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Wishing for an end to the Bale Conundrum
The report this morning on “Bond. James Rodriguez“, and Real’s desperate hunt for a buyer before his contract runs out has me rueing that most recent of pitfalls which has befallen a few of the most talented footballers in the world in the last few years.
It appears to only happen to footballers who belong one rung below the truly elite players, players who burn bright for a couple of years and convince a big-spending Super Club™ to splash the cash and tie them down to an eye-watering long-term contract, only to never quite reach that same stratospheric level of form again. Call it the Bale effect. We’ve seen it happen to Rodriguez, Coutinho, Dembele, Sanchez and, for a while, Higuain in recent years.
Players who are still performing to a reasonably high standard (Sanchez excepted), and who might well improve if given time and trust, are suddenly made to feel completely unwanted because they haven’t managed to remain in the world class bracket, and because they are too expensive to keep on the books as talented squad players. The players, quite understandably, are reluctant to say goodbye to a once-in-a-lifetime contract which they will never replicate elsewhere, and so are reluctant to move in the direction that they are impolitely pushed in by their club.
The result is that some ridiculously talented players end up spending the peak years of their career without a proper playing environment in which they are given the confidence to perform to the best of their abilities every week, knowing that they will be able to stay at the club beyond the next transfer window. It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle, and the result is that football fans are deprived of that most special of things – excellent players finding teams at their level to lead to new heights.
The fact that James Rodriguez in particular hasn’t fulfilled his potential is a crying shame – he is an excellent player, quite likeable and incredibly fun to watch, but his career has been reduced to a joyless wrangle because of how loudly money talks in football. The only real losers are the fans.
Pandemic window solution…
I was always in the camp of getting things done asap and then build for the future with the core that you have put together. However, that was pre-pandemic. My position was to sell Pogba, sell DDG get value, and then build for the future. Unfortunately, we may not be able to get the value for Pogba and DDG that we should get this window. The Solution is simple, DO NOT SELL!
From what I can see Man Utd are uniquely placed to spend and bring in a marquee signing without having to raise the funds entirely from sales. So why not hold off selling two key assets in what is likely to a deflated market. Have them play and regain form and value and then cash in next summer (2021-22).
On the flip side take a hit on the likes of Lingard, Periera, Rojo, Jones, Smalling and Sanchez. bring in 50 million for the lot of them. Clubs will be more receptive to taking on these bigish names if we give them a bargain given most club’s current financial plight. This will clear the deadwood and we can put the 50 million towards your marquee signing – Sancho who we need and is really a no brainer. Pay the full 100 million, it’s worth it.
Line up for the full 2020 – 2021 season (when it does happen)
DDG (Hendo on loan for 1 more season)
That way there is minimal disruption to a currently promising and successful formula, which has only been strengthened significantly by adding Sancho.
The following window is when we give in and sell when teams are back and able to spend after a window of inactivity. Pogba should have played his value up and DDG holds his value. Sell Pogba for 80 and DDG for 50 and then bring in Saul (75) Grealish (55). Mata and Matic will be released as well.
Squad for 2021 – 2022
Gomes (hope he signs)
Igahlo (find a way to keep him)
The oldest member of your starting 11 would be Maguire at 29. Saul and Fernandes would be 27 and Martial your oldest forward would be only 26. That’s a dynasty in the making.
I love and miss football so much.
Hakim, Sri Lanka
There always seems to be a plan with Liverpool
Just wanted to throw my thoughts in on the Timo Werner to Chelsea, from my Liverpool perspective.
Firstly, there is a lot of ‘didn’t fancy her anyway’ flying around. It’s hard to know what’s true or not in the world of transfers, but it seems Liverpool were genuinely interested and we may have missed out. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps the player feels more likely to get time to play at Chelsea than Liverpool? Perhaps he likes what’s happening at Chelsea, an inconsistent side, yes, but looking exciting for the future. Perhaps he just prefers to live in London. Or perhaps he thinks that long-term, in a post-Klopp era, Liverpool may fall off relatively quickly, where Chelsea have been more consistent challengers for Trophies over the last 10 years.
Anyway, whatever the reason, the difference between Liverpool now and Liverpool of previous years, is that I’m not really worried. I always think there is a plan B, as pointed out by your article, the plan B can often be pretty good! So in summary, whatever the reason, it’s happened. No need to complain or moan. Let’s move on to plan B – and let’s be fair, it’s not as if this team is desperate for reinforcements at the moment (next year maybe – got to build while on top!).
I would have loved us to sign Werner. Who doesn’t want a new signing to get excited about, but club security must come first in the current climate. Especially when we’ll most likely have massive rewards to dish out to staff if/when we clinch the league.
And is it really just me that can see football Fire Sales across the globe in January when reality hits?
Vinnie Brownlow, LFC, Glasgow
Is it just me or is the whole Werner thing very simple. Liverpool furloughed staff (albeit for a very short time). How bad are the optics for Liverpool then spunking 50million on one person. You can already see the sniping – certain people worth 50 mil, others can be valued by the state. This is an opinion but I think Liverpool could have easily paid up, but their image already got burned with the furlough so didn’t want to risk it. Not complaining at all. Now to embrace the extra pressure coming to Chelsea and Lampard for next season
Upon hearing that Chelsea are in for Kai Havertz, my first reaction was disbelief. I admit, before lockdown I’d barely watched him play. After watching some of his games and highlight reels, one thing became blatantly obvious. He is composure personified. His technique and physique paired with said composure makes him an incredible prospect. To be honest, I thought he was heading to Bayern for sure. Even Real Madrid could freshen up their midfield. In a previous mail I said that with Werner up top, we had a mouth watering front line, and that midfield took care of itself. Call me greedy, but the idea of Havertz, Mount and Gilmore/kante is breathtaking. It seems like Lampard and Cech are intent on building a squad capable of challenging for the next 5 years at least.
This seems to be timed perfectly with Roman loosening the purse strings. For the first time in a long time it seems like the hierarchy of the club are all on the same page, and are being ruthless in executing their plans. Havertz certainly makes sense, Kovacic and Jorginho arent getting any younger, but provide welcome experience. Loftus-cheek has been injured and has yet to show his potential (he’s 24!) and Barkley has been torrid since he’s signed. I still feel it’s too good to be true, but wow I hope I’m wrong. Chilwell might just depend on the profits on other players, so here’s to a Saudi rich Newcastle paying over 30M for Batshuayi.
Tashen, South Africa (Will happily watch Chelsea try to outcsore opponents given our weak keeper and defence)
How good was Rooney?
In response to Oliver, London’s question about how good was Rooney, I’ll throw my opinion in the ring. Firstly, there’s no getting away from the fact that Zidane he was not, he couldn’t trap the ball like it was a bag of cement or control it with his tail bone. I was lucky enough to have my season ticket from 2004 up until 2017 which covered Rooney’s Man Utd career, now a lesson to be learnt is that if you’re not all that your built up to be then you are found out very quickly at United and you certainly don’t last 13 years. Now to paint a clearer picture I think you need to separate his career into different stages i.e. 2004/05 – 2008/09 I remember being the years where he played with this tremendous work ethic, rawness, desire, he was like a dog chasing its own tail in that he would never give up the game.
When I would see the line-up including Rooney, Tevez and Park I instantly knew that a team might be better than us individually but there’s not a chance they’ll work harder and put in the hard yards. 2009/10 – 2013/14 was a short period in which I personally think we seen the most well-polished side of Rooney’s game as he was no longer wasting energy in the wrong half of the pitch and his finishing ability in these years was seriously impressive (100 goals in 164 games for Club) alongside his link-up improve to the point where he was being lauded as a deep sitting midfielder once he legs went. 2014-15 – 2020 is the period for me which has been hard to watch at times because for a player who had a tremendous amount of raw natural ability really struggled to find a position he could keep hold of in the premiership (didn’t watch the DC united games so can’t comment on them).
He was arguably in the united team on merit at this point and at times it was to the detriment of the team, although he wasn’t the only player in the team who didn’t justify his position. People also mention they don’t remember him ‘Doing it’ on the big stage, I think you’re comparing him to Ronaldo/Messi level when he was never in that race to start, there was plenty of occasions in which Rooney was the different for Man Utd time and time again. My favourite being his role in the build-up to Mata’s equaliser in the FA Cup final, partly because on an emotional level it was the last game I went to with my Dad but also because it was clear to everyone he was struggling to impact the game and then in that moment, the tap turned on and he did what no one else on the team was brave enough to do in Van Gaal’s team…Carry the ball and ignore the 100 passes before shooting rule.
You can’t tell me that when you watch this, you’re not instantly reminded of the young Wayne Rooney who dared to try and beat a team on his own. In conclusion, Rooney was a very, very good footballer who will be remembered in years to come as one of the best to play for club & country. And did my heart sink when he was in the team? Put it this way, I don’t know what you would pay in today’s market but I guarantee Man Utd would pay it to have another Rooney and I can’t think of many fans who would turn their nose up at prospect of another player of his ilk plying his trade at Man Utd.
Kev and Roo
In response to James, Manchester this morning, the answer to why Kevin Keegan is rarely spoken about as one of the true greats is probably summed up with that unappealing football phrase: “model professional”. By his own admission, he lacked the natural talent we associate with the true greats and his success was the result of good, old-fashioned hard graft and unashamed ambition. Even his signature performance, the ’77 European Cup Final, was one of tenacity rather than skill.
He left Liverpool with several good years ahead of him, saying he wanted to expand his horizons – this rubbed fans up the wrong way at the time, so he’s not really held up to the status of, say, Dalglish as a club legend. (Also not in his favour: Dalglish was Keegan’s direct replacement and Liverpool were even more successful with the King.) His years with England coincided with a run of not qualifying for tournaments, and he was injured for most of the ’82 World Cup; from his 63 caps, he only played 26 minutes in a major tournament, and missed a seemingly unmissable header against Spain in a game England needed to win to progress. (Spoiler: they didn’t.)
On the one hand, his signature skill wasn’t Matthews’ dribble or Charlton’s thunderbastards or Owen’s pace, but the distinctly un-rock-star “hard work”, and the lack of international tournaments means he probably doesn’t register on the world’s wider footballing consciousness. Also, he looked after the bottom line and was unembarrassed about doing so, and was diligent about being a good role model for the benefit of his sponsors as well as his fans – call that what you will, but it sure isn’t George Best-style “cool”. But on the other hand, in addition to winning the Ballon D’or twice in succession, he was (a close) runner-up in ’77, so was in the top two three years running – I think only Messi and Cristiano have bettered that. Kevin Keegan: maybe not a great player, but an inspirational one? I’d say so.
To Oliver, London’s query re Rooney, my theory as to why he’s only reluctantly considered a great player is, ironically, in part because of the records he holds, having passed Bobby Charlton as record goalscorer for Man Utd and England, and Bobby Moore as England’s most capped outfield player. But where Charlton and Moore, and thus United and England by extension, were associated the world over with respect and class and dignity, Rooney… isn’t. So, until his records are broken, every football encyclopaedia will convey the impression that he is the very best that we as a nation, and Man United as a club (goals being a sexier record than appearances), can be. Ugh.
Players just before your time…
I’ve just watched a selection of John Barnes goals on my lunch break. I only got into football in 1997 so he was very much winding down his Liverpool career at this point, and it got me thinking about the players I just missed. Barnes, at Watford first and then Liverpool, was an absolute phenomenal player, and it really disappoints me that I didn’t get to see him properly. My question to the mailbox is, who do you wish you had been able to see at your club? Players you just missed, or those that were beset by injuries? I know we have a range of ages who read the mailbox (isn’t there a Jim, Spurs since ’59?!), so I’m sure we’ll get some belters.
The anti-defender bias…
Danny Murphy touches on something which I feel is key in the Balon D’or stakes, and that is the inherent bias within it.
Attackers will always be over represented and defenders less so because people remember the match winning goals far better than the match winning tackles.
But there is also the bias against the PL, and the deification of the Spanish and Italian leagues. As an Arsenal fan, I am still annoyed that Henry never won World Player of the Year. I thought it was madness to give it to Pavel Nedved over him, but maybe that speaks to a wider issue in football and those who vote for these awards.
John Matrix AFC
Watching at home
Not sure if I’m being stupid but surely an easy way to stop people gathering around stadiums on match days is to just broadcast the matches on free to air channels, or at least in the city the match is being played. Surely most fans would rather watch the game on the telly box than stand outside a stadium for 90 mins when you won’t even be able to hear a cheer from inside the ground to let you know the score.
Jon, Cape Town
We could not keep away from the camera for long so we made a Football365 Isolation Show. Watch it, subscribe and share until we get back in the studio/pub and produce something a little slicker…