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Player power and the responsibilities that come with it
By Abdalla M. Taryam August 29, 2010
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‘It’s a disease’ explained Tony Pulis and he could not have described the situation any better. The disorder that has become far too common amongst football players, who are supposed to be professional, is slowly bringing clubs to their knees.

The Stoke City manager is of course talking about the actions of his goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, when he refused to take part in a recent cup match in protest of not being granted a transfer.

Now Begovic is hardly a house-hold name in European football and is currently second choice for his Premier League club, so when a club like Chelsea come knocking its normal for a player like him to get overexcited. It’s not like he is going to go and depose Petr Cech, but merely joining the blues to gather the balls after training.

It’s still his right to follow his dreams, but what about the rights of his employers? The organisation that he signed a contract with and pays his salary. Don’t they deserve a little respect and loyalty?

Now this kind of rebellious behaviour is not limited to little known players from smaller clubs. This stretches all the way to world stars plying their trade at legendary clubs as in the case of Argentina’s World Cup captain, Javier Mascherano.

Regarded by many as one of the best holding midfielders in the world, Javier Mascherano’s career was saved when given a chance at Liverpool after a dreadful year at West Ham. He quickly entered the hearts of the Anfield faithful by displaying passion and work ethic that propelled him to the Argentine captaincy. Fans chanted songs in his name, an honour that put him among an elite group with the legends that had graced Anfield before him. Surely that is enough for a player to show a little respect.

To be fair, he did make it known publicly that his family found it really difficult to settle down in the North of England. On numerous occasions he respectfully discussed the possibility of leaving for family reasons and the fans accepted the fact that he would leave sooner rather than later. His previous manager Rafa Benitez even promised to grant his wish last year if he gave him and Liverpool one more season, which he wholeheartedly did. Even though they were resigned to letting him go, his actions in the last couple of days has left Liverpool staff and fans fuming.

With the transfer window deadline approaching, Mascherano was thrilled when Barcelona came in with a bid for his services. To no one’s surprise it was way below the appropriate value mainly because rival clubs knew the predicament Liverpool were in and will try to take advantage. Duly Liverpool rejected the bid and notified Barcelona about their asking price.

The timing of this bid was also a little awkward since it came on the eve of an important early season league match against direct rivals Manchester City. This prompted Mascherano to panic and revolt against his employers and refuse to take part in the match. Obviously this incident took its toll on the morale of his teammates and played a part in the humbling defeat that night.

Nobody is blaming Mascherano for wanting to leave Liverpool and join Messi and co. at Barcelona where his family will surely feel at home, but a little patience and some loyalty would have helped. Liverpool needed to protect the value of its asset and negotiate the best possible deal, but he was either too dumb to realise this or simply ungrateful to the team that made him famous.

Well Mascherano got his wish as Liverpool are too big of a club to keep a player against his will and ruin the harmony in their dressing room. Begovic may not be so lucky as smaller clubs tend to play hardball and make examples of players who try holding them to ransom. The question remains though as to what levels of power will these players, the employees, reach to have the footballing authorities take action.

These two players are not the first to go to great lengths to get their way as many high profile names before them have managed to disrespect their teammates and fans this way. They certainly won’t be the last to try and, as with most diseases, if not treated will lead to death. And football as we know it will definitely die if a cure for this growing player power is not found.

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