Sign up for the free daily World Soccer Talk email newsletter for news and soccer TV schedules »

SUN, 11:45AM ET
TUES, 12:30PM ET

Tottenham Star Admits to Being Premier League Mercenary

Posted on by Jake Islas
 Tottenham Star Admits to Being Premier League Mercenary

In a recent interview with The Guardian, Tottenham Hotspur star Benoit Assou-Ekotto has proven himself to be a very honest man. If you read the interview, Assou-Ekotto talks about how football is a job for him, not a passion. That he doesn’t keep friends on the team, and that the “shirt” means nothing to him, and other players are liars when they say they don’t play for money. My question is, are we at all surprised by this? Are fans entitled to be upset?

Professional footballers in the Premier League (and every other league) are from all around the globe, they are playing for the club that is currently offering them the best situation, it is their job. They are performing for money. Players are mercenaries, they don’t play for their childhood club, it is very rare for a player to have pride for the shirt. Can we even get mad at an Assou-Ekotto for being so honest? What did we expect? Are we so naive to think that our favorite players from our favorite football teams are playing for pride of the club? I don’t understand how we can get mad when a Ronaldo leaves for Spain, or even worse when a Tevez or Campbell leave for the club’s rival. It’s a business. It goes both ways too. A club will cut ties with a player or sack a coach without blinking.

So my next question is, does the World Cup provide us with the best opportunity to see the greatest footballers in the world playing for more than money? Yes, some may have a new contract at stake, but they’re body of work has already been seen, one month of football compared to their last couple seasons will not make or break anyone. Some may be unknowns playing for smaller countries wanting to impress some big clubs, but again they have a large body of work already, and with modern scouting there is rarely anyone with talent to be under the radar. And yes, players do get compensated for playing in the World Cup, but with the contracts they are already locked into with their club, it would be hard to argue they couldn’t do without. This leads me to believe that more passion and pride goes into the World Cup than does playing for club. Representing your country at the highest level and being one of thirty-two nations to even make it to the World Cup is a priceless achievement. Does this lead to better football?

You could argue that national teams don’t get as much practice time to get chemistry right like they have for their club. You could also say some players are playing outside of their more natural positions. However, I think when you take the stage that the World Cup is played on, and the passion and pride involved, we will see better football being played June 11 – July 11 than we have all year. Like Assou-Ekotto eluded to in his interview, football in England is his job. When he is not playing football he is a tourist in England. Not everyone in club football even speaks the same language, national teams do. When more is at stake this summer than money, I believe we will see great, great football.

Do you think better football is played in the World Cup than that being played in the league? Does the passion make for a better player than does performing for money? Or do players perform better when money is the driving force?

This entry was posted in General, Leagues: EPL and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Tottenham Star Admits to Being Premier League Mercenary

  1. Kishore says:

    It’s not surprising at all actually…in terms of local derbies nowadays…you don’t see them playing for so called pride…if there was any,it probably had to be with the local boys in the teams…for the rest its just about getting the job done and getting 3 points…and after the Bogarde incident…it became quite clear where it stands for modern professional footballers bar a select few…I could even recall Batistuta saying a few years back that he played football not because he loved it but because its his job…he doesn’t enjoy it off the field…

  2. I don’t think these comments should come as a shock to us. Players such as tevez do not come half way round the world for the love of man city, they are there for the money.
    In any job, if you were offered a lot more money to do the same job somewhere else, you would go, why should footballers be any different?
    I suppose fans do like the idea that their players play for a particular club because they love that club so I am quite surprised that he has actually come out and said it. Surely he would have been better to keep his mouth shut and allow the fans to think what they want.

  3. Jake Islas says:

    So it’s not too surprising to you guys, but do you think that the World Cup will show us truly great football?

  4. Lolita says:

    He is, as he says, honest. Not a sell-out or anything of the like. It’s his job, his living, and he is completely entitled to treat it as such. Assou-Ekotto’s being refreshingly honest; even though it may not be what we fans enjoy hearing, it’s better than having him lie through his teeth in my opinion.

    Also, the word “mercenary” used in this context is ridiculously stupid. How is he a mercenary? Money is a driving factor in the decisions of all football players. Whether they choose to admit it is another matter.

    Finally, regarding the passion vs. money debate, it really depends on the player. In Assou-Ekotto’s case, obviously money is his prime concern, and I’m sure he performs well knowing there’s a fat paycheck waiting. However, there is something to be said for having pride in the shirt you wear; it gives you an intangible edge of sorts. For example, one-club players, though increasingly rare, have the advantage of playing for something larger than themselves. That drives them to perform better on the field. I’m not saying that every player must have a passion for their club, but it gives you a little something extra if you do.

    Indeed, we will see brilliant football during the World Cup, perhaps better than the club level. As you’ve mentioned, most players don’t particularly need to shine at this tournament, but they will regardless. Why? Because of national pride. All of the money in the world can’t replace that.

    • Jake Islas says:

      Good point on the club pride. Certainly if a player is playing for a historic club like Manchester United, Real Madrid, or Barcelona to name a few, there is more incentive to perform better because there is definitely pride in that regard for the club.

      And to answer your question, mercenary was used in the article from The Guardian, and it’s a term used to describe someone serving for wages in a foreign army or a person hired to fight for another country other than their own. Which in this case it’s not used to describe someone fighting in the military, but in terms of soccer I think it’s appropriate. If you want to brand most other footballers mercanaries, that is ok, Assou-Ekotto would agree.

      • Lolita says:

        I’m aware of the term. I suppose it is appropriate, but I do think if we’re labeling Assou-Ekotto a mercenary, we should label everyone else one as well.

        • boringarsenal says:

          I’d have to agree with Lolita on this issue; truth be told, many footballers are in it for the money, and if your playing in the highest level, it’s no shame to enjoy the games monetary awards. For many footballers, their careers are all too brief; they may find themselves concluding their careers in the lower leagues, with far less in wages than they had in the top flight.
          As a supporter, I don’t find this offensive in the least. Assou-Ekotto’s remarks may be a bit too frank for many, but any reasonable football supporter will recognize the need to speak frankly about the joy of making BIG money, wouldn’t you?

  5. Martin says:

    Good post. The facts aren’t all that surprising, but someone actually saying them in print is. The key here is that BAE brings it 100% while at his “job”. Lots of other footballers do not (i.e. Berba at the tail end of his Spurs career). That is what people should have a problem with, not the fact that the players don’t really feel allegiances.

    • Jake Islas says:

      Yes, Martin, I agree. People should be more upset when players don’t bring it 100% to every game. That is what they’re paid to do. You can’t fault a player for his motives if he is giving his all.

  6. Kevin_amold says:

    The interview was very interesting. I’m glad he admits that it’s a job for him, but it’s wrong for him to assume that it’s the same for all other players. He didn’t out and out say that, but he really hinted at it. I think Messi might be able to make more money somewhere else (aka Manchester City, Chelsea, Real would probably pay him more) but he’s just not going to leave Barca. That’s just one example, but there are others.

    But enough already with villifying players for leaving to make more money. Unless they leave MY team!!! (Yeah Jimmy Bullard, I’m talking to YOU!)

    • ish says:

      in all fairness messi is a special case. barca took him from argentina, fixed him up when no club in argentina would(paid all medical costs and stuff) he has been playing for barce since 13 or so and so for him barce is nearly a way of life.

      • Kevin_amold says:

        Right. He’s a special case. Most of those players from Catalonia will play for Barca their whole careers. They won’t leave until Barca doesn’t need them. Xavi, Puyol, etc.

        But there are others too. Scholes, Giggs come to mind. Just saying, it’s not right to say that just because Assou-Ekotto says he basically has no allegience to “the shirt”, that no one has allegience to the shirt. That’s not true.

  7. Tater says:

    I totally concur. While I love club ball and all that it offers, my first love and passion go towards the national team and everything that the World Cup and then the Euro Cup embody. Great article, it really amplifies how not just a club supporters, but an entire nation gets behind a team.

  8. I’m sure he speaks for most Premier League footballers, and not surprised by it.

    What I am surprised about is that he was brave, or stupid enough to say it. The main problem is the next time he’s not having a great game he has left himself open to accusations that maybe he is not trying.

    Although judging by some of his remarks, it’s hard to know if he’s bothered what the fans think.

  9. Bishopville Red says:

    I’m not surprised, but it is still disappointing. Football is escapism; we all know in the back of our heads that the millionaires aren’t as emotionally invested as us proles, but it’s fun for us to care – and think they care too. We’d rather believe that they’re putting their bodies on the line for “the cause”, not just a paycheque. When we’re reminded that they don’t, it’s pretty easy to feel a bit foolish about it all. Like being the last kid on your block to realize pro wrestling is fake.

    As much as we’re not too surprised about Assou-Ekotto’s statements about his club football, Don’t think for a second that it’s any different in the International version of the game. Just because it only happens every years doesn’t mean players don’t want “what’s theirs” at World Cup time. Players realized a long time ago that while the association gives them thousands of dollars for making it to the World Cup, the associations make millions out of a WC appearance.

    There have been enough cases of players refusing to fly another mile until the money is sorted out. Lots of other cases where we find out that money was the source of the in-fighting that blew up any chance of success for the team and yet other cases where players mistrust their FA so thoroughly that they won’t move a muscle until the promised money is firmly in bank account.

    While all expenses are paid for England players, there are lots of FAs that promise to reimburse after the player put himself out of pocket to get to an international match. FAs have then welched on payments or squabbled with players over expenses such as air fares (first class vs only reimbursing for business – or less), food stipends, and so on. While it looks pretty glossy at the WC, it can be surprising and ramshackle behind the scenes of an international side. And that’s not just those plucky third world countries, either.

    Declan Hill’s book “The Fix” pointed out quite clearly how players can be bought, and the international game was even more susceptible than club football according to his research. We need to remember that there are TONS of footballers, even World Cup participants, who are on annual wages similar to an EPL player’s weekly wages. Plenty of footballers are not set for life and lots of guys have need for (more) money. The opportunity to pull a quick cash grab in a three-and-out tournament is pretty easy.

  10. 2Tix4Chelsea says:

    Motivation varies from person to person. We (non footballers) see it as a sport. Footballers view it as a job, or so they should. They however receive a performance-based pay while the rest of us are paid according to market factors and things like tenure or skill set.

    Why not play for the money? Not everyone will feel wealthy with a cabinet filled with trophies. Those are simply tokens of accomplishment. No nplayer is going to walk into a restaurant and offer to let patrons hold the Community Shield in exchange for a lavish dinner. He will however buy a lavish dinner with his inflated salary.

    For a sinlge player without family ties, what’s the motivation to forsake money for the local team? Once he’s injured or knocked out of football, they wont pay his wages.

    Go on and get paid. Or you will end up like Pete Rose selling your signature at the Forum Shops at Cesears in Las Vegas. Cheating bastard.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>