Player Power is a significant issue in modern football. Coaches get disrespected and relieved of their duties because of the influence of big-name players in the game. In this article, we would be analyzing the role of player power at clubs, various incidents that have occurred, and how to rectify the situation.
The power struggles at clubs or national teams can be traced back as far as the 50s. George Eastham, in 1959 was frustrated with his contract situation and was not satisfied with the conditions at Newcastle United.
This led to a revolt and he decided to go on a strike. Newcastle were left with no other choice than to sell him. He was later sold to Arsenal for lower than his actual value.
Now let’s dive into the real deal – significant examples of player power in modern football.
PLAYERS ACCUSED OF MISUSE OF PLAYER POWER
There’s an old saying in football – when a new manager meets his players for the first time, he will scan the room, muttering under his breathe with his teeth set – “so you’re the guys that cost my predecessor his job.”
MESUT OZIL AND ALEXIS SANCHEZ, 2017/2018 SEASON
Sanchez and Ozil were the driving force at Arsenal. Both players combined provided the team with 95 goals and 82 assists. During the 2017/2018 season, the two players moved to the most recent year of their agreements. This became an issue for the board as they had left it past the point of no return.
The situation gave both players the upper hand in negotiations. In particular, Sanchez was unhappy because of his teammates’ lack of ambitions and support, so he was looking for an upgrade.
Talks about the future of the two attacking stars, whose deals run out at the end of this season dominated Emirates Stadium’s agenda for months. The January transfer window saw the situation escalate as both players demanded huge wages for their services.
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Arsenal could not afford to pay both players the requested amount, hence, Sanchez submitted a transfer request.
The situation was simple. Arsenal would either allow Sanchez to run his contract down and they lose him for free, or they cash in on him while he is still at the club.
After so much drama, Sanchez eventually was sold to Manchester United in a swap deal.
Mesut Ozil was offered a new contract. The Ozil situation would still lead to more club problems as they have been unable to offload him even with his exemption from the club’s 25-man squad list for a long period.
MANCHESTER UNITED TEAM VS JOSE MOURINHO, 2018/19 Season
Jose Mourinho is probably the best manager in world football. But despite his supposed success at Manchester United, his dismissal was due to big dressing room players not wanting to play his style of football anymore.
Gone are the days where players wanted to win no matter how dirty they played. Mourinho said in an interview:
“In modern football, there is a problem between the coach and the player.
“We are not in a time anymore where the coach, by himself, is powerful enough to cope and to have a relationship of education and sometimes confrontation with players who are not the best professionals.”.
During his time at United, Mourinho won more trophies than any other manager since Sir Alex left. But most United fans would tell you that his time at the club was boring.
During the 2018/2019 campaign, a period which saw Paul Pogba returned as a World Cup winner. Mourinho had to deal with the change in attitude from Pogba and several of his players. The players’ attitude and performance were indeed terrible.
For this reason, Mourinho’s future was subject to intense scrutiny all season – and the club’s worst start to a campaign in 28 years was confirmed after a 3-1 defeat to Liverpool.
Managers are always the first to get the needle when players aren’t performing. But in this case, it was obvious that the players played that way to get rid of the manager.
Mourinho left having won a Europa League, and EFL Cup double in 2016-17, winning 84 of his 144 matches in charge.
All in all, Jose Mourinho’s experience at Manchester United is a typical example of Player power role in modern football.
3. LIONEL MESSI AT BARCELONA AND ARGENTINA
So many players consider Lionel Messi as the greatest to ever play the game. Though Messi is not usually regarded as one of the Best International footballers of all time, he is compared with the likes of Maradona, Pele, and his current rival Cristiano Ronaldo. Despite his accolades in world football, fans have sometimes questioned who is in charge of Barcelona and who picks the squad for tournaments for Argentina.
According to various reports in 2009, Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola was sitting in the team bus’s front seat, alongside long-time friend and collaborator Manel Estiarte, when his phone buzzes.
The text message reads:
“Well, I see I’m no longer important for the team, so…”
The message was from Lionel Messi, who sat further back down the bus. The team’s big summer signing, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, had scored in each of his first five La Liga games.
Messi had also been among the goals, and the two had even assisted each other already. But the younger, quieter man was feeling under threat. So he reached for the only way he could bring himself to make that known.
Guardiola quickly rectified the mistake, and Ibrahimovic lasted only one season at the Nou Camp. Messi was given an even more central role in the team, which went was eventually fruitful.
Over the years, we have seen various moment whereby the Barcelona board have had to let a manager go instead of looking at the mistakes made by senior players in the team.
Messi & Argentina Power Play
These same issues could be seen with the Argentinian national team. A team blessed with world-class talents but haven’t been able to live up to expectations. Lionel Messi has been accused of dictating for coaches on who should be picked for tournaments.
The omission of Mario Icardi was a significant cause for several years. Despite his constant form in Europe, his absence was seen as a plot by Argentina’s favorite Number 10.
Rumors of bad blood between the two Argentines have been circulating for years. The beginning of the relationship between Icardi and Nara was responsible. The pair began dating soon after Wanda left Icardi’s former Sampdoria teammate Maxi Lopez.
Messi’s friendship with Lopez is well known, and it has often been speculated that the Barcelona star has in the past vetoed Icardi’s national team participation in anger. For this reason, it would be hard to deny that Lionel Messi doesn’t have such powers over the national team.
The 2018 world cup saw another in which fans questioned who was really in charge of the national team. Reports coming in from the Argentinian camp after the defeat to Croatia was Lionel Messi picking the line up against Nigeria.
The major changes in the next match confirmed what most fans suspected: that Messi had a strong say on what happens with the national team.
Other Player Power Play
Players like Neymar and Antoine Griezmann have also exercised their powers at clubs. Seeking new transfers to other clubs, they both failed to report to pre-season training. They were putting their clubs under challenging situations.
The million-dollar question is how can the player power in modern football issue be rectified? As much as we could easily blame players for most of what’s happening, club owners also share the blame.
United could be used as a perfect example, and even after letting the manager go, the club has still not progressed as expected. United always had mediocre performances and have not been able to finish higher than 3rd since Jose Mourinho left.
Club owners need to back managers and their decisions. They need to let the players know that the manager is in charge of the squad. This way, managers will have more control of the squad.
As for players’ salary, club owners can and should regulate wage bill with utmost scrutiny just so players do not always have the upper had for transfers or renewal.
“No matter the number of crewmen you have on a ship, if a proper sailor isn’t on board, the crew will never get to their destination.”