Friday, October 29, 2004

Harsh Lesson – or Cheap Stunt?

I see Chelski have sacked Adrian Mutu following his failed dope test. Perhaps this signifies the way forward for clubs when players step out of line, but in all probability I doubt it.

The problem is that rather than simply being employees, footballers are financial assets which belong to clubs. Consequently, if you sack a player, you write off that asset, and only Chelski can afford to do that.

Leeds didn't stick by messers Bowyer and Woodgate following their trial because of some unerring loyalty to them, they knew that if they were found guilty and they sacked them that it wouldn't be long before someone else came along, picked them up for nothing and got them playing again.

Mutu's situation is complicated by the fact that he will probably face a suspension for his crimes, but given football's soft stance on the issue of drugs, I expect to see him back playing before too long, and expect a number of clubs to be chasing him.

It's the nature of football managers that they all believe they can tame the bad lads and get them playing the beautiful game – sometimes they can (e.g. Paolo di Canio at West Ham after the ref pushing debacle), and sometimes they can't (e.g. Lee Bowyer at West Ham), but nonetheless they all think they can do what nobody else can.

It's that kind of arrogance that makes a player want to be a manager, and sees the best managers rise to the top.

In this instance, I would applaud the position taken by Mourinho, but for the fact that he's wanted rid of Mutu for ages, and seized a chance to get him off the wage bill, absorbing a financial loss which Abramovich can easily afford and masked it as a stance against drug users.

Don't kid yourselves into thinking this is some grand crusade against drugs in football (or even drugs in Chelsea), it’s just an opportunity for Jose to get shot of a player he doesn't want, and show his squad who is in charge: but don't expect another club to follow suit.

Can you imagine, for example a team in the bottom half of the premiership sacking their star player cos he did something he shouldn't away from the pitch? No chance, they simply couldn’t afford to – and neither could anyone except Chelsea.


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