Thursday, May 08, 2008

Flamini sums up much of what is wrong with modern football.

Well, there you have it. Have a look above and you will see an Arsenal player posing in another team's shirt before he has left the club, and, whatever he's done this year, this in itself should cause your respect in Matthieu to drop. Its a very disrespectful thing to do, and it says a lot about Matthieu's character.

This is a player who, in 2004, betrayed his home town club who had helped turn him into a professional footballer. After verbally agreeing to a long-term contract with Marseille, he signed for us instead, causing Marseille's manager to call the act a 'beautiful treason'.

After signing for us, Flam looked distinctly average in his first season, and only began to look anywhere near good enough when forced to fill in at full back during the second half of the 2005/6 season. Whilst he was part of a record breaking champions League defence, he was also part of an extremely creaky team that scraped to fourth place in the league.

In 2006/7, he refused to play at full-back, and told Wenger he would only play in centre-mid. Not only was this, again, disrespectful to Arsene, he was, fundamentally absolutely rubbish in midfield. If you don't believe me, thanks to Steve Bruce, it's become quite clear that we offered Flamini to Birmingham last summer and they weren't interested. Not believing Matthieu had a future at the club, Arsene signed Lassanna Diarra from Chavski at the end of August as Gilberto's long-term replacement.

Yet, amazingly, Matthieu suddenly emerged as one of the best central midfielders in the Prem, if not Europe, in the first few months of the last season, to the extent Diarra and Gilberto were both kept out of the team. At the same time, Arsene now offered him a new contract at a, not unreasonable, rate of £55k a week.

Just as at Marseille, we've seen articles published on the official website all season in which Matthieu has constantly claimed 'I want to stay', 'I hope I stay' etc. In the mean time, Diarra got bored waiting and, in an extraordinary move, was sold after only 4 months at the club - more on this, an incredible mistake, in the forthcoming season review.

Yet as the months ticked away, it became more and more clear that Matthieu would not stay. What was he waiting for? A pen to sign the deal with? The terms of the contract offered did not significantly change, so it was calculated procrastination on Matthieu's part, using the club as a shop window to further the interests of his own career, before whoring himself out to the highest bidder at the end of the season. He was well within his rights to do this, but it leaves a bad taste in the mouth, regardless of his performances this year.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that Matthieu has had a fantastic season, and was also great in the 2006 CL run. But in 4 years at the club, he's won one trophy, the 2005 FA Cup, and he was hardly integral to that success.

To me, Matthieu represents a lot of what has gone wrong in modern football, a symbol of player power spiralling out of control. He screwed over his home-town club to get himself a better contract with us, and, after promises, promises, promises, he's left us high and dry to earn another pay day in Milan. Matthieu, at the very least, is a mercenary who clearly cares far, far more about the money the club's pay him far more than the club itself. Whilst we can't expect players to care about the club as much as we do, some degree of gratitude and loyalty is painfully lacking here; a disconcerting emotional detachment between player and club and, ultimately, fan.

Matthieu was being offered £55k a week in the contract we offered him, and, undoubtedly, a hefty signing-on bonus on top of that. Footballers' wages have spiralled so far out of control that it's easy to forget that, with a wage at this level, Matthieu would have earned more in one year than the majority of the UK population will earn in their entire lifetime. Again, Matthieu isn't responsible for this situation, but, yet again, it's an example of how the influx of money into English football since the creation of the Premier League has been consistently and sickeningly misused. Players quibble over earning an extra £5 or 10,000 a week, whilst ticket prices continually increase and the FA argue over whether to bother building an academy which could actually produce a half decent national team.

So, in short, thanks for a few memories Matthieu, which are actually less than you might think, and ultimately, good riddance. You've used our club as a shop window for your own personal ambitions and ultimately I can't accept that. Maybe if you had been more honest with the club from an earlier date I would have had more sympathy for you. But, ultimately, you appear as a mediocre player who's just come good, who has then tried to squeeze as much money as possible out of the club's that have helped turn you into the player you are.

Never has football been a greedier game than it is at present. There is more money in the game than ever, yet instead of club's helping the local community, or coming up with reasonably priced ticket packages, we hear about playing games abroad and players being paid ever higher fortunes. There is a danger of clubs and players forgetting the fans who are the ultimate foundation for them both. Thus, whilst ticket prices will undoubtedly increase this year, at least it won't be because we were held to ransom by a mercenary, and for that I'm thankful.