It is no secret that footballers nowadays switch clubs faster than you can say “Sepp Blatter”. But what is very interesting, and somewhat depressing, is how quickly certain clubs can chew you up and spit you out.
Football has become a corporate affair quite some time ago. It might have started with the first company that decided to sponsor a team’s kit, and thus having their branding exposed to the masses watching football. Or perhaps the big turning point for modern football was the day when it became possible to transfer players from any nationality to any club side. Whatever had been the original trigger, football would never be the same again.
So, yes. We’ve established that football is pretty much all about money these days. But what is interesting to me, is how quickly some of these big clubs toss away “older” talented players like yesterdays news. I think the likes of Rául and Guti are a dying breed. Both of those players spent at least 15 years at arguably the greatest football club in the world: Réal Madrid. Rául and Guti were not exactly known for their lightning speed, or for their extreme strength. They were brilliant footballers, who came up through Madrid’s youth ranks and were moulded into wonderful footballers. They were intelligent players, who would pop up at the right place at the right time. Thus, because they were not reliant on their physical attributes, but rather on their technical abilities and synchronisation with the team as a whole, they managed to be assets to the team till the age of about 33.
But now, Réal Madrid has become the team known for tossing players out as soon as they’ve reached a certain age. And I’m not talking about the age of 34 or 35; I’m talking about 27 year old players that get replaced with the latest young star who happens to be on form. Another problem is that relatively young players who are going through a bit of a rough patch quickly get replaced with someone even younger who is a hot commodity at that time.
Most recently, this seemed to have happened to Rafael van der Vaart, a former Madrid attacking midfielder. Yes, I realise that their might have been several contributing factors to his departure, but still, one feels that he never showed what he could really do. Now, Madrid have purchased Mesut Özil, despite the fact that they already had Káka and Van der Vaart to vacate that position. And that’s quite a sad and wasteful exercise in this writer’s opinion.
I suppose one has to be realistic:
- The competitions are getting more and more competitive
- Losing is simply not an option for managers, not like it ever was, but now, their jobs are literally on the line. So one can understand the need to purchase the best player that you can get your hands on.
But I suppose that I’m seeking a bit more patience from clubs like Réal Madrid: maybe focus more on developing the players from the youth systems, try to keep players who know each other well together for as long as possible. A team of average players that gel perfectly is much better than a team of all-stars that don’t know each others style of play. Take a look at Barcelona, it is no coincidence that the Spanish international side are such a strong side, they’ve been playing alongside each other for years.
I would suggest when buying a new player, that one gives this new arrival the proper time to adapt to a new team, a new league and a new “home”.
That being said, football is a very cruel sport, and all-and-all the vicious cycle will continue to loop: fans want victories; fans give players stick if they don’t always produce results, the board complains to the manager, the manager has to make changes.
So, I suppose at the end of the day, one can’t blame teams for trying to purchase quick-fixes in order to strengthen their squads, but on the other hand, one can look at the teams who have patiently formed their squads, and done so with great success like Manchester United and FC Barcelona.