Is there any loyalty left in Football as RVP is set to quit Arsenal?
As the Robin van Persie transfer saga draws to its inevitable conclusion and the Dutchman looks set to turn his back on the club that has nurtured his injury- plagued career for 8 years, I think it’s time we all participate in a moments silence to mark the death of loyalty in club football.
I’m sure many of my readers would argue this moment has already been and gone and would remind me that nothing in football should surprise us anymore, but from a Gooners perspective, RVP’s decision to leave is an unforgivable betrayal, the likes of which wouldn’t look out of place in a Shakespearean play.
Remember, this is a player who has spent more time on Arsenals treatment table than Spurs have experienced in the Champions league, and despite the massive pressure Wenger must have been under to off-load the injury-prone striker, his faith that the boy from Feyenoord would come good has never wavered.
Last season, this faith manifested itself in Wenger’s decision to hand Van Persie the captain’s armband and as usual, the ingenious Arsenal manager was proved right.
Last season RVP featured in every one of Arsenals 38 domestic matches and finished as the league’s top scorer, almost single-handedly lifting them to finish 3rd in the Premier League and helping to secure champions league football for the 16th successive year.
Finally Van Persie was able to fulfil his potential and show the world (as well as a few sceptical Arsenal fans) what many other fans and Wenger a like, knew he was always capable of. With a command of the game, skill and technique, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the last time a certain other Dutchman donned the Arsenal no.10 shirt.
But such is the way in modern day football, that rather than continue to repay the debt that he now arguably owes both Arsene Wenger and the fans, he has instead decided that the ‘ambitions of the club’ no longer match his own and is ready to move on.
So, in this debate over the apparent lack of loyalty in today’s game, surely no set of followers are in a better position to comment than we Arsenal fans.
Year after year it seems as though the world of football acts in tandem to make sure that Wenger is unable to reassemble the ‘Invincibles’ of 2004, luring away our best players by waving unimaginable sums of money at them and jumping on any of Wenger’s summer targets as soon as they become public knowledge.
As a result of this inability to hold on to our stars and reinforce the squad with emerging talent (largely due to our strict wage structure) Arsene Wenger and his scouts have, for many years now, become resigned to having to unearth diamonds in the rough; scouring the lower leagues and youth academies in search of the next best thing, only to see them pack their bags and be on their way before actualising their potential in an Arsenal shirt.
All in all it does beg the question; does club loyalty only exist in so far as you’re successful? Surely it’s easier for Messi to pledge his future to the best club team in the world, given that staying at Barcelona is also the best move for him personally.
Similarly, you can imagine it was far easier for players such as Robert Pires and Patrick Vieira to commit to Arsenal when they were invincible… but is that all there is to it?
…Of course not. There are a host of contributing factors that impact on a player’s decision to stick or twist.
Steven Gerrard was in 2006 one of the hottest midfield prospects on the planet, but being born and bred on Merseyside, the decision to stay at Anfield was surely easier than when at Arsenal; Fabregas, who had always dreamt of a move back home to Barcelona, was offered the opportunity to do so.
Perhaps then, the question we should be asking is whether or not our clubs are focussing enough on the talent in their own back yard; full of players who have grown up in the area and have dreamt of one day playing for their local team.
At Barcelona’s youth academy La Masia, players such as Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas and Pique have all grown up playing together and now form an integral part of the most formidable team in the world.
If we look back at the treble-winning Manchester United side of ’99; Giggs, Scholes, Beckham, Keane etc. had also all grown up at the club and been gradually moulded into a successful team with Manchester United in their blood.
These players then not only wanted to win trophies, as all professionals do, but wanted to win together, and more importantly, win for the club that had raised them as players.
Instead it has now become the fashion to participate in the game of fishing for individual superstars from the pool of world-wide talent – and teams now require an inordinate amount of money to get them to take the bait.
At this point I have to remind myself that I have just mentioned two of football’s European giants and even suggest that players like Giggs or Messi would not have stuck around for very long either if their club, no matter how close to their hearts, hadn’t won a trophy for 7 years.
Ultimately RVP should not be hung, drawn and quartered for his betrayal of Arsenal FC, because ‘Loyalty’ in football has not died with his decision to leave North London – The reality is that loyalty in football has been dead for many years now and players throw around the word today only in so far as it benefits them or endears them to the fans.
One could argue that even Steven Gerrard would have found it much more difficult to stay ‘loyal’ to his team, should he have been raised on the (less successful) blue side of the river Mersey like a certain Mr Wayne Rooney.
Ultimately the term ‘loyalty’ has now become almost completely synonymous with ‘success’, especially in top flight football, and players will continue to cross their fingers on one hand behind their backs, while grabbing the badge and kissing it with the other.
Football is now and has been for many years, a profession and a business. In the ‘real world’ when people change companies or even professions in order to either earn more money or enhance their reputation, we applaud it and wish them the best… so why do we insist that footballers are any different?
Tony Adams once said: “Play for the name on the front of the shirt and they’ll remember the name on the back”…
Congrats on the promotion RVP, but I doubt they’ll be erecting a statue of you anytime soon.
By Adonis C Pratsides