So, you’ve made it. All those schoolboy daydreams have become a reality and you’re a top class Premier League footballer. Fans adore your every touch of the ball, your manager gushes about your talents to the media, beautiful women scramble to get near you, your car only cost you two weeks wages, but it’s Italian, it’s red and it breaks the speed limit without you even knowing it. Before and after each game, hordes of doting fans swarm around the car park waiting for the opportunity to get your signature or just to simply touch your arm as you hurry away to your penthouse apartment or country mansion. On the whole, life is pretty darn sweet. However, you have a problem, because you want more.
It could be the chance to win some major trophies or play for your favourite club. You may want to be closer to your family, friends or homeland. The weather may not suit you or the kit may make your backside look big. All these things are important. After all, this is your career, your life and you should be doing something that makes you happy. If you’re going to go though you better be careful.
If you’re lucky, your contract expires soon, but you have no intention of renewing it. If not then you can skip to step six. Your agent advises you that beginning contract talks won’t do either of you any harm at all and he’s right. He begins by scanning the wages of the other top players in the world and suggests to the board that you are underpaid. Despite taking home a cheque every week worth at least twice the annual salary of the average fan, you agree. What sort of scoundrel would dare argue otherwise? The board dare, but your agent knew they would, and so did you.
For step two you will need an agent who is capable of multitasking because, as the events of step one were unfolding, your agent was keeping a line open to the sports reporters at the nation’s major newspapers, broadcasters and websites. By the time the board had offered you a preposterously meagre wage increase of £20k or more, plus the obligatory appearance fees, release clauses and bonuses, the media had already publicised the negotiations. At this point the fans become aware that you are in talks over a new contract. After taking a little time before rejecting the laughable offer of the desperate board, you move on to step three.
It’s now been a while since you began at step one and your champagne fueled, sports car laden, glamour model ridden, global superstar nightmare is nearing it’s end. Don’t get complacent though, there’s still a lot to do. Step three starts right where step two concluded; the press. Since you rejected the contract offer, rumours have been circulating in the media. Your agent has been responsible for his fair share of them, but some reporters are running a little wild and suggesting that your future lies elsewhere. They’re right, but you can’t give the game away so easily. While it’s important that you don’t completely quash these transfer whispers, you also have to maintain an air of loyalty to the club. Why not kiss the badge next time you score or run into the crowd?
In general, demonstrations of passion, commitment and dedication are advised. However, try and avoid waving as this can often lead commentators and pundits to speculate that you may be saying goodbye to the fans for good.
For interviews the advice is simple; lie. Lie as if your life depended on it. When a journalist asks if you want to leave, do nothing other than state your desire to play for the club. Reinforce this by mentioning the warmth of the fans, the splendour of the local area, the magnificence of the stadium or the credentials of the staff at the club. This will make you seem humble and the fans will genuinely believe what you say. If you use social networking sites, avoid specific references to any transfer rumours other than to state that you’re going nowhere, you love the club and you want to help the team achieve greatness. Following this step is crucial to your public image. If you can make the supporters believe you when you say you want to stay, then when you leave you will leave a victim rather than a traitor.
Step four begins with another contract offer and the situation really escalates now. The board are getting angry. They’ve had emergency meetings to tinker with the budget and come up with a revised and improved offer. Even though there are some on the board who are suspicious of your intentions, the consensus is that the club is stronger with you than without. The second offer is an improvement on the first but, of course, you don’t care. Your agent advises that you take a while before rejecting this offer because a swift rejection would give the whole game away. In the meantime he rushes off to leak more news to the press. In the process, he implies that the board are being less than generous in their endeavours to keep you at the club. As a result several national newspapers, broadcasters and websites begin to speculate that you are being forced out of the club. Believing this, the fans become angry at the chairman and his board of directors, accusing them of putting business before the success of the team.
With step four sewn up nicely you are now ready for step five. Quite simply, you reject the latest offer. Speculation is now rife amongst the fans and media alike and other clubs, if they weren’t already, become interested. Knowing that your contract expires in less than eighteen months the board hold further emergency meetings, concluding that they are best placed cashing in on you while they still can. Beware though, this may not happen immediately. In the event of a stubborn board calling your bluff you are advised to let your agent handle the matter. Naturally he already is. Whilst the board were frantically debating their action plan, before resigning themselves to losing you, your agent was on the phone to the press (again). He told them that your contract was up soon and that if you weren’t offered a ‘fair deal’ by the board then you would have no other option but to leave on a free transfer.
Step six is when publicity really becomes crucial to your legacy. A wise move now would be to fall out with a fellow player or the manager. This will give you a believable reason to leave the club and the fans will be more forgiving. It’s also a useful trick for those players tied down to longer contracts because an unreconcilable dispute with the manager is the perfect reason to request a transfer. Again, it’s best to let your agent handle the press by leaking tales of discontent in the dressing room.
Step seven and you’re almost there now. As the inevitability of your transfer becomes apparent, some militant supporters hold protests, bring banners to games and bombard Internet forums with messages of pure disgust all of which are directed at the board. A small minority hold you accountable, but they’re a minority so don’t worry too much about them.
Your last game at the club is vital. It’s not so much about how well you play or whether or not the team wins, but about how convincing an actor you are. Even if you don’t care any more, try and look like you do. You’re permitted to wave to the crowd this time. They’ll love that and if you’re lucky the television cameras will catch a young child weeping at the thought of losing his idol. If you’re not willing to take any risks then carefully target a child to weep as you pass him your shirt and ruffle his hair at the final whistle. The importance of a brilliant performance cannot be overstated here. If you get this right you’ll come away looking like the tragic hero of the people who was driven away by the greedy corporate villains on the board, leaving the poor weeping child to fend for himself. Get it wrong and you’ll look like another spoilt brat who doesn’t care about the club or the fans or anyone but himself.
After your last game, it’s payday! The signing on fee at your new club is more than ample and your agent gets a nice fat slice of the pie which, after all his hard work telling lies on the telephone, he most definitely deserves. Now you can play at the club you’ve always dreamed of playing at, in front of the fans you love, in the city where you belong. What more could you possibly ever want?
Congratulations!!! You’ve made it (again…).