Crazy money

Today, Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood spoke out about the “good ole days” when players played for the love of the club and not for the love of money. I’m always immediately suspicious when someone harkens back to a supposed “good ole days” because history is rarely as simple as they make it seem: and boy does Peter Hill-Wood make it seem simple.

In the old days money was not the driving force. Nobody was greedy. People weren’t motivated by the money. Everyone has become much more materialistic

Yes, Peter, in the old days only the clubs made any money and the players were treated like property. Players were unable to move from club to club until (and I find this all a bit ironic) George Eastham went on an 8 month strike against Newcastle in order to secure his transfer to Arsenal. It is important to note that even Eastham, considered the pioneer of greedy footballers, is now selling his medals in order to leave his family a few dollars as his life winds down. So, maybe the players weren’t motivated by money, but at least a modern footballer today makes enough money in his short career that if he is destitute in retirement it’s likely all his own fault and not the fact that the clubs paid such paltry wages that players had to have second jobs just to support their families.

So, pardon me if I’m not rushing to see a return of the good old days.

On the other hand, players’ constant demand for higher salaries, annual record-breaking transfer fees, and players’ demands that portions of shirt sales and the like go to them paint a clear picture of a system out of control. I’m not sure if this is true or not but it is being reported this morning that Adebayor has signed a contract with AC Milan. Supposedly, Arsenal have valued the striker at £32m and all that’s supposed to be left is for Arsenal and Milan to settle on that valuation. This rumor of Ade signing with AC Milan comes on the heels of further rumors that he had gone in to the bosses and demanded an £80,000 week salary. And thus, the speculation here is that Ade is signing for Milan because of salary demands. Add in that Flamini, though he would deny it to his dying day, essentially left because Arsenal wouldn’t over-pay him and that Christiano Ronaldo is reportedly leaving Man U for a £300,000 week offer from Real Madrid and I can sort of see what Peter Hill-Wood is talking about when he says

Before they played for the love of the game and the love of the club. Nowadays, a lot of people sign four-year contracts and you heave a sigh of relief. Six months later they come marching in saying they want double the wages.

That last bit about “double the wages?” That’s directed squarely at Adebayor, who, if rumors are true, had barely let the ink dry on the contract he’d just signed before he started demanding higher wages. Which is why all these rumors have the stench of truth to them: Ronaldo to Real, Ade to Milan, £300,000 week, Flamini’s demands. We’ll never know what really happened here… but it sure smells like it all has to do with salary demands.

And what does it mean for us, the fans? You know, the people who pay these football player’s salaries. Higher ticket prices, new kits every year, a 39th game, doubling the price of Bovril, etc etc: we, the fans, get stuck with the bill. Arsenal already have the third highest wage bill and some of the highest (if not THE highest) ticket prices in the EPL. How much more can we all afford?

On the third hand… can the club afford to lose Adebayor, Flamini, and Hleb? I know a lot of people don’t like Ade but I think his size and ability to hold the ball up is pretty integral to this new look Arsenal. I know a lot of people disliked Flamini but his engine and cover provided the time and space for Fabregas to work. I know Hleb… I hate Hleb, but there’s no doubt that his ability to carry the ball, close dribbling, and penetrating passes were crucial for the team.

It’s complicated and I’m already talking out of more hands than Ganesha. I guess, in the end, I’ll just have to trust that the board has Arsenal’s (and the fans) best interests at heart. Besides, if Arsenal sell Adebayor for £32m and Hleb for £12, then they could easily sign David Villa (who seems to be on everyone’s mind right now) and Nasri, Rambo, and up their bid for Christian Zapata.  I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how all this plays out.

Would anyone argue against that team?