x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Unfair to label footballers on big contracts greedy

I've seen managers criticise players they don't want for picking up huge wages and accuse them of being lazy.

Emmanuel Adebayor was criticised by some in the media for not wanting to take a pay cut when he left Manchester City for Tottenham Hotspur.
Emmanuel Adebayor was criticised by some in the media for not wanting to take a pay cut when he left Manchester City for Tottenham Hotspur.

It angers me when I see a football manager speaking out about a player he wants rid of - despite the player doing nothing wrong except being surplus to his requirements.

Wayne Bridge, Emmanuel Adebayor and Roque Santa Cruz are three players who signed contracts with Manchester City, only to find that they were not going to feature under Roberto Mancini.

They trained hard and were available for selection, despite knowing that they had no future at the club. They dutifully went on loan when asked and never spoke ill of their employers, even went they were sent to different countries, with Santa Cruz going to Seville to play for Real Betis.

They fulfilled every detail in their contract. Is it their fault that they were handsomely paid? No.

What would you do in the same situation?

Decline an offer of £80,000 (Dh465,554) per week and suggest that the weekly salary should be half that? Or leave your job half way through your contract and take a massive pay cut?

Some suggest that the desire to play football should overrule all else.

What, even the welfare of your family?

Every player wants to play, that's why they made it at the highest level in the first place. Ninety per cent of players who are deemed outstanding at 16 don't make it at a professional level. Of the 10 per cent who do, only a handful end up at the top clubs.

Yet I've seen managers criticise players they don't want for picking up huge wages and accuse them of being lazy. They have to be careful in the language they use, so they make insinuations, they raise eyebrows or pull silly faces to make it clear that they have no love for the player they want out. That's what the public see.

At other clubs, players who have suffered from long-term injuries have been hounded and accused of being wage thieves.

There really is a lot more to it than that. Put yourself in the shoes of one of the aforementioned players. You've signed a three or four-year contract because you are so highly rated.

That contract is supposed to offer security and it does, both financially and in terms of knowing where you'll spend the next three or fours years of your life. Knowing that, you'll relocate your family and go through the hassle of your kids changing school, of taking them away from their friends and trying to settle them into a city where they know nobody.

It's not worth doing that with a one-year contract.

Then, after one year, you are told that you have no future at the club. It's unfortunate but that's football, yet to be pushed out is plain wrong. If a club offers a contract then they should honour it and if they really want the player out then they should pay the contract up.

Fans don't see the human side. I know players who were mortgaged up to the hilt and were suddenly told that they were surplus to requirement. Few have any sympathy for their cause because the man on the street thinks that every footballer is a millionaire.

I've been at a club where I wasn't wanted and it was horrible. I loved playing for Blackburn Rovers, a proper club with a fine tradition. I got on great with the fans and everyone at the club - except the manager Graeme Souness. We fell out and he wanted me out to reduce the club's wage bill, but why, given the circumstances, should I have helped somebody who has made my life difficult?

To break my spirit, I was called in for extra training sessions, asked to train with the kids and saw reserve team strikers picked ahead of me.

I spoke to the Professional Footballers Association. What a waste of time that was. After years of paying a subscription, my first call to them was to ask what I should do following a breakdown in communications with my manager. Their advice? "Try to sort out the matter with your manager." Thanks for that!

What professionals also despise is when former footballers who spoke out for players' rights then change their tune as soon as they become a manager. They know exactly what it's like to be a player, so why do they forget that when they start briefing against their own players in the media?

Criticise the farce if a club buys too many players, criticise the manager who mugs off his own players, but don't criticise the player who suffers from these mistakes.

sports@thenational.ae

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