Sport, music or fashion, no matter what field that you work in, the idea that once you have managed to make a name for yourself and earned success at the highest level possible, is the time when you can be considered to have ‘made it’; able to live off your name for the rest of your days on planet earth, is shared among all walks of popular culture. Yet everybody’s idea of success is different depending on the individual and whilst one may be happy with relative success and enough money to live comfortably with, there will undoubtedly always be somebody striving for that bit more. Whether that be motivated by fame, fortune or even a combination of the two, an individual’s idea of total accomplishment ultimately depends on an individual’s state of mind often dictating the future path of their careers in differing ways and to varying levels of success.
In footballing terms, no matter what league or country that you may be playing in, unsurprisingly you can always guarantee on several individuals in every continent that are intent on making even more money than at present or just yearning for greater fame and popularity off the pitch through their brand and identity. In the English top flight however, especially given the recent news stories surrounding the future of Chelsea talisman Diego Costa and the equally as unsettled Frenchman Dimitri Payet of West Ham United, whether it be due to the vast sums of money on offer in the Premier League which attracted such stars in the first place but player power seems more prominent than ever before.
Although widely considered as a clever way of earning an improved playing contract at their current club by ‘considering offers’ from further afield without any real interest of ever moving, the ability to in many ways hold a club to ransom and effectively force through a transfer that the individual so strongly desires could well be an unwanted side product of the Premier League’s success. For the traditional football fan such ploys were maybe unthinkable in times gone by, unheard of in yesteryear but for modern-day footballers not only has it proven time and time again to be the most productive way of putting pressure on their current club to sanction a move away in the case of an unhappy wantaway Premier League player but can often lead to a happy ending for everybody but the clubs chairman – giving into wage demands and upping a disgruntled player’s contract for the ‘good of the club and its fans’.
In such a digital age where the slightest sign of an individual’s unhappiness before, during or after a game can be photographed and uploaded to social media in the space of a few seconds, player power seems inevitable and subsequently stronger than it ever has been previously. If a drained and perplexed Slaven Bilic following Payet’s refusal to play for West Ham United didn’t illustrate the severe strength of modern-day player power enough for you and the effect it can have on both a club and its manager, I really don’t know what will. For every Premier League player like Costa or Payet of that refuses to play and still manages to get an increased weekly wage or in Dimitri’s case a sought after transfer away from their club, player power albeit to much a greater degree at present, has and will always be a part of modern football.
Yet footballers spitting out their dummies does not always go to plan and for this reason @ASelbyInfo revisits five recent cases of Premier League player power and the individual effect they had on each individual, player by player, and their careers as professional footballers.
Saido Berahino is the transfer window gift that keeps on giving. From the summer window to the winter transfer market, season upon season it has felt like forever since pundits and the media spoke about Berahino for his football on the pitch as opposed to his potential destination away from it. Since hitting the headlines with a move away from West Bromwich Albion first rumoured two and a half years ago, the The Baggies strikers’ transfer saga continues to roll on from window to window and despite the inevitable differences between different transfer periods, when it comes to a possible move away it always seem to play out in the exact same way for the 23 year old striker.
With very few sightings and equally as little said about Berahino on the pitch by the club during the early or latter parts of the Premier League, as each transfer window approaches and sports publications look for their brand new protagonist in a gold-tie laden soap opera each transfer window, from out of the background pops Berahino and before we know it we have another, somewhat protracted transfer saga. Rumours start off as just rumours and in typical Tony Pulis fashion the West Brom manager repeatedly intends to give very little away but never fully dismisses the outright possibly of selling Berahino in any transfer window. That glimmer of hope, of drama and of an eventual Berahino transfer is sufficient enough for the gossip column scriptwriters and as the days tick down towards deadline, rumours of a potential Berahino departure at long last begin to escalate. As often in the case with all managers as fiction becomes fact and clubs begin to show a public interest in an indictable, the inevitable ‘Will Berahino stay or will he go’ taglines begin to appear in pre and post-match conferences throughout January among a whole host of other transfer based questions completely unrelated to the game in question.
Then there’s deadline day itself, after all the the smoke, mirrors and hype of the preceding days it all comes down to the final few hours for which Berahino has had the starring role on a number of occasions. Starting with the breakdown of a proposed reported £20m move to Tottenham Hotspur and the infamous tweet which landed the promising young forward in cold water, subsequent late offers from Stoke City and Crystal Palace have similarly been rebuffed on deadline day and with his bag perhaps already packed and ready to go for some seasons now, Berahino still remains a West Brom player – but perhaps not for much longer as a move to Stoke City looks closer now and more realistic than ever before.
For all of his talent and promise shown most notably during the 2014/15 season after scoring 20 goals in all competitions, you could say that his attempts to force a mega money elsewhere were not the wisest. But given the nature of modern football on the look-out for break-up’s and make-up’s on a daily basis, Berahino may have had little choice in how it all played out and how it continues to do so, taking the attention away from his footballing ability and portraying the talented individual in a bad light. By now though however you would think that he has surely learned any lesson that he may have needed about the perils of player power and that a move away is perhaps long overdue; the best way for both the player and club to eventually move forward. Yet with this case in mind, the next big thing should take note of such a drawn-out transfer saga and go about things in a different way before they find themselves in the lead role of a Summer transfer market blockbuster coming to a television screen near you with several series in the pipeline.
Every true football fan loves transfer deadline for the drama and the uncertainty throughout the final few hours often centring round one or two transfer deals that could go either way. Will there be a club sign that shocks the footballing world like Manchester City did back in 2008 and launch a host of last-minute Deadline Day bids for players? Is that transfer that been rumoured for what seems like forever going to make it through before the deadline? Will the transfer spending total beat last years? The media undoubtedly make transfer deadline day a greater spectacle than what it probably is deep down but as each deadline day has got progressively more exciting since Manchester City’s infamous late assault on the transfer market launching bids for Mario Gomez and Dimitar Berbatov with a matter of hours remaining of a transfer window that had been opened for the best part of two months before ending up with Brazilian forward Robinho, I don’t think anybody could have ever predicted what would happen on the final day of the January transfer window back in 2013.
After rejecting an initial transfer request from the Nigerian international seven days before, on January 31st 2013 the watching media were sent into overdrive as the West Bromwich Albion striker was spotted in his car outside Queens Park Rangers’ Loftus Road. In what initially looked normal proceedings with fans and the media scrambling around for the latest bit of information to find out whether or not any deal had been agreed between the two clubs, it soon became apparent however that there hadn’t been any deal agreed between the clubs… Uh oh.Then what happened next will live long in the memory of transfer deadline day’s most memorable moments as the drama continued to unfold.
After driving 120 miles from Birmingham to London to speed up the proceedings of his ‘planned’ West Brom departure, the striker was pictured signing autographs outside the club’s stadium and was even interviewed for Sky Sports News stating that he was ready for a ‘new chapter’. However after QPR manager Harry Redknapp admitted that ‘wires got crossed’ and the move could therefore not be completed before the 11PM transfer deadline, Odemwingie was left with egg on his face and an incredibly awkward return back to West Bromwich Albion after saying his goodbyes to the club’s players and staff. In perhaps what remains the greatest deadline day deals to never have gone through, Odemwingie may be able to laugh about it now and warn players to never ‘do an Odemwingie’ but his failed attempts at forcing through a deal that never was merely proved embarrassing not just for QPR, West Brom and the player himself but for the Premier League. It is therefore understandable why the current Rotherham forward regrets the whole thing and how his ‘move away’ panned out. But once again, another ugly case of player power taking attention away from the beautiful game.
Long at the centre of numerous headline stories throughout his high-profile career, for all the records he has broke for both club and country, if you believe the papers at least it hasn’t all gone Wayne Rooney’s way throughout his career – most notably when it comes down to his individual player power. Later admitting that it was the ‘biggest mistake of his career’, back in October 2010 the former Everton striker expressed his desire to leave Old Trafford after questioning the club’s ambition and ability to continue attracting top players. In an admission which sent shockwaves throughout the English game, what seemed like a story of a player rebelling against his club, the saga took a further turn for the worse as it was then revealed that the England forward was even ‘considering’ swapping Manchester United for cross-city rivals Manchester City. Tehsin Nayani, the former spokesman of the Glazer family, reveals in his book on the Americans’ ownership of Manchester United that there was a ‘resignation among the club’s hierarchy’ that Wayne Rooney; United’s Player of the Year at the time was going to join Manchester City. The signs meanwhile were perhaps always there, as back in August 2010 the United centre-forward rejected a new contract, informing club chief executive David Gill about his intentions of a move away and of his concerns over the club’s lack of ambition for the future.
Thankfully for Manchester United fans during a whirlwind three days, Rooney however performed a spectacular U-turn and consequently put to pen to paper on a new five-year deal at Old Trafford and has since assured fans that if he was to have left the club at the time, ‘it wouldn’t have been in England… I’d have gone abroad’. Nobody will ever know for definite whether Rooney would have sold his soul or not and ever moved to the noisy neighbours across the city but three years later, it all looked too familiar after reports again surfaced following United’s title success in 2012/13 linking an ‘unsettled’ Wayne Rooney with a move to Chelsea at a time when the England international still had two years remaining on his contract.
The club’s stance this time around was firm – more resolute than three years prior and with no need to sell financially, United refused to buckle and Rooney was going nowhere. To this day Wayne Rooney remains a Manchester United player on the cusp of making history at Old Trafford that may never again be repeated but in his reported attempts to force through a transfer elsewhere, or at least a new contract, the case of Wayne Rooney highlights how power shifted away from the mega-rich players and back towards the clubs and beneficially for the beautiful game. In this specific instance of an unsettled player seemingly forcing his demand upon a club, the precedence of layer power was the only real loser in the end-to-end battle of many parties.
After coming through the youth ranks at Liverpool before then manager Brendan Rodgers one day gave a professional first-team opportunity to the clubs ‘next big thing’, media hype may have been one thing but his exciting performances on the pitch reportedly clubs from all over Europe linked with signing the English winger two seasons ago. When called upon during what looks increasingly like Liverpool’s best chance of winning a Premier League title during the 2013/14 season, alongside DS and LS in Liverpool’s attack, RS slowly but surely made an even greater name for himself and soon became one of the hottest prospects in world football. Learning from playing alongside both Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez on a regular basis clearly helped the youngster to develop at a pace that he may not have done by playing for the club’s reserves but as quickly as every impressive performance cranked the transfer rumour mill that bit higher, Sterling’s future always looked in doubt as fellow Champions League competing clubs tracked his every move.
For all of Bayern Munich and Real Madrid’s reported scouting of the tricky winger, Manchester City and their many millions soon emerged as firm favourites to purchase Sterling in the summer of 2015 and did just that. After reportedly refusing to want to stay at Anfield coupled with a public interview held with the BBC expressing how he truly felt (a public interview completely out of Liverpool’s control so the club say), player power once again reared its ugly head and before long after crossing the i’s, dotting the t’s and adding a few extra digits to an already heavily inflated transfer fee was all that remained before Raheem Sterling was announced as a Manchester City player.
Despite Sterling’s apparent show of greed and widely criticised personal motivation to move elsewhere for a much greater chance of success, although he continues to learn and improve as a player, he has always been gifted regular playing time and whilst the way in which he might have done so may have been frowned upon, but a move away to further his career could well have been the best decision he has made. Alongside a League Cup trophy to his name the Englishman has often been given game-time in the Champions League with City even reaching the Semi Final stage last season. For what can only be good for his career at club and international level in performing at the highest level, despite Liverpool’s good form of late, at the time of Sterling’s departure perhaps City more so than Liverpool perhaps offered a much greater opportunity of personal progression.
Whilst there will always be sceptics that suggest Sterling went to Manchester City solely for financial gain, at least that to some degree what started out as a turgid example of football player power has a slightly happier ending than many who have been unable to recapture their previous good form or even reach their full potential by trying to do too much, far too young.
In front of millions of fans watching worldwide, as Manchester City trailed 2-0 against Bayern Munich back in September 2011 it was later revealed after the game by an angry Roberto Mancini that the writing was on the wall for Carlos Tevez and his future at the club. With City two goals behind to the German champions, according to the former City boss he had told the Argentine forward to warm up but was left astonished when City’s 2010/11 season club captain refused to do so. Perhaps in the heat of the moment given that Tevez later returned to the Manchester City fold after some time away from first-team action, Mancini slated the former Manchester United stars’ actions, declaring defiantly that ‘he’s finished. I cannot go on with him… I make the decisions and in my opinion he can’t play for me again’. Although Carlos Tevez denied that he had ever refused to play for Manchester City and that ‘his position may have been misunderstood’, the television footage didn’t appear to suggest that and whether or not Tevez had any willingness to come on as a substitute for the club, clearly he wasn’t settled at Manchester City and a move away always looked on the cards. In the short-term Tevez got what might have wanted, perhaps not the £500,000 he received in return for his actions but a suspension of two weeks away from the club might have with hindsight gave Tevez time to think about the future and his next move in football. In the long-term however, there was no quick fix for arguably one of City’s key players up to the well-publicised fall out with Mancini and instead of a quick exit out of the back door during the January 2012 transfer window, instead slowly reintroduced into the Manchester City starting XI as the club ended up winning the Premier League title in stoppage time that season.
As often is the case in the transfer window, there is no smoke without fire and after rumours surfaced prior to the unsavoury scenes at the Allianz Arena the Argentine forward had reportedly been considering his future at the club in the summer transfer window. After his agent Kia Joorabchian reportedly held talks with Internazionale officials back in July 2011 over a move away, especially following City’s capture of Sergio Aguero that summer, although a move never came to fruition at the time, the signs were always there. Although Carlos Tevez made an impressive 148 appearances for the club and scored 74 goals in the process, after his relationship soured with the club following the Champions League incident, ultimately things were never to be the same again. And whilst he was made to wait until the summer of 2013, he did eventually get a long-desired move away from the Premier League to Serie A champions Juventus, before recently swapping Italy for China in a mega-money move making him one of, if not the highest paid footballer ever to have played in the Chinese Super League. In this case player power was somewhat inevitably the winner in the end but the players’ previous quotes and his present actions perhaps tell you all you need to know about the greed of the individual and the money-making culture of the modern game. Back in 2010 Tevez went on record to say that ‘Football is only about money and I don’t like it’… seven years later and in the time it has taken me to write this article, he has probably earned more than many of us will earn in a number of years. Oh to be a footballer…