The games within the game
Reading RvP's announcement together with the club's statement it seems unclear whether Robin wants to be a player or manager. Robin claims that 'Financial terms or a contract have not been discussed, since that is not my priority at all' but apparently there were disagreements about 'the way forward'. Realistically this will be about how many and which players to buy and who to play. No great surprise there as everyone else fans, journalists, broadcasters, former players and managers, current players and other football professionals will all also have their own ideas as to which players we should or shouldn't acquire and/or keep and how much we should pay for or to them. Robin's entitled to his opinion as much as anyone else but ultimately only one man can manage the football team.
To what extent it makes sense to make such opinions a condition of contract can only depend on individual circumstances but at this level he is unlikely to have any greater influence on club policy at any club of a similar status to the Arsenal whoever he might wish to contract to in future. Player manager status is usually only afforded to players at fairly minor clubs. At the same time players at some clubs have seen as many managerial and consequently policy and tactical changes staying with one club as they would ever have done changing clubs. What price 'the way forward' when you can't possibly know whether you'll fit into the next manager's plans or not?
So if club policy and RvP's wishes aren't in concert who should do what about it? Robin will be 30 by the time his current contract ends and a new one begins. Not the end of a striker's career by any means but certainly close to it with the best behind him. Any contract extension Arsenal offers would only be for possibly a further two years. On the other hand RvP's current value would probably never be higher than it is at the moment given the season he's just had. Maybe next season would be just as good, maybe not but probably the seasons that follow will not reach quite the same levels.
If the club statement can be taken literally the club seems to have accepted that he'll run his contract down and are content for him to do so. From any players point of view that has always seemed to be the best course of action to me but much depends where they are in terms of career development. For the club it means losing any potential transfer fee but for a player 30 years old that probably wouldn't be significant money anyway.
Robin is a wonderfully gifted, truly top class player and it would be a shame to see him go but there's a greater risk than money in holding him to his contract. It's about that little though essential difference of commitment. Maybe Robin fully expects to play next season as committed as he did last but when you expect to leave and with the freedom to discuss openly your next contract with any interested club from January 1st that's hard to achieve. Maybe the club expect him to do so but then Cesc wasn't quite the player for us in his final season and neither was Henry. It depends what offers come in now but if a good one, preferably outside the premier league, is on the table Arsenal should take it though whether RvP would is probably the greater doubt.
There's a tendency to blame player and club in these situations. The player being accused of greed and the club of lacking ambition in not bowing to the players wishes. The reality is that neither are in the wrong. The club has to do what is in its interests accepting that stars come and go and that every player, no matter how good, is replaced eventually. For a player reaching the twilight of his career one last payday free from the complications of settling an existing contract while still open to the pursuit of one final glory must seem an attractive proposition.
Players are becoming ever more transient components of football teams and teams in a permanent state of transition. Much looser contract law and the distortions of illogical finance make it so. For sure there seems little to encourage supporters to see their idols in anything other than fleeting terms. The names on the back of football shirts are quickly redundant probably to the delight of the merchandisers. The good thing is that yesterday`s heroes are always replaced.
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