Power shift gives players ample opportunity to cash in
Published 22/08/2010 | 05:00
A former team-mate of mine was the subject of a seven-figure bid by a Premier League club. He was desperate to go, and knew the directors were just as keen to receive the money.
He figured he was in a relatively strong position, and so he demanded a large sum from the club in order for the deal to go through. The response from club chairman Theo Paphitis was swift and decisive, and amounted to the following advice to the player: "If you want to play for Millwall, stay. If you want to play in the Premier League, go. Your call, son, but you will not be getting a penny from me to go and play for someone else." The player soon left, and it cost Paphitis nothing.
There was a time when clubs had the upper hand in all discussions with their own players. Agents were neither as plentiful nor as powerful as they currently are and, in the main, players did as they were instructed to do by the club. They had little choice, and there were never discussions or negotiations of any kind.
Club chairmen must long for such days now. Eighteen months ago, Shay Given signed a contract at Manchester City. It is unlikely there was a clause included in this contract which guaranteed the goalkeeper a place in the first team every week, but as a result of being left on the bench for last weekend's opening Premier League fixture, it appears Given has had enough.
In contrast to all his previous statements about wanting to be a success at the club, he has now informed the club of his desire to leave. And, amazingly, Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini is prepared to let him go.
Considering the finances available to the club, it may be possible that Mancini has a replacement already identified and will sign him before the end of the month. If he hasn't, though, then there is no way Mancini should feel comfortable heading into the season without an experienced goalkeeper to support his current first choice, Joe Hart.
If that is the case, Given should not be allowed to go anywhere. Should Hart pick up an injury or a suspension, the squad, which has been improved by over £100m this summer, will have a second-rate 'keeper in goal. That would be utter madness.
Given arrived at Manchester City in the hope of winning trophies, and finding himself on the bench at the moment is clearly a major blow. Whether too proud to work as anyone's understudy, or just unprepared to put up any kind of a fightback, he should have plenty of options elsewhere.
And he is unlikely to be the only big-name Irish player to be on the move either, as Robbie Keane's career at Tottenham Hotspur looks to be coming to an end, again.
While manager Harry Redknapp has spent the summer praising Keane, it seems it was just to remind others of his worth in the hope of enticing a bid from somewhere. In reality, he has not been part of Redknapp's long-term plans since Christmas.
If Redknapp was prepared to loan him out last January at a time when the club was trying to qualify the club for the Champions League, it seems unlikely he will keep Keane now that they have done so.
Like Given, it must hurt Keane that he is considered surplus to requirements by the club, but he is one player who knows exactly how to behave in these situations.
Unlike Given, he did not request a move, and so can expect a handsome pay-off if he is sold on.
Stephen Ireland was criticised for adopting a tough stance with Manchester City to ensure he profited as much as possible from the swap deal with Aston Villa involving James Milner, but Keane will more than likely do the same.
It may contradict all the 'I just want to play football' crap you hear from a lot of footballers, but it's what players have been doing for years. With clubs only allowed to register 25 players for the Premier League (eight of which must be home-grown), players know they are in a very strong position if the manager wants them out so he can meet the new requirements. No club will want to keep a player on a big salary if they cannot include them in their final 25.
It was club directors and chairmen who made all the money in the past, but the players and their agents are currently having their day. As with most people born into wealth, the directors and chairmen were better prepared to manage their spending and drew less attention and criticism from others as a result.
The same cannot be said for many of today's footballers, Stephen Ireland being a particularly good example.
How he spends his money is up to him, obviously, but you can expect a colour-change on those pink wheels any day.