Is football suffering from a short-term memory problem?
"We have to hold on to our values and our rights and at the moment, the situation for Luka is that he is under club discipline."
"Hopefully the situation does not drag on"
"It doesn't help Luka and it doesn't help solve in any way the situation."
Reading these quotes from Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas this week, it was hard not to chuckle over the large dollops of irony that were dripping from the Portuguese's words. Rewind one year and it was Villas Boas' who was actively pursuing the wantaway Croatian and have no doubts, agents and advisers would have been telling Modric that the best way to force a move through was to behave exactly as he is doing now. Modric has not yet handed in a transfer request as that is a last resort (as doing so instantly forfeits the significant and ironically termed "loyalty bonus" written in to every contract) but that may well be his next move.
Just down the Seven Sisters road, Arsenal are enduring a not wholly dissimilar nature to their rivals, with Robin Van Persie clearly set for the exit but his destination still unknown. Many Arsenal fans as well as many more neutral observers cannot wait to line up to slam the Dutchmen with all the usual weapons in the football fans' arsenal (no pun intended) of vocabulary. "Mercenary", "money grabber", "disloyal" the list goes on.
Yet Roy Keane made a point in his autobiography that still resonates just as much today as it did nearly a decade ago when the Irishman, or lets be fair his ghost writer, wrote it. Clubs and fans will always talk about loyalty when it suits them but if a club wants to rid itself of players such as Nicklas Bendtner, Andrei Arshavin, Marouane Chamakh etc, no one talks of disloyalty then. No one talks the club being a "mercenary" and "money grabbing" to get players of the books so to clear space and funds for new arrivals.
Loyalty, whilst not dead, is certainly in the ICU. All these people lining up to condemn players such as Van Persie and Modric, not to mention men such as Sol Campbell and Rio Ferdinand (who were subject to some truly horrific vitriol by Tottenham and Leeds fans respectively), I'm certain that none of them ever left a company or a job in pursuit of another opportunity that they perceived to other greater rewards; financial or otherwise.
With both Modric and Van Persie can anybody truly argue that they do not stand to increase both their likelihood of success and of greater income by moving clubs. Modric is wanted by Real Madrid who have won the Champions League nine times which is exactly nine times more than Tottenham have. Likewise Van Persie is reportedly being courted by Manchester City, Manchester United and Juventus. Two of which one their domestic league last season, whilst United's record in the time Van Persie has been at Arsenal reads: 4 league titles, 1 Champions League title and two more finals, 1 Club World Cup and 2 Carling Cups. As much as Arsenal fans (and this writer is a season ticket holder) hate to admit, they are simply not competing on the same level anymore.
Even those who like to level claims that financial doping and sugar daddy's have distorted the landscape must surely falter when it appears that Van Persie's preferred destination is either Old Trafford or Turin; two clubs with histories richer than Arsenal's who have left their mark indelibly on European history in a number of decades.
For football fans to discuss loyalty is questionable on another level too. How many of those who wish to disown Van Persie can state that they never wavered in their support of Arsenal last season. Boos were a regular occurrence at the Emirates and players such as Arshavin, Theo Walcott and Thomas Rosicky some of their regular recipients. Equally attendances were down which surely suggests that fans themselves were enjoying other pursuits during games.
Another stick used to hit Van Persie with is that the club stuck by him despite a procession of long term injuries and this is true. However the club only stuck by him because he was such an outstanding talent. Have no mistake if a lesser player had suffered the same woes as the Dutchman it is unlikely he would have lasted 8 years like Van Persie has (although Abou Diaby is making a strong case to disprove this theory). It should be remembered that Van Persie has regularly rushed himself back for both club and country often at great detriment to himself and had he adopted a more selfish streak as fellow Dutchman Arjen Robben did at Chelsea, where he infuriated Jose Mourinho with his unwillingness to declare himself available until being absolutely certain, he may not have suffered so many reoccurring injuries.
With the case of Modric people should recall two things that occurred last season. One, he put his disappointment of not being granted a transfer behind him and was one of Tottenham and the Premier League's best players and two; he turned down the offer of at least doubling his £40k a week contract. Whilst this was partly due to Modric being unwilling to tie himself to a long term deal thus making his move less likely, many players in the past have signed bumped deals before being sold and as such Modric deserves some credit for this.
Hopefully both these sagas will be over soon as nobody really enjoys the tedium of the daily gossip columns reporting on the most minute of developments but when they do reach their conclusion maybe fans will react with a bit more sanity than they have demonstrated so far.
Perhaps the best example of the shortsightedness of the football fan is when England enter the fray. Once every two years (or perhaps more if Steve McClaren is the manager and Paul Robinson is in goal) this nation gloriously gets behind our brave lions as they proudly and heroically lose to the first decent team they meet. This summer was no different and fans who had spent their entire season hurling abuse at John Terry, Ashley Cole, Wayne Rooney and Andy Carroll were suddenly right behind them. Yet just a few months later and the same people will be discussing how useless Carroll is and how unpleasant and overpaid Rooney, Terry and Cole are and reveling in songs such as these.
Whilst it may seem strange to outsides, people will just shrug it off. That's football they'll say, and the sad thing is, they are right.