There have been plenty of column inches dedicated to this fuss with Le Havre and Paul Pogba this week, with Manchester United being painted as the big bad wolf, stealing the young French lad from his homeland.
1. Greedy club – United want the best talent for the cheapest price. Get em young and we can include them in our homegrown quota, if/when the time comes, and they can learn the physicality of the English game from an early age. If they turn out not to be good enough, we’ll still likely make back at least any money we may have been forced to pay in compensation from a sale, probably to a French club.
2. Greedy players – Loyalty is disappearing from the game at rapid rates, meaning far too many players couldn’t give a shit less about the club that discovered them, that gave them chances, which developed them, in preference for playing for a bigger club and earning more money. If you were a fan of the small club you’d find it disgusting, but as a fan of a bigger club, it’s hard to have a massive problem with it. Morally it’s not right, but how many 16-year-old lads would turn down Manchester United for Le Havre?
“I am fed up with clubs taking liberties,” said Le Havre chairman Jean-Pierre Louvel. “Arsenal were also on the player’s trail, but they, out of politeness, stopped everything when they understood that we didn’t want to sell. United didn’t show such politeness. In the best case scenario we will only get some €110,000 to €120,000. That is nothing considering the high hopes we had for the player. We will now assess what our rights are and plan what to do next.”
Good on Arsenal. They are the team with the ‘better morals’ in this instance but since when has football been about morals? We’d struggle to find just 45 minutes of football where a team’s morals were in tact. How many players claim throw-ins when they know full well the ball hit them last? How many players control the ball with their arm then feign outrage/disbelief when the referee blows his whistle? How many players swear at the ref? How many players purposefully bring down an opponent? How many players throw themselves to the ground in the box to try and win a penalty when they can’t create a goalscoring opportunity? Footballers cheat. As much as you want to complain about it and whilst you’d much rather win cleanly, winning is the most important thing. I’m sure there weren’t too many Arsenal fans complaining about Emmanuel Adebayor taking the lead at Old Trafford by scoring with his hand the season before last, right?
Winning is the be all and end all and clubs and fans are more or less willing to do anything to ensure success. Who gives a shit if your winning goal is scored by your player’s hand and who gives a shit if your team gets a talented youngster on the cheap?
We can say we want things to be done properly, for players not to cheat, for bigger clubs not to exploit smaller ones, but are those things worth striving for at a cost to your own club? Arsenal have been the good guys in regards to Pogba, but of course we can’t really believe that a team which has as many young foreigners as Arsenal is going to be the “polite” team Louvel describes.
Mathieu Flamini is probably the highest profile example of Arsenal not showing politeness. Having verbally agreed a long-term contract with Marseille, the club that moulded him, a loophole in French football regulations was finely researched and exploited to allow the young Frenchman to join Arsene Wenger’s team.
Then there was Arturo Lupoli from Parma at the same time we signed Giuseppe Rossi. The Italians were certainly not very impressed! And ask Barcelona how they feel about having to shed out an arm and a leg to buy Cesc Fabregas back next summer, after Arsenal took him when he was just 16-years-old, with the promise of more money. I’m sure they weren’t expecting a player who had been in the stands as a 9 month old baby with their grandad to be hopping on a plane to London!
But are these big teams giving young players the opportunity to ply their trade or are they wrongly taking what shouldn’t really belong to them? United insist that we have followed FIFA regulations in regards to Pogba, so there’s no danger of too much trouble, but is what we’re doing wrong? Is it more than being impolite? I’d argue it is.
Essentially though, until FIFA or UEFA bring in stronger regulations to protect clubs in keeping their talented youngsters, then of course English clubs are going to have their pick – why shouldn’t they? If it benefits their team and they can get away with it, then why should they be “polite”? That’s what Arsenal have done in this situation and they’ve lost out to their rivals on a highly talented young player. If Pogba breaks in to the first team in a few years time and turns out to be a brilliant player, will Arsenal be sleeping easier than us because they know they were the “more polite” club?
We will complain when foreign clubs tempt our best players, like Real Madrid did Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona do Fabregas, just as foreign clubs complain when we tempt their youngsters. It’s dog-eat-dog though and for as long as it’s deemed acceptable by FIFA for clubs to speak on a daily basis about another club’s player and for English clubs to pinch youngsters from abroad, then it will continue to happen. Being polite won’t get us, or Arsenal, anywhere.