The unlikely reconciliation

This “contract” thing

It was intriguing to watch Gareth Barry return to first team duties for Aston Villa this weekend given the seemingly burnt bridges that existed between the two parties.  Barry made a determination to leave when he heard that Liverpool were interested and openly critcised manager Matin O’Neill in the media.

This led to a vociferous response from the Villa fans (understandably) and he was greeted by resounding boos when he featured in a reserve team game this week at Walsall.  However, when subbed on the hour the response was more mixed with a decent round of applause from a number of fans. Today he came on as a substitute for the injured Wilfred Bouma in an Intertoto Cup match against Odense and in a solid performance received much warm applause with only the occasional smattering of boos.

You do have to feel sorry for Barry in a sense.  It’s easy to question loyalty but do a straw poll of footballers at the sixteen Premier League clubs outside the top four and most of them would jump at a chance to move to a Champions League team.  If Liverpool were targeting Stilian Petrov or Marlon Harewood few Villa fans would be upset over the departure.

Players have to accept that the fans are the fabric of the club and have an emotional attachment to them as players.  There’s no point banging on about how you love a club and want to finish your career there and running off when something better comes along.  Robbie Keane probably never imagined that a top four club would want his services when he was picking up his Player of the Year award two months ago and proclaiming his love for the club.  Now he might as well be standing on supporter’s doorsteps, jamming a pointed finger in their face and saying “you’re not good enough for me”.

Roy Keane went on last week about how there is no loyalty in football, from either players or clubs.  He brought up his own departure from Man United where he was turfed out in 24 hours after 12 years service.  The imbalance here is that players can be kicked out of clubs once their contracts are paid up.  Players can only buy out their own contracts once the protected period has expired: for those younger than 28 when they signed their contract, they must be three years into their deal – the 28 and overs can use it after just two years.  But this doesn’t help Cristiano Ronaldo, for example, who only signed his deal last year. Or Gareth Barry.

These players must play where they no longer want to play.  Their clubs can put any value on their head rather than a number that reflects a reasonable market value.

Perhaps ultimately every fixed-term contract should have a buy-out clause written in that can be triggered every year for a three month period, effectively making it a rolling 12-month contract.

So if Cristiano Ronaldo signed a five year deal last May, then this May the buy-out on his contract is £21m (four years of wages at £100k a week) plus a compensation amount that is his wages again (another £21m).  So any club can buy him for £42m. In May 2009 that buy-out clause £31.2m and so on until his final year buy-out is just £10.4m.

Gareth Barry is paid about £40k a week and has two years to run on his deal which means that Liverpool could net him for £4.2m this summer.

That way a player knows that if he’s good enough, and is worth the salary he is being paid, then no club can block the way by putting an unreasonable value on their head.  You agreed to the salary offered so you can actually calculate your future buy-out for the length of the deal you are about to sign.

It might seem unfair that Villa could lose their best player for a tiny fee but fees overall would be reduced so they would benefit from being able to pick up cheaper players elsewhere.


Sunderland have picked up Teemu Tainio and Pascal Chimbonda from Tottenham.  Steed Malbranque could be the third Spurs player to join the Black Cats with a fourth, Younes Kaboul, entertaining interest from Aston Villa when he seemed on the virge of signing.

No word on fees even though the combined fee rumoured when all four were targeted was a generous £23m.

Of the four players, Malbranque is arguably the best but Chimbonda has plenty of quality too and really just let himself down with his behaviour last year.  His concentration levels were poor at times and it led to him being ultimately replaced by Alan Hutton last January.  Hutton has been unspectacular but remains a favourite of the management team.

Tainio was hit-and-miss for Tottenham but when he was on, he was great.  His performance against Arsenal in the 5-1 League Cup win was sensational and he finished his career strongly after struggling in the latter days of Martin Jol’s reign.  He’ll do a good job for Sunderland.

Kaboul should go to Portsmouth or Villa.  I don’t think Keane will bring out the best in him as he needs a lot of coaching.  His raw talent in undeniable though; athetlic and powerful.  He just needs to be focused.


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