After starting only 18 times last season for Barcelona, it’s utterly perplexing to think that Yaya Toure has now become the highest paid footballer in the Premier League. The Ivorian is reportedly set to pocket £55.6million from his stay at Manchester City from a wage that will smash the £200,000-a-week barrier after April’s tax increase.
For a player who has yet to take part in an entire season for a club, the fee is not only excessive, it’s wholesomely repugnant.
But it gets worse. On top of his basic wage, the 27-year-old will earn an extra £1.65million from image rights, an extra £823,000 bonus should City qualify for the Champions League, and an added £412,000 for winning the aforementioned competition.
This all comes in addition to the inflated transfer fee of £24million which takes the total of the entire transfer for this single, debatably mediocre, player to £79.6million.
There is something inescapably repulsive about the whole charade.
How has a player of Yaya’s capabilities – who, although not a bad midfielder, is no Lionel Messi or Kaka – become the highest paid Premier League player? It takes no less than an askance glance at the Ivorian’s history to find that Yaya is pretty undeserving of his eyebrow-raising title
Thus far, Toure has played for five clubs: Beveren, Matalurh Donetsk, Olympiacos, Monaco, and of course Barcelona, where he made his name. It is not what could be referred to as an impeccable pedigree. Furthermore, his arrival at the highest echelons of the game came only three years ago. Moreover, those three years have seen the defensive midfielder play gradually less and less football at the Nou Camp. His debut season in the Catalan capital garnered the Ivorian 25 starts in La Liga. His second season saw him slip to 23 and his last, only 18.
His performances at the recent World Cup were similarly uninspiring. Despite being one of the Ivory Coast’s star players, his efforts were easily overlooked in favour of players such as Gervinho.
So, this isn’t a player conquering all before him as his fee would suggest. The implication, therefore, is that if the fee hasn’t been warranted by the player. Instead, the wages are a result of circumstance, and that is the most worrying aspect of the deal.
There was a time when transfers and wage-bills were, in effect, self-regulated by a club’s turnover, by its investors, by its revenue, by its fans. Now, certain clubs can offer whatever they like and there’s a real inherent danger behind offering vast quantities of cash to a single person.
The first is a question of personality, of ego. Can or will a player continue to commit to his club after being made set for life after serving only one year of a lucrative contract? Will the power and virtues that come along with such wealth corrupt the mind of a player, especially those who have never experienced those luxuries before? Can the club be assured that his vast payment will not cause disruption among those already at the club who may deem themselves more deserving of a proportionate salary?
The second question – and perhaps the most pertinent – is how that wealth will affect the relationship between the player and club and the fans. How can fans relate and support a man who is represented as an arrogant playboy prima donna thanks to the environment he finds himself in because of his ridiculous wage packet? Where does the respect manifest in a relationship that stretches right across the rich and poor scale?
Wayne Rooney came under fire for his outburst at fans who booed off England after the Algeria game. Granted, these criticisms were uttered in the heat of the moment, but the instinctive parlance expounded by the forward indicated that he clearly didn’t appreciate the circumstances in which fans find themselves. England fans had travelled thousands of miles, paying thousands of pounds (not supplemented by the FA) just to get a glimpse of their stars in spite of earning a tiny fraction of what the England footballer earns. If they wish to boo, they have paid for the right to do so.
This misunderstanding, this inability to relate or empathise, will only continue to grow as the world of the footballer and the football fan continues to become two entirely separate bubbles of life. And there should be a very real concern for what happens when the relationship simply breakdown. Clubs and players should remember that it is the fans that have created the footballers idyll, that it is the fans that have created the environment in which clubs have financially prospered. For all the multimillion pound signings and lucrative contracts, clubs should be concerned about losing touch with the men who purchase the pies, kits and tickets that run the club because displaying unparalleled wealth without concern may just destroy our love affair with the game.
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