Football has long been lauded as the beautiful game. All too often though, beauty leads to temptation and footballers are lured out of their contracts by offers of more money, flashier stadia and bigger clubs.
Arguably, the biggest casualty of disloyalty is British football. In the most recent transfer period, which ran from 1 January to 31 January, £135 266 000 was spent on transfers by English clubs. In total there were 312 deals: 118 of these involved an English Premier League (EPL) team, compared to 72 involving a team in Spain’s La Liga, 73 in Germany’s Bundesliga and 32 in Italy’s Serie A.
The biggest transfer involving an English club was that of Mario Balotelli, who joined AC Milan from Manchester City. The transfer fee was £19 million.
This is little compared to the biggest transfer from the previous transfer period, which ran during the European summer. At £30 million, Luka Modric’s transfer from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid was the most expensive of this window. Robin van Persie’s move to Manchester United from Arsenal was the most expensive deal within the EPL and cost £24 million.
Over the past decade, modern football has come under heavy criticism for focusing on money instead of the game. It has become common for wealthy businessmen to invest lavishly in football clubs but then expect it to be run more like a business than a team.
This is best illustrated in the contrasting fortunes of Manchester City and Liverpool. Success in the EPL has come to depend largely on how much money the club’s owner is willing to spend.
When the Abu Dhabi United Group, owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, bought Manchester City in September 2008, the club had not won a Premier League trophy in 40 years. The Sheikh’s money was enough to see the club undergo a drastic transformation, as it became one of the wealthiest football clubs in the world.
The club’s new owner spent millions of pounds buying the best players for his squad, including David Silva, Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany, Yaya and Kolo Touré and Carlos Tevez (who caused controversy by moving from city rivals Manchester United). In the summer transfer league of 2009 Manchester City spent more money than any other EPL club.
The influx of superstar players led to the club being accused by many football pundits of trying to find shortcuts to success. However, their first major piece of silverware only came when City won the FA Cup in 2011.
One of the most successful English teams in history, Liverpool, have suffered from a few years of poor form. A trophy draught that began in 2006 only ended when the Reds won last year’s League Cup.
Fans battled to comprehend the team’s lack of ability to perform. Many began to blame owners George Gillet and Tom Hicks, who bought Liverpool from David Moores (whose family had owned the club for more than 50 years) in 2007. When Gillet and Hicks bought the club, it had an amassed debt of nearly £220 million. The pair found themselves unable to run the club and put it up for sale in 2010, and Liverpool was sold to Fenway Sports Group for £300 million.
Not many players remained loyal to the club which, by its own standards, was struggling. Among the most noticeable players who left in the period between 2005 to 2012 are Milan Baros, John Arne Riise, Xabi Alonso and Fernando Torres. All of these players represented Liverpool for more than four years. Riise was at the club for seven years.
Despite the seemingly greedy atmosphere in football, there are players who have demonstrated steadfast loyalty to their clubs.
When he learned that his Chelsea contract would not be renewed at the end of the season, Frank Lampard reportedly offered to play for half his current salary in an attempt to change the club’s mind. Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher has not played for any other club and has made over 700 appearances for the team. Only representing Manchester United at a senior level, Ryan Giggs is another one-club player. Aged 39, Giggs has been playing at Old Trafford for more than 20 years. In 2010, Manchester United’s official magazine and website conducted a poll to name the club’s greatest ever player and Giggs, fittingly, was chosen as the club’s best footballer, beating legends like George Best and Eric Cantona.