Everyone’s a liar during the transfer window

(Real Madrid)

(Real Madrid)

From the other side of the negotiating table, Spurs were saying much the same thing. Their official statement noted that they did not want to sell Bale but that his resolve to leave was decisive. He had forced their hand; they had little choice. Coach Andre Villas-Boas added that “the pressure we were subjected to by the player was intense … at the end of the day, it’s up to a player to decide if he wants to stay or wants to go.”

It is a familiar line. “A player always plays where he wants to play,” as they say in Spain. “Players have too much power these days” is a lament heard often in England. It has become received wisdom, rarely challenged.

But while the line is familiar, it is also false. This transfer window provided more evidence that those easy assumptions simply aren’t true and that it is not so clear-cut. It also revealed that clubs can be, and are, every bit as underhand as players or agents — ultimately, the tactics they employ can be remarkably similar. Yet rarely are clubs targeted for criticism in the way that players are. The transfer window becomes a battle of wills, a war. And what is it they say? The first casualty of war is the truth.

Players always play where they want, they say, but when the window closed Wayne Rooney was still at Manchester United and Luis Suarez remained at Liverpool. Both had agitated for a move, both had fought as hard as Bale had, but their clubs had outright refused to let them go. There were other players too — some of them high-profile — who asked to be allowed to leave but were told that they had to stay. And when that happens, it is simple: There is no way out. If the club refuses to sell, the player cannot leave. Ultimately, power resides in their hands, not his.

Clubs are run by people, people who use their status as the “club” to their advantage. The judge and jury are fans; they can be swayed, of course, but they go into the “courtroom” on the club’s side. There is, naturally, a version of the story they are more inclined to believe. And clubs know that.

There is a lament that says no one ever thinks about the fans. In fact, they constantly think about the fans. A case is presented to them. Players move on but publicly it is always with a heavy heart, thanking fans whom they’ll “never forget.” Clubs are quick to insist that it is not their fault the player is leaving. Propaganda plays a part. PR, if you prefer. Stories are denied because they are false; they are also denied because they are inconvenient. Players, agents and journalists stand accused of lying; clubs, meanwhile, rarely do. But sometimes it is clubs who have the greatest interest in ensuring that a certain “line” comes out.

During this transfer window, that reality has come more clearly into focus than ever before. Fans have questioned their clubs, and the men who run them, more than ever before. There is institutional criticism now and a legitimate debate over who/what the clubs are. Look at the response to Barcelona’s handling of Eric Abidal, for instance, or their failure to sign a centre-back.

In turn, clubs have moved to limit the damage. They still have an advantage, though. For all the talk of player power, ultimately it is more often the clubs that hold the cards — and those cards are clearly marked.

Source: Soccernet

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