28 Feb 2012

Player Power And Agents Are Causing Clubs Big Problems

There is no questioning the fact that the game of football has evolved over the years, some will argue for better, some for worse. The game today is played at a faster pace and involves more skill and tactics than in previous years, footballers are now athletes. The days when players would take to the field of play after a fry-up and still under the influence of alchohol from the previous evenings drinking session are way behind us.

Sadly, as football has become more popular it has become a wealthy business playground, and with this wealth we have seen the ever increasing problems of player power and agents causing clubs big problems. It's not a coincidence that the rise of football has seen the rapid fall of player loyalty towards the clubs they represent and general respect within the game.

So where did it all go wrong? The start of the Premier League era and the mega TV deal with Sky meant that simply a clubs status in the top flight would be rewarded handsomely financially, clubs reinvested their prize money in better players, the majority who come from over seas and arguably most of them were attracted by the wages the English clubs could offer them. The so called "Big clubs" then became obsessed with trying to attract the best young talent, even if it meant paying over £1million for a footballer who had not even played a professional top flight game for his team.

This in itself has bread a horrible, vulgar beast in our game, the modern day footballer. Now I am not suggesting that all our top flight footballers are pampered, spoilt, vain, individuals, who have no sense of what it feels like not knowing if you will have enough money in your bank to pay your monthly mortgage payment, but a high majority of today's footballers fall into this category. Many live the life of a pop star, they feed and crave attention, they must feel they are almost untouchable.

So if a player who has not even turned eighteen yet or played a first team game for his club, is driving around in a Bentley, what would motivate him? I suspect the majority of lads like this would believe that they had already made it. They have the flash car, the air head WAG complete with expensive designed bag and miniature dog sat inside it, and no mortgage or money issues. Its an issue that Roy Keane touched upon when playing for Manchester United, comments that cost him his United career, but he was correct to question certain younger fringe players who were driving flash cars without really putting in the performances on the field of play.

Its been rumoured that Manchester United youngster Paul Pogba (18) who has made one appearance as a substitute for the first team, is looking to renew his contract with the reds if he is paid £40,000 per week. I am absolutely staggered that a player that has made one appearance as a substitute could command a wage like that.

Obviously the player's agent has had a big say in these demands, knowing that while Pogba stalls on a new deal, he is publicly drumming up interest for his client that will eventually see him go to the club who will pay him the most money. Its just another worrying sign of how things have changed in our game. I very much doubt that Pogba was scraping the Old Trafford turf from the bottom of Paul Scholes's football boots the day he decided he would ask for these obscene wage demands. Cleaning the boots of Senior players is something that a young Scholes would have grown up doing when he was a youth team player at United, learning discipline and respect, I think you will agree that players like Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs will never come through a youth setup again.

Chaos, money and unrest are all words you will find in the job description of a football agent. We have even got to the point now, that if a player wants to leave a club he will simply refuse to play to push through a transfer, take a bow Pierre van Hooijdonk & Carlos Tevez. When Tevez eventually leaves Manchester City this summer, both these players will have been successful in pushing through a transfer showing just how strong player and agent power can be. It seems that a contract does not account for much these days, its a safe guard for a club to receive a fee if a player wants to move. Even then the player holds all the aces, because clubs have to offer players contracts a couple of years before the expiry date in fear of losing their asset on a free transfer to another club.

Manchester United supporters witnessed a mixture of player and agent power, when in 2010 it seemed almost over night that Wayne Rooney decided that he wanted to leave Old Trafford by issuing a written transfer request. Rooney's agent Paul Stetford was obviously pivotal in his clients decision to suddenly want to leave, obviously Rooney himself is not immune from criticism in all this, but at the end of the day he is not a die hard Mancunian who was brought up as a United fan, so his loyalty could be tested at anytime.

It's something that the player and the agent instigated after the agent was sounded out about a move to city rivals Manchester City that would have made the player the highest paid player in the world. Needless to say, Rooney for some reason had a sudden change of heart, and the club rewarded his disrespect of the club & it's supporters by offering him an improved contract. Clearly the player and agent both won this battle, a situation that was a win-win for them from the moment the interest and financial offer from City was discussed and put to them.

All football clubs want the best young players, and today £1million is not even viewed or frowned upon as a hefty fee for a teenager, who has never played a professional game before. Clubs have even been reported as going head to head over players who have not even left primary school yet.

Its something that is not going to change in the world of football, player power and agents rule our game and there is not really much that can be done about it. Even if you did away with agents, players would become the new agents and would still be out to negotiate the best individual deal for themselves. A Footballers career is short compared to that of a working class person, its just a shame that the majority of modern day footballers are motivated by bank balances rather than the clubs crest that they ware on their chest every week.