The next Neymar and Mbappe will cash in

Game of Thrones is a soap opera with swords and dragons and I’m over it. I’m over its broad, sweeping, world shaking story-lines. I’m over the continent-jumping war for the throne. I’m over the gratuitous sex and violence. I’m over all of the ugly characters and silly gods. And most of all I’m over the hours and hours and hours of court drama. If I never see a man in armor talking to a woman in a castle about some plan to stab someone else in the back ever again it will be too soon. Speaking of which, for the locals, Shakespeare in the Park is coming up this Friday and they are doing Much Ado about Nothing. Hope to see you there. Anyway, I needed one of those pop-culture intros that all these opinion piece articles start out with and there you have it.

You know what I would like to see on television? I would like to see a show where aliens come to planet earth and hunt billionaires. Stan Kroenke just launched his hunting channel in the UK where they show grown men killing elephants and lions on a farm and that got me to thinking. What if there was a channel dedicated to aliens hunting down and killing billionaires?

Humans are the king predators on this planet and billionaires are the very top of the predatory pile. Not only are they often sociopaths and outright predators but they have vast resources at their disposal to protect themselves. So, if hunting a lion on a farm is an exciting television show because of the supposed danger the hunter faces, then I’m sure that Ernt Hmingy’s Big Game Billionaire – where an alien from Seti-Alpha 5 hunts billionaires on their vast farms – will be a blockbuster. Ernt won’t be brutal or anything. Maybe he’ll harvest their “horn” for his collection and then release them back to the wild where they will re-join the herd, slightly more docile.

Of course this would lead to a rapid decline in the global population of billionaires. But Ernt and his buddies will simply round them all up and put them on a game reserve. There, on the Green Hills of Africa, the billionaires will live in luxury, breed, and reproduce more billionaires for the hunt.

Speaking of greed. Man I’m good at transitions. After the Emirates Cup match against Sevilla, Arsene Wenger spoke to the press about player’s contracts and Platonic ideals. The sound bite most argued over already is the one where Mr. Wenger said that players in the last year of their contract is an ideal situation.

It’s most assuredly NOT the ideal situation. Wenger’s own contract situation, where he ran his deal down to the wire, caused huge problems in the team last year. A fact, he admitted. Now, take that same disruption and multiply it by Alexis, Ozil, and Ox – two of the most important players on the team and the core of Arsenal’s attack – and you have the makings of the most disruptive season ever. I can’t wait for Alexis to sign some pre-deal with Man City while the season is still ongoing and then to play the rest of the season half-heartedly, saving himself up for the World Cup. And imagine Özil playing half-hearted, would you even notice?

Add to that “ideal” situation the fact that Arsenal have a handful of players like Gibbs and Debuchy who want to leave this year but can’t because they are paid too much money and you have the makings of a hell of a Premier League title run. Or the makings of a toxic dressing room and a 10th place finish. WELCOME TO ARSENAL, LACAZETTE!

Where this is ideal is for the players: Alexis, Ox, and Özil all get to sign big deals next summer and cash in on their new team not paying a dime in transfer fees! Alexis could literally say to City, “hey, instead of that £50m you were going to give to Arsenal to buy me out, I come play for you next year and you give ME a £25m signing bonus and another £25m in salary.” Or whatever fraction thereof he can argue for. This is not only plausible, it’s what he’s going to do unless Arsenal sell him now, cash in, and move on.

But Arsenal are refusing to sell and that’s their choice. But lost amid Wenger’s “ideal” quote was this one:

“Because their transfers become so high, even for normal players, that you will see more players going to the end of their contract because no one wants to pay the amount of money that is demanded. I’m convinced that in the next 10 years it will become usual.”

Unlike the “ideal”, I agree with Wenger on this. More and more players, young players, young top-quality players, will sign shorter deals, run those deals down, and/or have cheaper release clauses built into their deals. It’s just the natural evolution of player power in football.

It used to be that players had no power. They were under contract to their clubs for life. Even after their contracts ran out, the club was able to decide where that player played and demand a transfer fee to go to another club. The “Bosman” ruling changed all that, allowing players out of contract to move freely.

But what we have now in football is a strange situation. Football is currently enjoying an unprecedented transfer bubble. Teams are able to demand £80m to release a player who just a few years ago would have gone for £15 or 20m. This has reached its zenith with Monaco demanding £150m for Kylian Mbappe to move to Real Madrid and PSG agreeing to pay Barcelona for Neymar’s buyout clause of £200m.

Few clubs are able and fewer still willing to pay those types of fees for even the very best players, so I think Wenger is right: no one wants to pay the amount demanded. But I also think Wenger left off an important bit. Mbappe has to look at the transfer fee Monaco are getting and ask “hey, what about me?”

Now, I know that Mbappe will get a cut of the transfer fee. His father is his agent and as a result, the family will get paid. There are also other bonuses a player can negotiate. But these players have to be looking at these transfer fees and wondering why they are only getting a percentage? Why aren’t these players getting the bulk of the transfer fee and the club which trained them getting the small percentage? Or, as Wenger points out, why not just run the contract down to the final year and then pick up a huge signing-on bonus? Or negotiate a huge pay packet?

I actually suspect that’s coming and that, as usual, Arsenal are leading the way here. Özil, Alexis, and Ox are all on the last year of their deals with Arsenal and are either going to successfully convince Arsenal to pay them a huge bonus, or go somewhere else that will. I suspect that football is in for a huge change in the way transfers work and we are going to see a lot less of these absurd transfer records and a lot more player contract records. After all, the fans are there to see the players, not the agents/transfer lawyers.


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