Robin van Persie, Raheem Sterling, Frank Lampard, Xavi and Iker Casillas.
What do all these names – and more – have in common? Well, it’s simple really.
All have left their clubs this summer, and have gone about it in various different ways. Some legends had an entire fanfare, others went winning the treble but didn’t make a big deal of it.
Some demanded an exit from their club because of money / managers / titles (insert which ever Raheem is using as the party line today) and others, who had won everything there is to win in a 25 year spell left after tearful press conference and not much else.
If this summer has shown anything bar the fact that Louis van Gaal does not f*ck about in the transfer market, it is that there is no loyalty in football – most of the time.
Now that can be taken in many ways. From the fans, the players or the clubs.
Either way, take the Casillas situation. The player had his problems over the last few years – declining form, rows with Jose Mourinho and the fans, you name it, Iker went through it, but this is a man who won everything there was to win at Real Madrid, many times over.
After 25 years of loyal service, he was shoved out the back door with only a fan pressured farewell from Florentino Perez to save face, that had 1000 fans ‘warmly clapping’. For one of their all time greats. Says it all.
Contrast this to Xavi, who was leaving Barcelona on the back of a treble winning season and had an understated send off, but one that spoke volumes. The player will return one day as a coach and will not look back in anger, resentment or hurt at the way Barcelona treated him.
Premier League legends Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard also left for the MLS this summer, and while Gerrard had a seemingly half season long goodbye, culminating in a goal against Chelsea – thankfully not for them this time – and that game against Stoke, Liverpool fans were heartbroken to see their skipper leave.
Gerrard knew the time had come to go, and while you can point to Brendan Rodgers failing to show character in convincing the player to stay, albeit on the bench at times, you can understand Gerrard’s decision, even though he claimed it was one he never saw himself having to make.
The days of keeping players through the twilight of their careers and then transitioning them into other roles within the club are long gone. Manchester United do it oh, so well – or did, before the days of Robin van Persie – but most clubs cannot say the same.
Chelsea fans will look at Lampard and his season late move to the MLS with part sadness, part bitterness. They seem to have a thing for seeing legends at rival clubs, but while you can understand the Cech deal, Lampard’s decision has taken the unconditional love many fans had for him.
The same could not be said for Didier Drogba, who was carried off the field in his second ‘last ever game’ for the club and now overtakes Lampard in the overall honours won with the Blues. That was a send-off.
Andrea Pirlo could say much the same for his departure from Juventus, the man is a footballing legend. Pure and simple.
Then you have the ‘money grabbers’. Raheem Sterling takes centre stage here, and there is no point rehashing the loyalty – or lack there of – he showed to Liverpool. Time will tell who got the better end of the deal, but most people’s gut reactions would tell you £49 million for someone who could well be a benchwarmer at his new club is a good bit of business.
RVP left United under a cloud after feeling ‘betrayed’ by the club, Fergie’s departure and Louis van Gaal, something which Arsenal fans will have a field day with. Given he is the poster boy for the very definition of betrayal down in the red half of north London, the irony is great. Well, irony, or karma as many might tell you.
This summer, more than any other has seen legends leave clubs, players retire or move to the MLS, which for most is one and the same, and the controversial transfer thrown in for good measure.
Fans might be quick to blame players or clubs for treating their so called favourite players poorly, but they are also culpable, with the #WengerIn, #WengerOut brigade prime example of this. Fans turn on players and managers quicker than Lionel Messi can score goals, and players know this.
There may well be loyalty left in football for a dying breed of players, but much like with everything in sport, these days, loyalty and kissing the badge is temporary. And players will do it for whoever pays them the most money and can help them win the most trophies – and fans are no different with the latter. Just ask Chelsea and Cesc Fabregas.