Gabriel Heinze won the Old Trafford crowd over pretty easily. He has grit and determination, he makes that last ditch tackle and appears to love doing so. With the shrug of his shoulders and his cheeky grin, he made us fall for him. At the end of his first year, we voted him our Player of the Season, chanting “Argentina!” with every tackle he made. Fans wearing Argentina shirts with Heinze’s name and number on the back can be spotted all around Old Trafford. We’ve made our love for him very public.
In the September 2005/2006, just four days before we had to travel to Anfield, on the back of a 1-1 draw at home against City, Heinze got injured. After such a great season with us, it was bitterly disappointing to hear he was to be sidelined for the majority of the season. As the months went by, United battling with Liverpool for second place, we were filled with some hope he would return before the end of the season, a great relief to us after we’d seen our defence ripped to shreds by injuries. He had a few games for the reserves under his belt, but he wasn’t deemed fit enough to appear for us in the Premiership.
His decision to play in the World Cup before regaining full fitness did not come as a surprise to us, but the fans would be forgiven for being frustrated. A club over country attitude is one Ferguson encourages in his players, and the feeling is usually reciprocated. However, it has been clear from the start that for Heinze, Argentina would always come first. Ferguson wasn’t best pleased when upon signing, Heinze decided to stay with his national team in their Olympic football efforts. This delayed his arrival to the team, joining us midway through September. Whilst United adopt a love for Argentina, to piss off our rivals as much as any other reason, his preference for country over club is one most have tried to forget about.
Ferguson pulled off a great transfer coup in signing Patrice Evra for a meagre £5.5 million. Whilst Heinze battled to return from another injury he’d picked up representing his country in the World Cup, Evra slotted in to the first choice left back position, putting on impressive displays. Whilst not as physically strong as Heinze, he has far more pace, and has the skills to link up fantastically with Ronaldo. Evra was voted PFA left back of the season, keeping Heinze out of the team even when he recovered.
Heinze got his place back in the team when three of our first choice defenders, Evra, Neville and Vidic were all out injured. He racked up 32 appearances by the end of the season, and was starting to show signs of the form we’d seen in his first year with the club. He lead the team out as Captain in our first game as Champions, which happened to be at the Bridge against Chelsea.
The season ended and the transfer rumours picked up pace. Heinze was being linked with top clubs all over Europe, after seemingly losing his place in the first XI to Evra. I imagine I wasn’t alone in feeling confident that Heinze would stay with the club and fight for his place, that’s just the kindof player he is, right?
“I already play for one super club and other ones such as Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus have been mentioned,” Heinze was quoted as saying in the Manchester Evening News. “For me to go the offer has to be good for everyone. I’m very comfortable in Manchester. I’ve been a champion, captain and the fans love me. Everything is perfect.”
That’s that settled then, he is staying. However, in June, the press were reporting that Liverpool were keen on signing the player, joining Juve in the race for his signature. Heinze played down any talk of leaving the club, saying his mind was on the Copa America. In mid July, Heinze said he was extremely grateful for everything he had received from the club, yet was still flattered to be linked with the likes of Juventus, Real Madrid…and Liverpool. He was starting to push his luck a bit, but we loved him, so we awaited the redeeming statement. It never came.
Two days later, Ferguson confirmed to the press that Heinze wanted to leave. “Gaby’s agent has advised us that he wants to move on,” said Ferguson. “I am not too sure about that and we do not have a concrete offer from any particular club. But there is some momentum regarding the player’s next move in terms of through his agent, even if nothing is close at this moment in time.” From this point on, talk of Heinze joining the dippers began to mount. Ferguson was quick to put things straight, saying “I can assure you, Liverpool will not be getting Gabriel Heinze. We can put that to bed right now and we have done so. We have had a couple of offers for him and we have turned them down.”
Despite repeated statements from Ferguson saying Heinze would be leaving under no circumstances, Benitez and Tom “USA USA USA!” Hicks continued to state their desire to sign the player. And as time goes by, we’ve still had no statement from Heinze. No statement confirming he wants to leave, no statement confessing he wants to stay.
I am sure we’ll see a resolution to this situation soon enough, and as long as he doesn’t sign for the dippers, I will be happy. I never thought I’d see the day where I wanted rid of Heinze, but now I passionately want him to leave. I would have felt disappointed if he opted to sign for Juve, or Real or any of the other European clubs tipped to be interested in him, but that feeling doesn’t come close to the feeling of betrayal he has left us with.
When Gill sent a fax saying that the player would be sold to a club that met the asking price, I imagine he didn’t think for one minute that Liverpool would come begging. Forty years have passed since a player has moved between the two clubs, and the phrase “over my dead body” springs to mind when considering Ferguson would be the manager to break that record.
However, it is important to note that we do have a contract with the player, and in light of the treatment Heinze has been given by the club, I imagine Ferguson would now keep Heinze rotting in the reserves than selling him on to Liverpool.
“He still has two-years left on his contract and I think we have stood by Gaby very well,” Sir said. “He had his cruciate knee operation, we looked after him and we let him do his rehabilitation in Spain which he wanted to do. We conducted ourselves in a way that suited Gaby perfectly and he was delighted the way we looked after him. I think if we take away the agent’s role in this I don’t think there is an awful lot wrong with Gaby’s position at the club.”
I just can’t quite understand how this situation arose, and I feel a mug for judging Heinze so wrongly. I didn’t think he was the kindof player who would fuck off despite us paying his wages for over a year whilst he didn’t play for us, but did manage to swan off for Argentina and get crocked again. I didn’t think he was the kindof player who would rather move clubs than stay and fight for his place. I didn’t think he was the kindof player who could so easily forget how well the club and fans have treated him, how we’ve loved him, and even contemplate a move to our most hated club.
It’s been some time since I’ve felt really bitter over a player leaving us, but this Heinze business has left a really nasty taste in my mouth. No deal has gone through as yet, but I can’t see there being any way back now. As a group of fans, we are very unforgiving, and I don’t see we could get over the humiliation Heinze is currently putting us through. The memories of me gloating to Leeds fans over Alan Smith makes this situation all the more painful, as I can easily imagine how much the dippers are enjoying this.
So, ta ra Gaby, fuck off, and I hope it makes you sick to your stomach when you’re playing for some European club who don’t give a shit about you, and you hear us chanting “ARGENTINA! ARGENTINA!” for Tevez. As is repeated time and again, no player is bigger than this club, and that certainly applies to Heinze, the cheeky Argie bastard we used to adore.