Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Friday July 4 2008
Before I start I would point out that you probably shouldn`t expect a common thread on this article. I am of course going to write about the transfer saga of the moment (to be fair, it`s waited patiently in line behind Ronaldo, Lampard, Berbatov and Barry long enough), that of Emmanuel Shei Adebayor. I tried to write something on Wednesday that was intentionally as far removed from this saga as possible, but the article on Joey Barton turned out to be the sort of garbage you`d read in a tabloid. Believe me, those are waters I am not keen on chartering. I guess this article is more of a meditation on the Adebayor saga (before some other tedious contract negotiation trick propels itself onto the back pages), kind of like thinking out loud for the internet.
The first thing I will say is that the longer Adebayor goes without distancing himself from words attributed to him in the News of the World last Sunday, the harder it is to feel there isn`t some grain of truth in them. I still feel the words attributed have been creatively sculpted; the sentences are too bloated with tabloid language, the kind that real people do not actually speak. Least of all people not speaking in their mother tongue. However, Adebayor`s agent has since spoken and not denied them. So I can only surmise that, whilst the words are slightly counterfeit, the sentiments are real. The first thing to say is that this is an extraordinarily naïve move from his advisors. They`ve played their trump card and Wenger is holding all of the aces. If it is true that Adebayor is demanding parity with Henry`s salary, then Adebayor is backed into a corner that he might have to do some effective shadow boxing to manoeuvre himself out of. It looks to me as though Wenger is, correctly, refusing to satisfy those demands. Fine, Adebayor will move to get them elsewhere to get them seems to be the message from camp Togonator. Ay, there is the rub. If Adebayor and his agents deem him worthy of these astronomical wages, then surely Wenger is entitled to place an astronomical asking price on his head. Surely it is reasonable to demand £35m for a player who believes he is worth a six figure weekly salary? Fiscally at least, Arsenal are in a win win situation. If Barcelona or whoever else deems him worthy of that fee, we pocket ourselves a huge amount of granola which we can redistribute gleefully in the transfer window sales fest. If prospective suitors do not find him worthy of the asking price, Wenger can smugly turn around and inquire as to why he should pay Adebayor such wages when no other clubs seem to rate him on those terms. Basically, we either slightly improve his salary and save ourselves a fair few grand in wages. Or somebody else pays him what he wants and we receive a massive transfer windfall.
There are those who attest that Adebayor`s pay dispute with the Togolese F.A. foreshadowed his current malleability. On this point, I will stick up for Adebayor. The Togolese F.A. were not paying player bonuses, which the players were entitled to. The harrowing rationale of, "it should be an honour to play for your country, so why get involved in pay disputes" is so antiquated and misguided I find it a bit sad in truth. So the Togolese F.A. are entitled to steal money from their players hiding behind the force field of "national pride?" That`s bollocks frankly. If my bosses were stealing money from me, I would damn well say something about it. And I wouldn`t tolerate the feeble excuse of, "well you work for the Government Mr. Stillman. It should be an honour to have us steal from you" either thank you very much. The argument about Adebayor being monied enough to rise above such disputes also crosses that line into hypocrisy I spoke about at the beginning of the week. If your company embezzled your annual performance bonus, I take it you wouldn`t kick up a fuss because, hey, you can still live comfortably on your £30k salary, so why quibble about that £3k performance bonus? That`s just greedy. You should be thankful for what you do earn, because there are people in the world who are so impoverished that they would kill for just the £3k bonus, let alone the £30k you get on top of it.
Of course, Arsenal is in a financially strong position in this whole saga. We always seem to be. The notion that somehow we are completely unable to negotiate without David Dein`s magic wand is being elucidated for the pathos laden crap that it is. Wenger can and is playing hardball without the quasi autonomous orange glow next to him. But the question about the team rears its head. Sure, we could trouser a cool £30m plus from selling Adebayor and purchase a replacement. But then the replacement would need time to settle in. Ade has become integral to the way we play and we would likely have to alter our style once more, putting the team building project that Wenger has painstakingly crafted back a little more. Make no mistake; the 30 goal season is a slight misnomer. Adebayor is not a Torres or an Owen, his role is more akin to a Tevez or a Keane. We would miss Adebayor greatly if he were sold because he is our focal point. In short, it ain`t just goals he offers. The calls of "sell him and buy Villa" also cut no ice. Villa is untested in the Premiership; at the very least he would require an adaptation period, who`s to say he would ever adapt? Morientes, Batista and Reyes never managed it. Even if he did, Villa is hardly the physical presence upfront that Ade is. Could Villa even offer anything that a fit again Eduardo cannot? With Flamini already gone, Hleb not so surreptitiously eyeing the exit door, can we really afford to lose three of last season`s most vital cogs?
There is also, apparently, a moral issue amongst supporters as to whether Ade should be accepted back into the family. Like I have said before, I don`t really regard footballers with anything other than suspicion, including our own. Ade is a player I have always rated right from the off, many of us here did. But as I have remarked before, player personalities are something I refuse to attach myself to. It is very tempting to look at uber professionals such as Toure and Clichy with some fondness. But it is worth recounting that Ashley Cole gave an interview in 2001 saying he couldn`t believe he was being paid to play football and that he was quite happy driving a Renault Clio. People can change very quickly when gargantuan sums of money are involved. Those of us trumping Cesc currently ought to be careful. He was happy to discuss a move to Madrid last summer behind his manager`s back and extol the virtues of Barcelona`s midfield. I don`t have a problem with Cesc, far from it. The boy performs on the pitch with astonishing results. But run like a jilted lover from Adebayor`s arms into Cesc`s loving embrace with too much abandon. Because Cesc might just end up hurting you too. While I don`t deny Adebayor has probably burned a lot of bridges with supporters who had begun to really take to him, I personally do not think it would be a huge drama to see him stay. Not for me at least. Nobody seems too fussed with van Persie`s assertion that Arsenal does not pay well enough. (Treatment table not as comfy as it could be perhaps?) Everybody forgot about Fabregas` flirtation with Madrid pretty quickly. Even the ire aimed at Hleb seems to have quelled. If Adebayor returns next season and starts banging in the goals again, I`d wager we`ll all be singing his name again by October. We`re a very fickle bunch football supporters. Hell, I wanted Anelka back last summer so I know I am.
The fact is, if it works on the pitch we all forgive in the end. And we should. It might hurt our pride to see somebody use something we love so much as an organ for a huge pay packet, but sadly that`s the way of the world. What must take precedence over our personal pride and righteous indignation; is the team`s welfare. Not our pride, not Adebayor`s wage packet. If there`s one man I trust to safeguard that, it`s Wenger. Ade doesn`t appear to have fallen out with any players, so I cannot see team spirit being an issue in the way it was when Anelka hit out at all and sundry. I look at it this way, there are three possible outcomes. Adebayor goes and we get £30m, which, much as I rate Ade, is tremendous business even by our standards. Ade stays on well under the wage he is trying to court and we keep an important player in our team. Like I say, tempting as it is to get into personal insults and have Emmanuel hung, drawn and quartered, the fact is, the team stand to do pretty well out of this. So relax.LD.
Date:Friday July 4 2008
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