Saturday 10 December 2016

Enrique 'alienation' proves that it is all about the economy, stupid

Published 17/08/2015 | 02:30

Liverpool defender Jose Enrique has claimed he, and others, feel ‘alienated’ by manager Brendan Rodgers
Liverpool defender Jose Enrique has claimed he, and others, feel ‘alienated’ by manager Brendan Rodgers

In December, it will be 20 years since the European Court of Justice ruled in favour of Jean-Marc Bosman and changed the face of football transfers forever.

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The Bosman Rule, combined with a flood of television cash, has formed a perfect storm where players can now make more money than ever before but, if they were paying attention this week, the Jose Enrique Rule could make things even more profitable for them.

With a fair degree of honesty, the Liverpool defender admitted that he, along with Mario Balotelli and Fabio Borini felt "alienated" by Brendan Rodgers but alienation, like feeling poor, is a lot easier to cope with when you're being well paid.

"The only teams that can deal with what is paid in England are Real Madrid and Barcelona, so I would love to stay here until my legs stop me," Enrique was quoted as saying in Spanish newspaper 'Marca'.

Enrique's revelation that the wages of reasonably good full-backs in the Premier League can only be matched by two of the biggest clubs in the world should mean that every wage negotiation, everywhere in the world is seen in the context of the reported £65,000-a-week he is making.

Throw in the £55,000 Liverpool are shelling out every seven days for Borini and add Balotelli and it's the best part of a quarter of a million pounds leaving Liverpool's accounts every week to three players who are "alienated".

"I had a very good option to return to Spain, but it is complicated because the economy is very different from what exists here," he added, with fine euphemistic use of the word "economy". "I'm in a difficult position. But if a good offer came (elsewhere) with more years of contract and more chance to play, I'd look at it."

It's a "difficult position" that most players would be more than happy to take yet, if they use Enrique, or even Balotelli as a baseline figure, some of the best players in the world should be able to argue that they are being vastly underpaid.

It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to argue that the likes of Messi, Ronaldo or Suarez could contribute 20 times more to their club than any of Liverpool's three 'alienatees' and, therefore, should be on around a million per week. Few begrudge the world's best players their vast wages given they are the very, very best at the world's most popular sport. It's the mediocre ones earning fortunes that usually stick in the craw.

Yet it's difficult to have too much sympathy for clubs given how many young players they chew up and spit out every season, but mostly because they are so idiotic to be paying such enormous salaries including, as was reported last week in Balotelli's case, a six-figure loyalty bonus if he is still at the club beyond September 1.

There's no doubt that Raheem Sterling and his agent would have been aware that Enrique was being paid £30,000 more every week across the last two seasons, which probably hardened their stance and made it all the more bizarre that Liverpool didn't sign him to a longer-term deal much sooner.

Urged

Sterling, however, was being urged by the club to stick to his contract which, in his defence, is exactly what Enrique is doing. But as usual in football, everybody wants it both ways.

This is where the 'Enrique Rule' should also prove a watershed for clubs too who, 20 years after the Bosman ruling, ought to have enough courage to sign the majority of players to short-term, incentivised contracts rather than being lumbered with bunglers. For every one player they lose for free, there's four of five that they would be rid of two or three seasons sooner.

The Bosman Ruling frightened clubs into locking their players into long-term contracts with the idea that, if things didn't work out, they could recoup some of their investment with a transfer fee.

Yet, as money rocketed, the motivation for many went in the opposite direction and just as in all walks of life, there are footballers who recognise that they will be paid the same amount at the end of the week whether they work hard or not.

Winston Bogarde was a pioneer of this phenomenon but he could only do it for one contract. The likes of Mark Viduka brought it to a new level by playing just well enough for long enough to convince yet another club to offer them a big money deal. It's the Viduka trick - also mastered by Emmanuel Adebayor - which Enrique, Balotelli and Borini must now attempt to pull off.

Incredibly, there will be clubs further down the Premier League who will believe that such players, who can't get motivated to play for a club chasing the Champions League, will give their all for a relegation scrap. The clubs will offer them good money and the cycle will begin again, leaving those looking in from the outside understandably baffled.

"I do not understand Shaqiri's move to Stoke at all," said Stefan Effenberg this week as the Swiss made the switch from Inter Milan, having previously been with Bayern Munich. "Earning £1 m more or less should be irrelevant. But Stoke? Come on … This is a shame and a sad state of affairs. Only because they are throwing around cash? Is it really all about money these days?"

Having decided to pay him £65,000-a-week, Stoke chairman Peter Coates, understandably, didn't entirely agree with Effenberg.

"The Premier League is a much more attractive league than the Bundesliga," claimed Coates. "He (Shaqiri) has seen that we're a stable club making progress every year. It's not about money, it's about ambition."

It's understandable that Stoke are happy with their transfer window business but for as long as clubs keep breaking the 'Enrique Rule' by committing to pay vast wages over many years, stability, progress and ambition will not force a player to have the desired level of motivation.

It really is - as Enrique put it and Bill Clinton famously said - all "about the economy, stupid".

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