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Daniel Storey’s piece on Cristiano Ronaldo was a curious one. It seeks to justify his inflated ego because he uses it as motivation to better himself. His ego, we are told, is the hard exterior Ronaldo presents to the public to beat the ‘haters’. However, Storey misses the point of why Ronaldo was hated in the first place. In England, his diving and pestering of referees earned him the deserved reputation of being a cheat. That he developed a massive ego so as to remain oblivious to justified criticism is illustrative of the nature of the man. Incredible technique and supreme fitness have elevated him to the status of being one of the greatest ever but let’s not trip over ourselves offering justifications for his odious character.
It would be tolerable if he was simply the sort of arrogant sod who couldn’t care less. In fact, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has sculpted his public persona as such. A man to whom only his own praise matters. But Cristiano is nothing of the sort. His very public moaning about being overlooked for the Ballon d’Or and his ridiculous goal celebration directed at Sepp Blatter suggests that Ronaldo cares very much about what is said about him. His on-field behaviour betrays an incredibly selfish streak. When I watch him take a penalty I instinctively cringe in anticipation of the over-the-top celebration that is sure to follow. My first reaction when one of his team-mates shoots wide is too look for where he is. Usually miles away but his arms are outstretched in anger without fail. As a fan who watches the game hoping to witness some brilliant football, I am not a big fan of the spectacle players such as Ronaldo provide. The drama he brings with him to every game takes away from the enjoyment for me and for that I cannot absolve him of blame.
The thing about Ronaldo that annoys me the most though is that he is not merely a professional footballer but also a hugely marketable personality. His crimes against humanity aren’t as severe but he is certainly the closest football has to the Kardashian family. I realise I am getting dangerously close to the ‘footballers are role-models’ debate but I don’t think I’m being unreasonable when I lament the fact that a man who is so clearly unpleasant and self-obsessed is now heralded as worthy of emulation simply because he can kick a football quite well.
Ronaldo hasn’t shied away from it all either. He earns more money from endorsing products and lifestyles than he does playing football. While it isn’t his fault that people like him there is no denying that he profits quite nicely from all of it and realizes that his personality goes a long way to sustaining his brand. In an increasingly unpleasant world where people are more than willing to be massive dicks to each other, Ronaldo’s arrogance is particularly jarring. He makes being a selfish, narcissistic prima donna an acceptable, even admirable, way of life worthy of being plastered on our screens and billboards.
I am aware that he does a great deal for charity and has even taken a personal interest in some particularly distressing cases but I can’t bring myself to ignore the overall unpleasantness that surrounds Ronaldo. It matters little that I have never met him. I have never met the Prime Minister either and I’m allowed to vote – an opinion that actually matters. So spare me the justifications for some truly bad behaviour, Mr. Storey. Arrogance isn’t necessary. It’s a choice Ronaldo has made to be the way he is and to suggest that he wouldn’t be the player he is if not for his questionable character is ludicrous. An incredibly talented football player but by no means a worthy man. I know what I value more.
Bring back the player-managers
Nick Miller’s piece this morning on how joint-manager arrangements rarely work out got me thinking about another managerial role that has been virtually hounded into extinction: the player-manager. I mention this as Kevin Nolan has just been appointed player-manager of Leyton Orient.
Nick’s article namechecks Attilio Lombardo and Tomas Brolin as joint-managers, but this isn’t quite right – Lombardo was the player-manager and Brolin was his interpreter/chief cake eater. The club had a new chairman, the naïve fanboy Mark Goldberg, who wanted a dream team of Steve Coppell and Terry Venables running the team. Coppell was moved upstairs from his position as manager, and until Venables became available, Lombardo was put in charge.
Player-managers used to be a commonplace short-term measure, although there have been some successful ones. Facetiously, you could have Martin O’Neill, friend of this site, who used to assign himself a squad number. Kenny Dalglish springs to mind, and the Chelsea pair of Ruud Gullit and Gianluca Vialli, although you could argue (over a de-icer daiquiri or ten and a bottle of brandy, maybe) that the ultimate player-manager was Peter Reid. Most player-managers were nominally doing both roles, but managed more than played – Andy Hessenthaler, late of being kicked up the bum by his chairman fame, found during his time at Gillingham that arguing with the ref was easier from the sideline as he was less likely to be booked; however, Reidy was the real deal of both roles, so much so that after being sacked by Manchester City he went back to being just a player at Southampton.
Nowadays even those registered players who end up taking charge of the team – like Garry Monk, for example – seemingly retire from playing to focus on management, which is easy to understand. It worked well for Monk, anyway. It’ll be interesting to see how much playing Nolan does at Orient – I’d imagine a player of his calibre could still do a job in midfield in League Two, even if the combination of relatively advanced age (33) and lack of match fitness would hinder him against younger, more energetic players.
Finally, a special prize to Bryan Robson for the photo of his unveiling as player-manager at Middlesbrough. Give yourself a treat and google it.
The literary Ed Quoththeraven
Dom’s right to reply
I wasn’t going to respond as I don’t want this to become a protracted debate when there are more important football items to discuss (as one mailboxer helpfully pointed out to me), however I just wanted to let you all know that the responses in this morning’s mailbox helped make my mind up, and you printing it has seemingly had a widespread effect (see below).
I was basically told I wasn’t allowed to play here as I was different. That football support is supposed to be depressing and I am not allowed to grow up and still be a part of it. That the mailbox is reserved for proper football fans (who eat pies and drive something other than Audis?!), it was even suggested that my friends won’t want me at games because I talk about my kids. One mailboxer didn’t even read my email, referring to me as an Arsenal supporter. I can assure you as a Liverpool fan born in the early 80’s, I am certainly not used to winning.
To those of you seemingly protective over the content of the mailbox, a quick search through its history will show you that I have contributed tens of times in recent years, which would imply my mails are welcome (and varied in content). I would suggest if you don’t want to read a mail from me, then maybe….Don’t read it…
Re-reading my original email, I see how it may have come across as sanctimonious and I apologise for that, that was not the intention. I merely wanted to highlight the juxtaposition between elements of life that are within one’s control and the happiness they bring against the overall negative effect of an uncontrollable addiction (in this case football).
That said, to those of you that took umbrage at the way I spoke of my wife, I would suggest that if you have wives and speak about them in any manner other than wonder and amazement, you may be doing it wrong. FYI, my wife is a counsellor if any of you angry young men would like her card?
In spite of the above and the seemingly negative response to my first email, I would like you guys at F365 to know that I have since been contacted by numerous football supporters (of varying team allegiances and from several countries) on a social networking site, thanking me for the mail and engaging in discussion about all things football. Some people may not have an outlet in their lives, and as suggested by BT in the 90’s, ‘It’s good to talk’ so thank you for providing the vessel for this contact. It seems my opinions and I are welcome somewhere after all.
All I am trying to do is cross the divide from supporter to fan. Whilst many of you disagree with me (and that’s cool), my family is more important to me than my club, I just need to shake the addiction. Apologies if I conveyed that poorly (or if you don’t care in the first place, in which case see my earlier point about not reading my emails).
Thanks F365, a wonderful platform for discussion as ever.
RIP Nev’s reputation
Gary Neville was a mighty fine pundit. He had the whole weekend to dissect teams’ performances and offered insight and balanced critique to manager’s acheivements/failures.
Gary Neville is a piss-poor manager. He is learning that it’s one thing to know how a team should line up but another to get them playing and winning.
Imagine a film critic making an absolute steaming turd of a movie, how much credence would you lend their opinion in future? It doesn’t exactly affect your ability to provide critique but it would be more difficult to defend your position when you’ve done no better yourself. And bringing it back to Neville, there’s no way he ever “banters off” Carragher (as the twitter & clickbaity videos like to say he does) when Carra only has to point at this steaming turd of a managerial career as his riposte.
End of the day, he could still be a pundit & I’d argue he’d still be very good at it (perhaps with a bit more appreciation for how difficult the job actually is) but don’t be surprised if people roundly mock his opinion.
Couldn’t have happened to a rattier-faced jeb-end.
Kris, LFC, Manchester
…Gary Neville, should he continue to underperform at Valencia and return to Sky as a pundit in August, will not be compromised by his failure as a manager.
While there are a number of mitigating circumstances, the reason he won’t be compromised is much more simple. Neville was a fantastic analyst/pundit because he spotted things that the average viewer couldn’t, and then managed to explain (much more difficult than simply describing) it to the viewer. His difficulties as a manager won’t impact this, so why should it matter?
Jack (Still think he’ll make a fantastic manager in the future) Manchester
…Dan from this morning’s mailbox raises an interesting point regarding Gary Neville’s reputation and his work as a pundit, should he (and you’d expect him to) go back to it if this management gig continues on the path it’s currently going.
I can see where Dan is coming from, but I would have to argue that it wouldn’t. Neville is a master of pointing out how a team has set up (especially defensively) and how that has been exploited, this isn’t necessarily the same thing as knowing what to do in the first place. Hindsight is a wonderful thing to a manager, and there’s every chance that when Neville analyses one of his own games he can see himself what he’s gotten wrong, but didn’t know without the benefit of hindsight that this is how it was going to play out. I for one really enjoy hearing from him when he articulately informs us of teams exposing weakness, defensive errors, huge oversights by a manager, and I don’t think that it’s tainted by the fact that he himself might also have made that mistake. As well, even if Neville himself couldn’t do a better job than a Utd manager he’s criticising, he’s pointing out flaws that might mean someone else could.
This is also not acknowledging that there are many other skills needed in management. Perhaps Neville is getting everything right tactically, but just doesn’t have the man management to get the best out of the players at his disposal? The two still require very different skill sets.
Essentially I’m saying I would rather hear it from someone rather than no one and be none the wiser. Daniel Storey couldn’t do a better job than Roberto Martinez, mainly because he would only look at and talk to Romelu Lukaku, but this doesn’t mean he can’t tell us where he went wrong in his Premier League losers section every other week.
Mike (AVFC), London
Welcome to the circus, Kev
Will he do the chicken celebration on the sideline when we score? I highly doubt it.
But I’d like to say welcome Kevin Nolan to the circus of a football club that is Leyton Orient FC. I have no doubt that you will fail and probably get sacked, but hopefully you can bring some extra quality to the pitch that we are in desperate need of in the meantime.
I am slightly worried, however. Nolan isn’t exactly the quickest player these days and he’s quite obviously a little on the old side for a footballer. Here’s a question – Is it more difficult for an aging Premier League experienced player such as Kevin Nolan to play in the lower divisions than it is in the Premier League? You get a lot more space and time on the ball in the EPL than League 2. What’re your thoughts? Or am I just being the nay-saying O’s fan I have brought up to be? Thanks Dad.
Joe, LOFC/MUFC (I started supporting MUFC too for the glory. I’m getting my comeuppance.)
The good, the bad and the Wenger
I particularly enjoyed Dale May’s pro-Arsene letter, which was crammed full of rational, well-observed points about what makes Wenger such a special manager. However I do feel that given how long Wenger has been at Arsenal, we tend to look at his career at a very macro level, examining 5/10 year blocs and losing a lot of the key details in the process.
The point about average spend is a very valid one and generally league tables and progress in tournaments are a function of how much money you spend, but over the course of a season, expectations adjust in relation to performance. Based on their spend, Leicester should be no way near winning the title and yet they are; if they lost every game between now and the end of the season and finished just above the relegation zone, the season would still be considered a massive failure despite avoiding the drop being their principle target in August. Similarly, simply saying Arsenal average a 4th place finish and that’s about right is a bit reductive. There have been seasons where Arsenal have struggled badly or had an atrocious squad and as such 4th was a sensational achievement, however there have been seasons like 2007/08 where Arsenal were in a position to finish higher than 4th and failed to do so.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that undoubtedly Wenger has outperformed his competition on many occasions but similarly, there have been times where he’s made bad decisions that have hamstrung the team. It’s all well and good (rightly) pointing out the financial restrictions Arsenal were operating under but I refuse to believe it was impossible for Arsenal to find a goalkeeper that would’ve prevented Almunia playing 100+ Premier League games for the club, or that there was no viable option to stop Bendtner playing on the wing. A prime example is the 2009 FA Cup semi-final loss to Chelsea where Wenger dropped Alex Song and Arshavin despite them being Arsenal’s best players at the time. Wenger claimed he wanted to “show the team they could win without him [Arshavin]” which is negligence of the highest order, especially when you consider he was cup-tied for the Champions League and as such, probably the freshest player in the squad. These kinds of individual errors are swept under the carpet and we simply focus on the Barren Years as a whole rather than giving any sort of thorough analysis.
My last point of contention is the widely-accepted idea that Arsenal had to sell players to fund the stadium. Obviously I’m not on the board and I don’t know the inner workings of the club but I highly doubt this is true. I cannot imagine a group of successful businessmen making such a large investment off the back of selling a £20m+ player every season, it just isn’t a viable business plan. There’s absolutely no way to guarantee a player will be worth that much, especially given that Arsenal were purchasing players at such cheap prices. The players that left Arsenal between 2005-2012 (if we assume Van Persie was the last big name player to go) were largely pulled away by other clubs as opposed to pushed out the door by Arsenal, as the list below shows:
– Patrick Vieira: By Wenger’s own admission, was sold for tactical reasons to accommodate the emerging Cesc Fabregas.
– Ashley Cole: Left after infamous saga, but the fact he was offered a new contract indicates Arsenal wanted him to stay.
– Thierry Henry: Agitated for a move after David Dein left and Arsenal finally caved in after persistent interest from Barcelona
– Alex Hleb: Sought move to Barcelona, although the low fee for a player in his prime indicates some willingness from Arsenal to sell
– Emmanuel Adebayor: Actively agitated for a move and like Ashley Cole before him, reached a point where it was no longer viable to have him at the club
– Kolo Toure: Had a transfer request rejected due to issues with Gallas and had declined badly after his bout of malaria. £15m was an astonishing fee.
– Samir Nasri: Agitated for a move and left after a notorious bust-up with Wenger and the fans.
– Gael Clichy: Sold after perennially picking up injuries and the emergence of Kieran Gibbs (who then perennially picked up injuries)
– Cesc Fabregas: Eventually caved into Barca’s relentless pursuit. Paid his way out of his contract.
– Alex Song: Left very suddenly, definitely one that could’ve been initiated by Arsenal
– Van Persie: Submitted a transfer request and was sold before he could run his contract down.
So of the 11 players on that list, at least 9 of them left of their own volition. I’m doubtful whether the likes of RVP, Fabregas, Nasri and Adebayor would’ve been forced out of the club had they not wanted to depart. The selling players to balance the books fits snugly in the financial restraint narrative but in actuality the players left simply because they wanted to. Where money does come into it was that Arsenal’s wage structure was massively uncompetitive and a lack of bargaining power meant that the fees paid were much lower (less than £30m for Fabregas at his peak!). It seems unrealistic that the revenues from players (not forgetting to subtract money spent on new additions) would be enough to pay off a massive project like the Emirates. It’s extremely pedantic of me but it’s something I see repeated so often with absolutely no consideration of the facts behind it.
Brett, AFC (this probably should’ve been two mails)
City Down Under
RE Owen, Dublin: There is nothing new under the sun, my friend. In the early days of Bosman-ruling freedom-of-contract transfers, players could only move on a ‘free’ Bosman to a club in another country. The first really big international player who was going to make use of his rights under the Bosman ruling was Dortmund and Germany’s Thomas Helmer – except he really wanted to sign for Bayern Munich. Such a transfer was not allowed – so he ‘Bosmanned’ to Marseille, who then sold him to Bayern for a nominal fee, on the same day.
Alex Stokoe, Newcastle upon Tyne
…It looked like Owen, Dublin missed a few words out in his mail so I thought I’d add them in for him…
I write in regards to the transfer of Anthony Caceres from Central Coast Mariners to Manchester City and his loan thereafter to City’s sister club Melbourne City. Now the odd rules in the A League state that players cannot move between two clubs in the league for a fee and so technically there is nothing wrong with the transfer but seen as Caceres was going to be out of contract and CCM would miss out on a fee for someone who is clearly talented and they had spent considerable time and money developing as a player it is quite frankly incredibly decent and noble of City to buy him now and give CCM 400k, instead of waiting and paying nothing. What makes this even better for CCM is that they have used that money to afford the wages of newly signed former Liverpool legend Luis Garcia who they hope will boost attendances, revenue and raise the profile in other countries so they in effect this stinks of the City Group using one club to boost another league’s profile, raise its playing standard (just like they did in America) and also for CCM themselves a better team and a chance of glory. Also by keeping Caceres in the A league by allowing him to play for Melbourne City instead of sending him to Bolton like they did with that other Australian lad so all Australian football fans can enjoy his talent is also incredibly decent of them too……I salute you City Group.
Gavin MCFC – spin, spin, spin,…..not being serious…..spin, spin, spin
Jon Gibson, LFC, suggests that Spurs will have to “scale back investment on the playing side”; he evidently hasn’t seen our recent net transfer spend.
Alex G, THFC (seriously, just one sodding striker please)
…I’ve seen a couple of references in the past few mailboxes to how Spurs are going to need several years of Arsenal-esque prudence in order to repay the debts caused by a very expensive new stadium. I thought it worth pointing out that Spurs have done a large chunk of this leg work already. Without wanting to go all Liverpool fan or Swiss Ramble on you all, here are Spurs’ last few years in net transfer spend (all figures from Wiki):
15/16 – In: £49.6m, Out: £49.6m, Net: £0
14/15 – In: £27.7m, Out: £37.7m, Net: +£10m
13/14 – In: £105m, Out: £115.7m, Net: +£10.7m
12/13 – In: £60m, Out: £66.5m, Net: +£6.5m
11/12 – In: £5.5m, Out: £37.5m, Net: +£32m
10/11 (CL) – In: £18.5m, Out: £1m, Net: -£17.5m
09/10 – In: £28.5m, Out: £31.75m, Net: +£3.25m
That adds up to a net transfer profit of +£45m over the last six and a half years which is nothing to be sniffed at, while the wage bill rose for a bit when we were fighting for the Champions League and has regressed a bit since.
The point is that Spurs are fully used to being able to remain fairly competitive without a transfer budget and the transfer model has been in place to do so for a little while now.
Strike a pose, Jack
According to recent updates Arsenal could have Ozil, Sanchez and Coquelin back to face Chelsea. Welbeck is waiting in the wings, a week or so away, while we even have the luxury of playing Rosicky with the under 21s.
No word on Wilshere, however.
For those not in the know, the former footballer has been used by the club to model famous former Arsenal shirts in a feature in the match day programme detailing the history of that shirt.
Given, Jack is on £90k a week – is he Britain’s most highly paid model?
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London