‘It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory anyway’ – This famous satirical take by W. Edwards Deming on the importance of a phenomenon called ‘change’ in any avenue epitomises the fact that nothing is permanent and in order to survive, one’s got to mould and cast his practices in accordance with what’s the demand of time. The one who refuses to change usually ends up accelerating the decay.
This very sentiment holds its own in the game of football where in due course of time, the manager needs to look deep into his team composition and make necessary alterations required for the squad to remain competent enough in the years to come.
The manager analyses the squad, puts forth his recommendations, the board approves them and approaches the concerned clubs, the negotiations happen and the player switches the sides. Simple, eh? Well, not really!
For starters, football and tranquillity never go hand in hand. Almost nothing pertaining to the sport is ‘sugar and spice and everything nice’. Much to the contrary to many other sports, football is a fervour where it is implausible to separate the ‘sport’ part from the emotional connotation that runs at the very heart of the game.
And hence, when supporters of a particular football club start to venerate a player, their passion knows no bounds and they expect the player to reciprocate the same amount of worship towards the club. They take the player’s love for the club very much for granted. Fanatics of the highest order they are, much assumingly expect the player to share the same passion for the club without any prior consent with the player; not that they believe it is required anyway.
This tendency by the fans of being ardent in sometimes what becomes a dangerous excessiveness adds much more to what seemingly appears a simple two-way transaction between teams when a player shifts his club. A player subject to the transfer suddenly turns a villain character to same fans who would have killed someone for him only a day ago. Among other financial and tactical consequences, the team’s think tank is therefore compelled to take fans’ outburst too into consideration, should a move transpire.
It is however impossible to please one and all. Much to the fury of the fans, there are occasions when the club has to take a tough call and cash in on a player to invest on nurturing fresh prodigies for the future. Of late, due to a revolution in print and electronic media, every slightest stir in the boardroom is made available to public and with the virtue of which, fans have unknowingly reached to a stage of fanaticism where they dare believe they are authorised to make the decisions for the club and the player stands accountable to ‘them’ for his deeds.
Therefore the feeling of being betrayed much surfaces when the deal involves players who have enjoyed a cult status with the club they represent. The latest in the tray is Liverpool’s Fernando ‘El Nino’ Torres who in search of greener pastures decided to part ways with the club and set his front at a certain club in West London where he believed he had a better scope to do justice to his potential.
However, the updates on his persuasion by the Londoners during the last week of the Winter Transfer Window was probably the most sought after news the British and to an extent European media was interested digging deep into. The fact that so many people ‘started to know’ the inside stories coerced the NESV men to reject the bid on multiple occasions no matter how lucrative it was. John W. Henry’s dilemma over whether to do business with the Russian petrodollars or not must have developed over an arguably insipid bone of contention – whether the fans will welcome this move or will they go the barbarian way?
The dilemma as a matter of fact brought Henry sweeter fruits than he would ever have expected as the Russian sitting at the other end of the phone was pretty much decided of what he wanted. As a result, an astonishingly inflated price for the player was agreed upon to better the record of highest transfer fee among the English club football. Even being at the receiving end of the check that carried a booming sum of money, what followed confirmed the worst of Henry’s fears.
A large chunk of Liverpool faithful decided to come to streets protesting against Torres’ transfer terming him a traitor. The club exactly did not want to fall into this situation where the fan base would begin to regard a player’s parting as the failure of the club to convince him stay put. The rebellion act by the Reds’ fans only established a message that they feared to conceive the idea of their club beyond their hero; in the other case they would have gracefully respected both the player’s and the club’s decision to tread on different paths.
So much so were the fans bamboozled by the Torres saga that they failed to regard their owner did not waste any moment in investing the cashed amount on an immediate replacement on the very same day – another inflated deal that is cited to be. As far as sanity prevails, one can only see this as a win-win situation for Liverpool. The club offloaded a player who was not exactly pleased with the idea to prolong his stay; bagged double the money it could have had it been any other day but the D-day, spent the amount immediately on two bright youth prospects who are deemed to be forming a lethal nexus up front sooner than most feel.
The inclusion of two new faces was nevertheless potential of freshening up the attacking prowess at Anfield and in turn could resurrect a wayward campaign thus far during the season. Instead, the fans chose to rant at the exit of Torres and how their West Londoner counterparts were keen on ‘stealing away’ a prodigious talent from Merseyside. This was not however happening for the first time that Chelsea were being accused for being the spoilers in the beautiful game by indulging the power of money over the spirit of the game.
There have been numerous occasions in the past where Chelsea’s gleaming success in the last decade has been majorly attributed to a certain Roman Abramovic and his power to spend at will. Even the ‘blood is blue’ league of Chelsea fans would not disagree that the Russian takeover has indeed resurged their team’s fortunes but to be fair to the club and its players, these umpteenth attacks to term them a ‘All money, no value’ club have been a little harsh and have majorly come out of frustration of being left behind in the race.
One of the very important things to understand is that clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan and Manchester United too have limitlessly spent over the last few years and there is hardly anything wrong with that. Not for nothing does any club reach a financial stature where any conundrum seems smaller against the club’s capacity to spend. These clubs have undergone a tremendous curve of perseverance and ethic before being looked upon as exciting commercial ventures by those with the cash.
Though Chelsea appear neonate in terms of history in comparison to some of the clubs aforementioned, one must acknowledge and appreciate the fact that their history is currently being written by this crop of players and the current generation of fans are lucky enough to see it happen in front of their eyes. It is easy to ridicule a club discrediting all its glory to availability of a higher budget. What is equally important to see is Chelsea was not a random club Roman gambled on to invest his hard earned money. There was reason he chose to take over the club preceding it over few others seeing the undeniable potential among the club’s culture to succeed. The success too did not come running to the club overnight as soon as Roman plied his trade. It took two good years to build a side before winning back-to-back league titles – the first of the two coming to the Bridge after a void of fifty long years. Gradually the team reclaimed its reputation in Europe and have since been one of the most consistent clubs to perform at their best in the Champions League during the decade gone by – though they are yet to taste the most coveted success any footballer ever dreams of.
And even during the Roman era despite the fact he has never refrained from spending sometimes what’s thought to be ridiculous sums of money over the club’s aspirations, it has not been an all smooth ride for Chelsea. They have been left devoid of league title for three consecutive years by fierce rivals Manchester United; they have seen a European cup slip from their hands from this close; they have seen one manager being pointed to the door after another and they have also seen some deals going horribly wrong – Shevchenko, Deco anyone?
But the fact that Abramovic has stood by the club in the toughest of times says lot about his long term plans at London. Converting the club’s debts into his own equities was one giant leap towards falling into the bracket that UEFA is soon going introduce. Also with time, Roman has become accustomed to the fans’ and the players’ perspective towards the game and has matured into his own decision making. The fact that Carlo Ancelotti still leads the team speaks for Roman’s improvised vision for the club and makes a statement of intent that Chelsea is much more to him than a mere commercial venture.
Chelsea are currently in process to blend their youth with the experience in an optimum proportion to guarantee a smooth transition in a next couple of years since many of their players are in twilights of their career. The 50 Million Pounds buy therefore explains for itself being the right move as Torres can be thought of being a fulcrum around whom the younger prodigies may excel seamlessly. The Spaniard after spending a good two year time at Stamford Bridge will transition into the right candidate to take the baton from Didier Drogba and at the same time fulfil his ambitions to compete for the titles.
The biggest achievement for the Chelsea unit under the Abramovic era is not the three premier league titles and as many FA Cups. It is the nucleus made up of iconic trio of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba. With few more years left to their name in the famous Blue shirt, the club is moving in the right direction with an amalgam of energy and experience in their top ranks. If things are continued to be done the right way, titles won’t have much choice but to follow.