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Sympathy for Pogba and the overpaid?
Quick question in response to Toby Sprigings’ interesting article on money, support, and the position of the modern footballer. Why is there so much focus on money and salary among the general football-watching public in Britain and elsewhere? Why are salaries quoted on a weekly basis and why do fans place so much stock in their amount? I am a long-time fan of British football but have never lived in the UK and find the obsession somewhat hard to understand. You have concerns over paying someone (a certain Alexis Sanchez) more than 100,000 GBP a week more than their next-highest-paid teammate? Totally understand. Concerns over paying an elite athlete roughly fifteen million pounds a year, though? My worries begin to evaporate.
In the USA, Pogba’s salary would place him outside the top 35 highest paid baseball players and outside the top 50 highest-paid NBA players. He is compensated at roughly the level of the Charlotte Hornets’ Terry Rozier, a solid NBA player who has never made an All-Star team or won any titles or awards. This is all before the vast differences in tax structures are considered as well. The Premier League is far more popular internationally than Major League Baseball and is likely still superior to the NBA. Tax differences make these numbers less comparable, of course.
Athletic careers are cruelly short, and I don’t entirely understand why fans begrudge players their salaries, considering that, you know, they produce the product on the field. Lack of investment in Old Trafford, for one, is not entirely due to Pogba’s compensation. If fans still owned the clubs playing at the highest level in Britain, I could understand concerns over this kind of decision making. As it is, however, the ranks of Premier League owners include Russian Oligarchs, Saudi Princes, American Mall magnates, and Mike Ashley. Are fans hoping that the money stay with them? As I said, I haven’t lived in the UK and don’t presume to understand the footballing culture, so I would appreciate any insight!
I read Toby Sprigings excellent piece on Pogba with relief; Pogba is by far and away our best player (if not performer) and when he is on note this is obvious to all. What is incredibly frustrating about the ‘Pogba Problem’ is that it seems lost on people that football is a team sport and so I was pleasantly surprised when Toby pointed out that at Juventus, Pogba played with players senior to him, who allowed him to play with more freedom in a league with a different style – one where Smalling is doing well despite his obvious flaws as a footballer in the PL.
I don’t think it’ll be controversial to say we have managed to get the best out of Pogba when he was played alongside Herrera and Matic (whose form has sadly plummeted with age), not when he’s been asked to lead the likes of McTominay, Fred and Pereira. And here is the crux of the issue; in Pogba we have an F-22, but after letting Herrera go, and with Matic not being up to the task any more, we’ve lost the engineers that maintain it and the air crew crew that get it fuelled up and armed i.e. actually get it operational.
It’s dismaying seeing Man Utd seemingly eyeing up Maddison and Sancho, both of whom I think would be great signings, without addressing this problem. We need a replacement for Herrera and Matic; and while it looks like McTominay could step into Matic’s role, no one in our squad is capable of replacing Herrera.
Daniel (GTTO) Cambridge
There is an illogical misconception about footballers; they are overpaid. I would argue that footballers are the most accurately paid individuals on the planet.
Now this will ruffle a few feathers, some at F365, but really the justification for this statement is based on sound logic. But first a caveat: I am not endorsing the enormous incomes that footballers, or for that matter, actors, multinational corporation directors, musicians etc receive as morally acceptable and I am certainly not advocating extreme wealth. I am just saying that when the Industrial revolution was born humanity was faced with a dilemma; should the wealth created from automation be passed on to the human populace in general, easing the universal slog of existence by a tiny margin, or should the person who came up with the idea and the person who made it a practical reality horde the wealth for themselves making them, relatively speaking, insanely wealthy. They opted for the latter, humanity apparently ratified that approach, and from that point on we have been on a capitalist path that rewards individuals. That’s the world we live in and that world is largely run by markets.
Now, lets dissect the football world. It is by far the biggest sport on the planet. Over 4 billion either watch it or play it. That’s a lot. And that number manifests itself in terms of scouting. The best players are worth millions of pounds. That’s big business and it is in the interests of every professional club to have a scouting network. This means that in every country in the world, at every level of youth football, children are being assessed on their competence, and usually many times. Teachers, coaches and scouts are constantly prying over the footballing qualities children have to find the next Lionel Messi. It impossible to be a good young footballer and not be noticed. You cant score lots of goals or provide lots of assists and be passed over hundreds and hundreds of times. That means if you play football as a child and are talented you are weedled out and filtered off to academies, counties and the best local teams. These most talented individuals are then constantly assessed, constantly analysed to see if they are improving adequately, and where some hit their ceiling in terms of performance, they are removed. Not from the game, if they improve they can find an alternate route, for all levels and pretty much all ages are scouted and assessed, but the most common route is gradually surviving the routine removal of the weakest as the playing numbers fall and fall until you make a professional team’s U18-U23 squads. The final step is being judged good enough to play for a first XI.
Let me explain it like this. There is not a single person on the planet that is better than Lionel Messi at playing football. You could systematically work your way through every single person alive and no one, not one, would be better at playing football. If you were, you would have been noticed. Whether you are in Africa, Asia, Middle East, Americas or certainly Europe. You would have been noticed, then you would have been afforded opportunity to play, and subsequently scored hundreds and hundreds of goals at various levels and been an obvious candidate for professional football. And if you haven’t it is because you are not playing football and thus are not going to be better than Lionel Messi. If Messi had never kicked a ball by 15, he would not have been able to make it as a professional footballer, it would have been too late. The skills and experience required to make him the best in the world would have been missing. Harvey Elliott played for Fulham just after his 16th birthday, you have to start young, because the quality, derived from the massive numerical base of children playing regularly dictate that extreme proficiency is required. Huge numbers push up the quality at the extreme end of the spectrum, and for football that means professional players. You can’t Anthony Joshua it and use God given natural athleticism and talent to shortcut the accepted journey. You miss out young you’re already too far behind to make up.
So, there is an acceptance that the best are the ones playing the sport professionally. What else can you say this for? Other sports? Absolutely, but the massive gap between playing numbers in football globally compared to every other sport makes football the most extreme and truest version. What about acting? Nope. Great actors are great actors, but can we be certain they are the best in the world and worth the extreme numbers paid to the most successful movie stars? Absolutely not. There isn’t the metric for judging performance (The Oscars are not quantitative for example). Also somebody might be the perfect actor and just not afforded the right opportunity. You don’t have to necessarily accrue great experience or be learning from a young age and you can do it throughout your life as there is not an athleticism requirement to it. It is not scouted so that children pretending to have left their homework on the kitchen counter can be highlighted by their teacher as a shining acting talent. Many professional actors aren’t even acting until chance opportunity, or a skill in another area like comedy, affords them a crack on stage or screen. What about company directors? Well, they are probably pretty competent, but lots of people are competent. The reality is that education and background greatly affect your chance of climbing the corporate ladder. Without scouting and without specific special skills being honed it’s impossible to know where any company director stands in the global ranking of ability to be a company director. So the best paid are definitely not guaranteed to be the best in the world. In fact the skill set allows billions of people to be eligible to carry out the role, whether the majority would be competent or successful, I don’t know, I also know BP or Google doesn’t either. And if you are not the best at your job what is the justification for being paid the most money? How about musicians? Maybe, though again, popularity is the general requirement for commercial success and financial remuneration, but that is a relative issue. Being the best musician rarely has any bearing on success. You don’t even need to know how to play an instrument. A pretty face and naturally pleasant voice can be enough for international success. Even song writing is often done behind the scenes, and not by the artist. Did they deserve it? Who knows.
What football does is provide a vast array of metrics to judge performance. The constant media and public attention concentrates that. You can’t blag being a pro footballer. If you are there you earned it and continue to earn it otherwise that opportunity gets taken away. And being fans of F365 we know how the best players in the professional world work their ways to the best and biggest clubs and they are then paid the most money. They are undoubtedly, quantitatively, the best people on the planet at their profession, that means they should be the best paid. Luckily for them football has billions of pounds invested in it, subsequently they get paid millions and millions of pounds. But as I said at the start, you can’t say they don’t deserve it.
Best signing of the decade
Have just read your piece on each club‘s best signing of the decade. Whilst I don‘t disagree that VVD has turned Liverpool‘s defence into a barrier worthy of the US-Mexico border, I would argue the best signing the Reds have made is that of Herr Klopp. As you don‘t specify the signing has to be a player I feel this makes much more sense. Everybody‘s favourite German has masterminded a complete turnaround in fortunes for the club, culminating is us being crowned champions of Europe (and hopefully soon the world). He came with a plan and the great signings and the impact VVD, Robertson, Fabinho et al have had are because of him. Danke Jürgi
I rest my case
Gav, a Red in Zurich
Firmino to be rested?
Got to agree in part with Minty – Firmino should be rested. However, I’m not sure it’s the three years of football taking its toll. As amazing as he is, the glue that binds the midfield and attack etc etc, I have noticed that in periods* during the season, he is simply ineffective and off the boil. When he’s on it, he’s outstanding; but at the moment, he’s not playing so well.
Personally I think we need another attacking option. The (on hindsight) masterstroke of rotating the attackers in recent games has paid dividends, but I can’t help but feel a little trepidation when either i) the usual front three aren’t playing their A game or ii) one or more of them don’t start.
An additional quality attacker will negate those reservations and keep the front line competitive – something we’ll be needing towards the tail end of the season.
I’m hoping Klopp will be reading this and wanting to put my mind at ease so will duly go out and buy someone in January.
* small number of games of course. I bloody love him really.
Somerset Dave (Loving the season, not getting carried away and proud of the Reds)
Keita and top 10s of this decade
Naby Keita to be EPL player of the season in 20/21. You heard it here first. Nobody will be happier than Sadio Mane and therefore me.
By the way, loving the top 10 XYZ of the decade series. Top 10 centre halves next please? Keep them coming F365.
MK (LFC) Manila, Philippines
I’m not going to defend the guy’s ability because he’s not good enough for a top Premier League team but the problem with Xhaka is a deeper problem with this Arsenal team. Arsenal are full of players who can do only one thing, each to a varying level, and that’s what’s killing them. Their midfield has one trick ponies; Ozil can assist, Torreira can defend, Ceballos can warm the bench and, I’m assuming, Xhaka has something that he’s good at. It’s why we get frustrated at these players because when you don’t have the right balance their faults just become more apparent. Only Guendouzi has the potential to be a threat going forward and steady going backwards but he’s still young. It’s so easy to nullify them simply because they don’t have a player who can do a bit of everything so the opposition aren’t 100% sure where they’ll be and what they’ll do. If I had my choice I’d get a good box to box midfielder who scores some goals and turns defense into attack. Maybe Aaron Ramsey?
If you focus on the things these guys can’t do then you’ll drive yourself mad. Arsenal won’t be competitive until that midfield is gutted and replaced with better players, it’s as simple as that, but I don’t think there’ll be the budget for the next few years.
Seeing as how tomorrow is the big day..and a few have crept into the mailbox and it appears at least that F365 (accused of bias at every turn) have a leaning towards labour..
I am genuinely interested to know why anyone would vote Labour?
Brexit has been a 3yr VAR tediousness that I am pretty sure we are all sick off (Imagine having a vote on VAR in 3yrs time and saying we dont want it, then it being a further 3yrs until we decided to unplug it..while still using it.. See its football related now…vaguely)
As far as I can tell from what they have said:-
IF we win with a majority and dont have to reply on anyone else to balls it up then:-
Blue – We will def leave…. immediately
Yellow – We will def stay…. forever
Red – We will def have another vote on what to do and 3 more years of indecision and fence sitting to see how loves us most and who hates us least.. Please love us Oh and some lies about the NHS that we cannot possibly carry out..
According to the independent institute of fiscal studies NONE of the parties can achieve the financial ‘promises’ So in effect its all lies
Al LFC – Happy with football not at all happy with Politics
…By way of reaction to Kenny, Stateside Red in conjunction with Mediawatch’s views on the S*n’s Mojo bullshit.
I tend to come to the website to escape the depressing state of our politics / other facets of everyday life. It’s a football website. Can we leave the political entreaties to one side please? Or edit them out? Vote for who you want – that’s democracy.
This probably won’t get published as it doesn’t mention football much. Quite right too.
Mike D, Liverpool fan in London