Mercernaries in shorts

When a Scouser turns down £100,000 a week to stay with Liverpool we really have reached the point where the English Premiership has ceased to have any relation to sporting values.

Even in Italy, the homeland of mad salaries and transfer fees, there is now more club loyalty than in Skysportsland brought to you in conjunction with Russian privatisation profits.

Paolo Maldini is, always has been and always will be, a Milan player. The same for Francesco Totti at Roma and Raul at Real Madrid. Although I see today this news from Serie A which illustrates the nature of the modern footballer perfectly:

Italy striker Christian Vieri has joined AC Milan from city rivals Inter Milan…..At Inter, Vieri was one of the best-paid players in Italy, earning a reported 12 million euros ($14.25 million) a year including sponsorship and marketing deals….Milan’s statement did not reveal how much he would earn at his new club.Milan is Vieri’s 10th club in a much-travelled career which began with Torino.

Vieri is a sign of the future and the ‘one club’ Maldini a reminder of the past. But in England the concept of ‘your club’ only exists for fans and some players in the lower leagues.

Some of you will respond that well, that’s the free market and Gerrard (like Vieri) is only making the most of his market value, but the reason why football works as a business is that unlike in any other area of entertainment the punters will pay £25 a week to watch rubbish just because their team is on the field. The loyalty level is unlike any other area in business. But in the Premier League the clubs are becoming little more than brands – and in the long term that will be bad for business.

In the short term English top level football is now a game run by Rupert Murdoch and Roman Abramovich and played by mercernaries.

Update: Now Gerrard has changed his mind and says he wants to stay at Liverpool after all.