Bale, Lewandowski, Mane: Leaving a big club is proving painful process
Leaving a big club in the modern era looks a painful process.
Such is the money on offer at the world’s leading teams, trying to get anybody out of a contract appears to be one of the most difficult phenomena of football in the 2020s.
Gareth Bale, for example, could not leave Real Madrid despite a consistent lack of football over a three-year period. Whether or not that was down to him digging his heels in is up for debate, but simply no other club could afford to pay him the £600k-per-week he was entitled to by the terms of his contract.
For that, he was vilified, labeled a “parasite” in the Spanish press.
Robert Lewandowski, meanwhile, has been told to shut up and carry on after having the temerity to suggest he would like to try a new challenge after winning his eighth Bundesliga in a row at Bayern Munich.
Given the financial power Bayern boast over their domestic rivals, it’s hard to see how winning another one would quench his thirst for further success.
Barcelona, however, cannot afford to pay the kind of money Bayern want for a 33-year-old with just a year to go on his contract, as good as he might be.
Even Sadio Mane, one of Liverpool’s most popular players in recent history, has spoken of the “trouble” he got himself into when joking he would follow the wishes of polled Senegal fans and look to leave Anfield this summer.
The forward, too, is said to want a new challenge after winning everything on Merseyside, off the back of a grueling season which also took him to international glory. Bayern’s difficulty in buying him is down to the same reason Barca will struggle to get the Lewandowski deal over the line.
Of course, many will point to the fact these highly-paid footballers are living the kind of life millions can only dream of. When you’re paid so handsomely, shouldn’t you just get on with it?
That, however, is just not how life works. In any other job, being criticised for wanting the wages you’ve agreed to or looking for a new role after so long would be one of the most ridiculous conversations to have.
The thing is, there’s no real answer to this problem. Just as players are entitled to wanting to try a new challenge, clubs are entitled to ask for payment in return for services.
It’s just that, now, players simply have to force their way out. And even that might not work.
Lionel Messi would not take Barcelona to court in 2020 when he expressed his desire to leave, such was his love for the club. Harry Kane would not hand in a transfer request at Tottenham a year later so as to damage his relationship with supporters beyond repair.
Steven Gerrard was vilified when wanting to join the Chelsea revolution in 2004 and Wayne Rooney – proven right years later – was hounded when he suggested Manchester United’s lack of ambition would cost them in the long run.
Certainly, it seems that having a big-time contract comes at a price. When the time comes to – rather naturally – want to move on with life, actually getting there looks like a mind-numbingly boring game of poker.
There are so many people to potentially upset, so much money at stake, so many contract clauses that would likely bore most of us to tears.
The names listed aren’t likely to garner a huge amount of sympathy, sure. Still, for all the glitz and glamour, it’s difficult to be envious about that particular aspect of their lives.
Who’d be a footballer, anyway?