Listen, as we all know by now, loyalty is dead.
The past decade or so of modern football has proven that beyond doubt. The moment the bigger, richer clubs begin to take an interest in a player doing well in a mediocre team, he’ll be off without hesitation. Just look at the evidence: Robin Van Persie left Arsenal for Man United; Alexis Sanchez left Arsenal for Man United; Samir Nasri left Arsenal for Man City; Cesc Fabregas left Arsenal for Barcelona; literally anyone who was decent at Arsenal left Arsenal to earn more money and, you know, actually win things.
Clearly, footballers now live for rewards. Which is absolutely fine. In fact, I’m totally down with that.
Introducing our new #PaddysRewardsClub ambassador, Rhodri Giggs.
Loyalty is dead. Live for rewards. pic.twitter.com/WWSBgeFrna
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) February 8, 2019
But that doesn’t mean we have to give up. Football, after all, is a bit different to normal life. So here’s a few handy tips for clubs that might help them hang onto their star players a bit longer than could otherwise be expected.
Ensure birthdays are recognised with the requisite volume of cake
When the Yaya Toure cake saga entered the public domain a few years ago, it became clear that birthday cake, for whatever reason, is massively important to modern-day superstars. Toure’s agent Dimitry Seluk went public with his dismay that Man City had “disrespected” his client by not marking his birthday accordingly.
“The club’s owners ate a 100kg cake after winning the Premier League this season,” ranted Seluk. “But when they and the players were all together, none of them shook his hand on his birthday. It shows they don’t care about him.”
It was one hell of a negotiating ploy by Seluk, who was in the process of attempting to finagle either a new deal or transfer away for Toure. There had been claims the club hadn’t given Yaya a cake on his birthday, a statement which was discredited when the club itself released a video of Toure being presented with multiple cakes. Seluk and Toure ended up looking a bit stupid, and the Ivorian remained on the books at City for a further four years.
City played their hand well, but I’d advise clubs go a step further and employ a specialist Birthday Recognition Executive. This person’s job will be to ensure the delivery of high-quality, high-volume cake to each star player on the anniversary of their birthdate, as well as to have lavish gifts sent to their homes. That way, the players can still live for rewards while showing a tiny bit of loyalty to their team.
Erect a statue of them, even if it’s crap
Fulham’s ex-owner Mohamed Al-Fayed paved the way for crap statues back in 2011 when he ordered one of Michael Jackson to be put up outside Craven Cottage. It was pretty dreadful, but moreover it was a thoroughly weird thing to do, even if Jacko had previously attended a game at the Cottage against Wigan.
Then, of course, there were these famous efforts:
Salah just got his own statue…
Remember Ronaldo’s too? ? pic.twitter.com/oYVPxF8rJA
— Matt Craig (@MattHDGamer) November 5, 2018
So, now the precedent is set, why not try to guilt-trip a player into remaining at your club by hastily knocking up a plywood masterpiece to be displayed outside your stadium’s main entrance? After all, a player can hardly say “Sorry boss I’m off to Shandong Luneng for £40m-a-year” if you look deep into their eyes, quiver your lip and grumble, “But, but, but, we built you a statue…”
Only the coldest-hearted of footballers will be able to stand up to that level of emotional blackmail.
Name a stand after them, even if they really don’t deserve it
Okay, stand-naming is usually reserved for absolute legends of a club. But when you’re faced with losing your star striker to a local rival, there’s no room for standing (no pun intended) on ceremony.
Simply grab a few lads from the youth team and have them spend the night painting your wantaway player’s name all over the stand. Then announce it on Twitter and, hey presto, you’ve bought yourself a bit of extra time with the player on your books.
They can’t very well head off to Zenit St Petersburg on a Bosman if they’ve got a bloody stand named after them, can they? You can always just paint over it again if they do manage to pluck up the courage to depart.
Surreptitiously sign them to a 12-year contract
This one’s a bit ropey, but all’s fair in love and contract negotiations.
You can go about in one of two ways, the first being to simply cloak the contract in so much legal terminology that the player and his agent can’t fathom what’s actually going on. A few dozen heretofores, a couple of hereunders and a host of notwithstandings and, bingo, you’ve got a 12-year deal ready to sign. All you have to say is, “Yeah mate it’s [coughs loudly] years on sixty grand a week no need to look too deep it’s all just legal mumbo-jumbo here’s a pen cheers.”
If they happen to cop that, plan B is simply presenting the player with a sheaf of paper in order to sign a few “autographs” for fans. One of those pieces of paper will be a tightly folded, legally binding 12-year contract on £35k-per-week. If you’re feeling particularly generous, you could probably put in a 5% pay rise should the player end up winning the Ballon d’Or.