Pogba reduced Ole Gunner Solskjaer to the role of a baffled observer in 2019 when he ignored the club’s medical advice and flew to France to seek treatment for an ongoing injured ankle/foot. Manchester United, one of the biggest clubs in football, didn’t have a clue on his progress and had to wait for updates from the player and his advisors, which is unbelievable.
Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil’s career is stuck in limbo after various clashes with both Emery and Arteta, but he even managed to extract the urine from the avuncular figure of Arsene Wenger by training and resting when he wanted. The same was true of Alexis Sanchez, who followed suit suffering from an acute bout of star player syndrome.
Ozil also clashed with the Arsenal hierarchy by making personal statements in social media, which impacted the club financially and that’s one of the many reasons that he continues to be overlooked.
More recently, Lionel Messi has decided to criticise his Barcelona employers for their treatment of Luiz Suarez as well as threatening to leave the club, which helped make him a global superstar.
It appears that clubs are passengers in an increasingly worrying scenario and that they are now at the mercy of the superstars they invest in and create. Where contracts are only valid if the modern football player is content and wants to continue playing for a club but at the same time, they can engineer their departure if the mood or circumstances change.
It makes you yearn for the day when the rounded, bombastic chairman, dressed in a trilby hat and full-length coat, chugged on a cigar and lorded it over the minions beneath him. Perhaps not, but at least the employer had more of a say than is ever possible now.