Not Much Sympathy for the Devil
So far this summer many a transfer has been discussed in the infinitely credible, if not at times slightly schizophrenic, sporting presses of England, Spain and Italy. Our very own Flamini has already departed, albeit without to much media fuss. The transfer saga of Alex Hleb has been continuing for something close to 4 months now, since he had his ever so innocent Gelato with Inter supremo, the man in Italian football so rich he`s team is considered further beyond prosecution than the Prime ministers, Massimo Moratti. To add to the trifecta Togo forward Emmanuel Adebayor has been repeatedly linked to either Barcelona or AC Milan regardless of how many times he denies the speculation (surprisingly enough Cesc hasn`t really been linked to anybody as of late). It would appear at the moment that - if you believe what you read - two Arsenal players are bound to be reunified at one club or another this summer whether it be either beacon of transfer morality, Barca or Milan.
We at Arsenal have over the years learnt to endure the silly season with a pinch of both realism and salt, being fans of what we are regularly told by Manc`s, Scouser`s, Italians and Spaniards alike is a small football club. The salt: that most transfer rumours are exactly that, rumours. The realism: that even captains are not immune to the overtures of foreign giants. This summer though the biggest transfer saga in world football does not belong to Arsenal and any one of Adebayor, Hleb, Van Persie, Cesc or Aaron Ramsey, but to the self proclaimed juggernaut of English (or is that American these days?) football, Manchester United.
I have read on many an Arsenal blog or in internet comment sections, and on this site itself, that Arsenal fans feel a certain sense of solidarity or even empathy with what United are going through. Currently subjected to Cristiano Ronaldo`s mood swings, the presses creative use of quotes and 'sources` and the inevitable Henry-esque will he or wont he ballet routine that follows I can to an extent understand why supporters of the Arsenal feel a slight twinge of sympathy for the devil, after all we have been in this exact same situation every summer since the internet was invented, haven`t we? Personally though Old Red Noses bleating about Madrid tapping up the Portuguese magician has a bit to much a sense of hypocrisy to it for me to feel sorry for the champions.
Granted, over the past few seasons our own youth policy, the envy of world football and now the blue print for sustainability in the Premier League, has been accused of acting unscrupulously and exploiting numerous loop holes in FIFA and UEFA`s sieve like rule book. The ethics of whether the signing of Carlos Vela, a non-European 16 year old whose parents were moved to Spain and shortly after made Spanish nationals due to their Mexican heritage before any legal player agreement was concluded has been questioned. Our poaching of Spanish and Italian talent before their nations laws allow these teenagers to sign legally binding contracts has caused offence to numerous continental commentators, not least Palermo`s president who referred to us, creatively, as 'pirates`. Some may say that this makes us hypocritical in the way we accuse Italian and Spanish clubs of shady transfer dealings because of how they utilize their respective media`s to blatantly tap up players, except here there is one major difference between the two practices, that being that the way in which Arsenal pursue their youth policy is completely legal.
Every player transfer Arsenal has ever made has been done with in the law, if not necessarily the spirit of FIFA and UEFA`s rules on player transfers where as clubs such as Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Inter and Milan repeatedly break football`s governing bodies rules of 'tapping up` and are not even warned let alone sanctioned. To me there is no difference between a clandestine meeting in a hotel room in London and a public meeting for an ice cream in Milan or a very public announcement of interest in the sporting press. All three of these examples break both legally and in spirit the rules of not being able to announce your interest to a player, or their representative, without first discussing it with the player`s current club. In this respect I do feel a slight twinge of empathy towards Old Red Nose and the United fans as rules are undoubtedly being bent and calls for fair play going unheeded.
Where the tiny, dirty, feeling of sympathy I have for the Devil`s all just turns into another case of head scratching transfer deja-vu is when I think to myself, 'hey, didn`t I see something similar to this last summer and maybe the summer before?`. And then I remember the player`s names, and the club involved, I think they may have been Owen Hargreaves and Manchester United and before that Michael Carrick and, again, Manchester United, and that dirty feeling of solidarity that lasted a brief moment turns right back into disgust for the most high-and-mighty, the-rules-don`t-apply-unless-it`s-bad-for-us, club in world football. How can any fan, especially Arsenal fan feel sorry for United and Ferguson and all their hard done by whining when 12 months ago they were using the exact same unsavory tactics Real are using on Ronaldo to lure Hargreaves away from Bayern Munich. The only difference between the two situations was that what ever Madrid pay for Ronaldo it will be worth it, which is more than can be said for the combined 33 million pound spent on Carrick and Hargreaves.
Personally I hope Ronaldo stays in Manchester because, as they say, if you want to be the best you`ve got to beat the best. Also because winning the title against the arrogant Manc`s wouldn`t be the same without seeing Ronaldo crying come the third last game of the season when we take their trophy back to the Grove. But if he does go to Madrid one thing I most definitely wont be feeling along with this seasons regret will be sympathy for Old Red Nose and the most entitled fans in England. Up the Gunner`s!