Gentlemen prefer Van Persie

Early in July Robin van Persie announced a desire to leave Arsenal. A few weeks later it transpired that three clubs had made approaches. Ferguson confirmed that he had made an offer, Wenger denied it. In August Ferguson spoke of Arsenal’s unwillingness to negotiate and nothing more was heard until Manchester United had a bid accepted.

There was the usual rambling in the tabloids, some was speculation, some information was leaked, but we could never be sure which was which. This was the classic situation where the player wanted to go, he was wanted elsewhere and his current club was playing hardball. Maybe Fabregas and Ronaldo were wanted more by their clubs and therefore the comparison that I am about to draw might be unfair, but it could just be the case that there is a proper way to buy a player?

People ask me why I hate Real Madrid so much. It all goes back to the Ronaldo saga. Every day from the eve of Euro 2008 to twelve months later when his transfer was completed, there was a quote in some newspaper from the player, his agent or his mother or a Real representative about the impending move. Even Sepp Blatter made a statement. It might sound ridiculous now, but at the time it resembled a carefully orchestrated campaign to undermine Manchester United and Ronaldo’s position at the club – he was even compared to a slave.

Whether it worked, whether it made a difference to the eventual outcome or not, we’ll never know. It must have helped though if Barcelona shamelessly mirrored the same tactics when pursuing Fabregas in 2010. And 2011. This time Sepp Blatter said nothing.

I don’t want to elicit sympathy for Manchester United or Arsenal, as the Owen Hargreaves saga only narrowly misses out as a supporting example. Instead, I believe there is a respectful way to go about transfers and then there is the Real way. We are told that football is a gentlemen’s sport. That is not true; we can never expect football to be considered as such while the top men at the world’s most recognizable club are behaving as in a Hobbesian wilderness and bragging about it.

If we think the game can be better than it currently is, that the problems on the pitch can be rectified, that there should be more mutual respect between clubs (fans and players), then this sort of activity at the highest level needs to be weeded out. How can we instil a gentlemanly attitude at grassroots level when we idolise clubs that wage war on each other in the media?

And if anyone tries to tell you that football is a business, ask them how many of the most successful are breaking even. We are treating this game as more than just that and in the process we are losing respect for the values that should have underpinned it at its creation and for the people within it. Is it a coincidence that Real Madrid was also at the centre of the Luis Figo saga?

The Portuguese legend wanted to scare Barcelona into giving him more money, so he naively signed a pre-contract with Real Madrid. It was rumoured that the agreement included a penalty clause worth nearly twenty million pounds. Leaving aside the issue of loyalty, it is nice to know that such shady dealings at least respect the players’ interests if nothing else.

A twenty-something whose love affair with football has ruined more relationships than he’s been in. Florian is now trying to put things right by ranting about it. He has recently been forced to shave his moustache and he can be found on Twitter.

Tags: Arsenal, Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United, Premier League, Real Madrid, Robin van Persie

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