It was tempting to headline today with Return of the Pat but it struck me as a bit Cristiano Ronaldo, marking me out as a one-trick pony. Liam Brady’s departure at the end of the season signals a change behind the scene, the chance to indulge in some fantasy football coach manager. Currently slumming it at Manchester City in his role as, well, who knows what he does beyond being wheeled out like a Young Mr Grace on state occasions. The media are building up a shortlist for the club, Dennis Bergkamp’s name already in the frame and if you consider his background beyond the pitch, probably the more qualified of the pair to carry out the role.
Which is where the arrogance of football supporters comes into play, we presume that any return to the club is taken as a dream for the former stars, that any approach cannot be turned down but let’s be honest, pontificating over this is a lot less likely to send people into meltdowns of a similar scale to that when they think about transfers (or the one’s that got away). Certainly Bergkamp or Vieira being successful – and sustaining that success – after a playing career would buck a well-established football trend, namely that the players who reached the peaks on the pitch, rarely scale those heights once the boots are finally packed away. The best managers have rarely been great players; no-one really knows why but the popular theory is that the lesser players have a greater desire to prove themselves, a greater love of the game. Perhaps that is true and it is probably the case that the stars have more likely been financially secure without the need for work beyond the white lines, the need for an income sated in their playing days.
Whatever the case, Vieira and Bergkamp both have attributes which you would want instilled in the first team, let alone the youngsters. Having legends coaching at the club is a benefit in terms of their achievements demanding respect, that their charges listen. Which is more than the Premier League has done, ignoring the demands of Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea. Ironically, two of that quintet would have fallen foul of just about every financial measuring stick available.
Ever late to the party, the clubs are looking to manage their way through a financial mess with a half-arsenaled solution, limiting spend in one area to give the impression of competition and level playing fields. In order to compete with the top clubs those lower down the food chain need to be able to pay more money. Once they have exhausted the commercial revenue streams, soaking them for all the money that they can, it is supporters who will pay next, perhaps even earlier, through rising ticket prices. The shortfalls have to be made up somehow.
Which all ties in with the European Commission‘s view on football transfers. They think it is leading to a closed shop in the elite with not enough money filtering to the lower echelons of the game. Wow, who knew? Apparently the clubs through various bodies had input into this. The most eye-catching change is to limit fees for players who have renewed their contracts to 70% of gross wages due, the EU is ensuring that the richest clubs will have more money to spend on wages thus perpetuating the elite they are striving so hard to prevent. To put that into an Arsenal context, Robin van Persie would have cost Manchester United approximately £3.5m in the Summer compared to the fee agreed between the two clubs. Little wonder than Ivan is no longer wittering on about FFP when he knows the EU and EPL are looking to shaft the club royally.
Anyway, football returns tomorrow with the trip to Wearside, something to look forward to beyond the balance sheets. Santi Cazorla believes Arsenal are just like Spanish sides. Presumably he thinks this in the context of passing and possession, rather than playing with a centre forward who is taunted by banjo playing cows every time he drives through the countryside. Whatever the case, back in the morning with a pre-match preview.