The Simple Thing It Seems Football Pundits Fail to Understand by UmairMirxa
Gary Lineker, speaking after the Arsenal vs Fulham match, expressed his surprise at Real Madrid’s sale of Martin Odegaard to Arsenal in the wake of the young Norwegian’s excellent performance.
He was struggling to understand why Madrid sold a player of Odegaard’s age and obvious talent for 30-odd million to Arsenal when their midfielders, Kroos (32) and Modric (36), will need to be replaced soon enough.
It is a sentiment I have heard expressed from football pundits, former players, and fans–even other managers and current players–quite often, especially in recent years … and their surprise always leaves me baffled.
Imagine the headlines and comments, from Lineker himself among others, had Odegaard failed at Arsenal.
Certainly, people would call for Arteta to be sacked. Real Madrid would be lauded – cheating Arsenal out of 30 million for an under-performing player whose youth and talents would be quickly forgotten. Arsenal, and their ‘nonsensical’ transfer strategy, would be immediately, widely, and incessantly condemned.
For months, Paul Merson took great joy in crucifying Mikel Arteta, and calling for his head, when Aubameyang went on a goalscoring spree for Barcelona immediately after Arsenal allowed him to leave on a free transfer. But what if he had failed to score?
The transfer could easily have gone the way of Ozil, whose career has swan-dived off a steep cliff into a pool of lava riddled with metal stakes. I wonder what Merson might have said instead had Aubameyang been to Barcelona what Sanchez was to Man Utd.
Note: Merson has since changed his tune about Arteta, for now, as Arsenal sit top of the table with 4/4 wins.
Other people, pundits and fans alike, have expressed their incredulity at Man City and Guardiola allowing the likes of Jesus, Zinchenko, and Sterling to join their PL rivals … and there are, of course, countless other examples of such instances.
Well do I remember people calling Arteta an idiot when he sold Willock to Newcastle.
And yet …
The simple thing I feel they fail to understand is talent/quality alone is not enough to make certain any given player will be successful at their club.
Think of Bale at Madrid during the latter years. He spent how many seasons warming the bench, and under three different managers, at least. Imagine if he’d left, and played to his full, devastating potential elsewhere? He certainly had the quality, the talent, and the experience–not to mention a footballing CV few others could match–to have his pick of destinations. Would it not have been a much better decision?
Think of Sanchez, Pogba, and Di Maria at Man Utd. Lukaku at Chelsea and Man Utd, and Chelsea again. Torres, Shevchenko, Kepa, and Werner at Chelsea. Pepe at Arsenal. Jovic and Hazard at Madrid. Griezmann, Coutinho, and Ibrahimovic at Barcelona.
Remember too, both Salah and De Bruyne were once Chelsea players.
No, sometimes a player will fail miserably at one club–or not perform to their potential having once been excellent–and there are myriad reasons for it.
They might struggle with the language/culture in a new league/country. Or they fail to adapt to their manager’s tactics. They might not enjoy playing in certain positions or feel they deserve larger salaries. Perhaps, they are not getting enough minutes on the pitch, or they feel the club does not match their ambition. Or their agent might be messing with their heads in the hopes of earning large from the next transfer. They might not get along with team-mates or the new manager. It could be they stopped enjoying their trade or perhaps an injury or personal tragedy derailed their progress. Or maybe they are simply ill-disciplined and unruly (think Balotelli) and perform only in short bursts–enough to convince the next club to sign them.
Letting them move on does not make the manager an idiot or the club at large mistaken in their decision.
Consider Ronaldo at Man Utd right now. His attitude, and attitude alone, has wreaked havoc at the club. Do you keep him, simply because he has been one of the two greatest players to ever grace the beautiful game? Or do you let him go because it’s better for everyone involved?
For, wherever he goes next, if he goes, he will certainly deliver performances–goals, assists, and results.
Does it then make Ten Hag an idiot? Will it be a huge mistake by the Man Utd hierarchy?
Mikel Arteta said recently, in an interview about Nicolas Pepe, how wherever he has been in his career as a player/coach/manager, the people at those clubs have always made transfer decisions in the firm belief those decisions were in the club’s best interests.
It is why he allowed Pepe to sign on loan for Nice: it was in both the player’s and the club’s best interests.
It is why Real Madrid sold Odegaard to Arsenal. Why Man City sold Jesus and Zinchenko.
Sometimes, it is quite simply not the right fit … or it is a match made in heaven, as they say.
Thierry Henry might never have been the player he was if he had not played for Arsenal under Arsene Wenger.
Odegaard at Arsenal works right now because the player has found the right club and the right manager, and it allows him to flourish. He has found something he did not have at Real Madrid.
Had he signed for Emery, perhaps even Wenger, then maybe it would have ended in disaster. Or a different manager in his time at Madrid could have helped him become legend, and he might never have played for Arsenal.
There are hundreds of other examples I could quote, and I have never even seen the inside of a professional football stadium. And thus, I fail to understand why football pundits who should know this better than I do, seem perpetually baffled by the most simple of things.
For whatever reason, sometimes it just does not work.
Far better for both club and player to move on, and each find their own path to success. To try and force the issue is folly, as we have seen countless times at nearly every big club.
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