As we start to approach the new 2011/12 soccer season in Europe, most of the news making the headlines concerns transfer requests, player moves and the like, which creates a ton of real interest for all soccer fans. Following your club’s pursuit of a star player gets the juices flowing ready for that first League game of the year that we all look forward to so much. In the modern era of soccer though, business and money dominate a lot of the conversations in this arena and today is no exception, but what is beginning to cloud a lot of negotiations, is the issue of player power.
One story which is making the rounds today concerns the future of Tottenham’s Croatioan international midfielder, Luka Modric. Definitely one of the Premier League’s most sought after midfielders, his performances in the Champions League last season and his contribution to Tottenham’s high finish the season before, proved his worth. Consequently, he has become a visible target for some of the big clubs, especially since he only has one year left on his contract at White Hart Lane.
Manager Harry Redknapp is trying desperately to keep his talented squad together in an attempt to build a team that can consistently challenge for the Premier League title, and more importantly, these days, Champions League football. Modric, Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon, and Rafael Van Der Vaart provide the core to his team and Redknapp is passionate about not letting any of those players move on. On the flip side of that coin, you have the ambitions of the players themselves, which involve trophy winning dreams and also financial desires. Many players these days look at purely who can pay them the most money whilst others prefer a more consistent opportunity to win trophies. Either way, it is no longer a market that the clubs control.
Specifically in this case involving Modric, it’s clear that he wants away from Tottenham in order to have a better chance at playing top level football in Europe. Tottenham’s failure to qualify for anything more than Europa Cup football next year simply isn’t good enough for the Croatian. I doubt that he bears any animosity towards the set up at Tottenham and probably would be happy to stay if circumstances were different, but unfortunately for the club, there are countless teams lining up outside White Hart Lane to sign Modric up.
He still has a year to go on his contract but here is the dilemma that the club faces, and this is happening all over Europe. When his contract ends, if Tottenham have not persuaded him to re-sign, he effectively becomes a free agent which allows him to shop his talents to other clubs without his club collecting a penny. In order to realise some revenue from a star player, clubs are now forced to make a tough decision now to sell a player and get some transfer compensation, or wait until the contract runs out, and get nothing.
We have seen the same situation in many other transfers over the years due to The Bosman Ruling which prevents clubs from holding a player hostage even if his contract was up. Samir Nasri from Arsenal is in the same boat as Modric with Arsenal almost certainly having to sell him prematurely. Michael Owen forced Liverpool’s hand several years ago when he left to join Real Madrid and Liverpool definitely got the short end of that stick. Clubs have honed their skills in this “new” era and have used the Rule to their advantage in offering reduced transfer fees, knowing that the selling club has to move or lose everything.
A further complication in the Modric deal is that the player now claims that Tottenham Chairman Daniel Levy “promised” him that if a bigger club made an offer for him, Tottenham would let him go. Common sense tells me that a shrewd businessman like Levy would never let himself get caught in that scenario and I’m quite sure that a lot is being lost in translation here. Nevertheless, it presents Tottenham with a serious problem now in that if they choose not to sell him, do they want a disgruntled player in the ranks who sits out the majority of the season.
I think that you’ll see Modric slowly pry his way out of White Hart Lane over the next 3-4 weeks (anyone remember the protracted transfer of Dimatar Berbatov a few seasons back in the same set of circumstances? ), most likely to Chelsea or Man Utd, and Tottenham will get their $35-40m and we’ll all move on.
Maybe Redknapp will do the same.