Everyday in High School, I would come in early to discuss football with my friend Ron. On a particularly slow day in the footballing world, Ron declared “There is no loyalty in soccer!” A statement that was quickly becoming fact rather than opinion. However, I was in an argumentative mood, and back in 2003 there was still a glimmer of hope, that for a select few in the soccer profession the word loyalty meant more than serving the highest bidder. Carlos Tevez had pledged himself to Boca Juniors, Wayne Rooney was still playing for his childhood club, Everton, and Joaquin was rejecting offers from Madrid to stay with Betis. So I decided to press the issue . “Are you serious!” I scoffed while gesturing wildly(Probably in a subconscious attempt to compensate for the fact that in reality, I completely agreed with Ron and felt ridiculous defending such an obviously absurd position) Somehow, I managed to appear the victor in our little debate, but in my head I knew who was correct.
Fast forward to today’s soccer landscape and Ron’s statement would be looked at as a truism. A given that only the most stubborn and unaware of fans would dare challenge. Despite the acceptance of such a climate on the part of most fans(myself included), owners, and players, football has somehow managed to disgust even the most cynical of fans with Barcelona’s impending transfer of Samuel Eto’o.
Eto’os departure from the Camp Nou is nauseating even when compared to the most controversial of transfers because it lacks even the most selfish of motivations. When Figo left Barcelona for Real Madrid, he did it for a bigger payday. Rooney dropped Everton for a chance to win the Champion’s and Premier League Crowns. Ronaldo came to Milan only years after playing for their fiercest rival, Internazionale, and did so only to resuscitate a dying career. However, as Barca prepare to ship Eto’o and close to 60 million Euros in exchange for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, they are doing so for very little in return, relatively speaking.
In the past five years, Eto’o has scored over a hundred goals for Barcelona in La Liga. More importantly Eto’o is a big time player. In the past season he scored against four of the top five teams in La Liga, including the game winning goal against Real Madrid, Barcelona’s biggest threat to the title. Eto’o improved upon his impressive tally this season with the decisive strike in the Champion’s League Final against Manchester United, helping make Barcelona the first treble winning side in Spanish football history. In exchange for throwing Eto’o out the door, Barcelona will receive Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a talented player, but more importantly, a notorious big game choke. A prime example of Ibrahimovic’s inability to perform on the grand stage came against the very same side that Eto’o managed to score against in the final, Manchester United. He was blanked by Manchester United over two legs, a period of 180 minutes, in the round of 16 in the Champion’s League. He failed to even register a shot on target in those two games. In fact, Ibrahimovic managed only one goal in seven games in the Champion’s League. Those quick to defend Barcelona will certainly site Samuel’s behavioral problems, but Zlatan is not without his own (See here). More troubling than the lack of motive for the transfer is Barcelona’s willingness to admit it. In a recent interview, Pep Guardiola said that Eto’os departure is the sole result of a “feeling”! A player of Eto’s caliber and output can only feel disrespected by such comments.
So while the whole world expresses outrage, and rightly so, over Real Madrid’s exuberant spending in times of economic crisis. Lets not forget that it is this type of mistreatment that presents the biggest blemish on the “not so” beautiful game.