A lack of loyalty or the new psychological contract in football?

Money talks the loudest once again, Valencia in deep financial trouble while Van Persie has become the main man at Arsenal.


1. The ‘Kaka’ saga and the one of Andrei Arshavin raises the question of loyalty. At the end of one spectrum is the Brazilian who is being forced to make a decision on his loyalty after a reported £108m offer while Arshavin has been trying to force himself out of the club ever since the Euro’s. Is this the age of a lack of loyalty or is this part of the new psychological contract in football?

The psychological contract is identified as ‘the perceptions of the two parties, employee and employer, of what their mutual obligations are towards each other.’ (GUEST, D.E. and CONWAY, N. (2002)). These obligations will often be informal and imprecise: they may be inferred from actions or from what has happened in the past, as well as from statements made by the employer.

The argument is that the psychological contract has changed since the economic downturn in the early 90’s where job security was not guaranteed anymore. The old contract involved an understanding where the employee offers commitment to the company as a return of the employer giving job security, good wages and the capacity to progress through the company. The new psychological contract is said to mainly revolve around the individual; wanting more opportunities for development (to progress to other organisations as well as within the current one), flexibility and meaningful work experiences.

Could this be incorporated to football?

Players like Maldini and Ryan Giggs are becoming a less of an occurrence, playing at a single club for the rest of their career. Players want to move on, and to move on to a bigger club. Loyalty is no longer the main factor and the period where the club is the more powerful party seems no more or at least not at the very highest level. We can see clubs preparing for and changing their model for such departures.

The argument is that on both footballing level and the real working environment this has always been the case meaning both theories may be flawed. Either way it seems the individual but more crucially, the ones with the cash have the biggest say.

2. If there was ever one example in how NOT to run a club, it is running a club in the same way as Valencia. Not too recently they decided to build a new stadium (a beautiful one at that) but unlike Arsenal were already €400m in debt and are now by €600m. A club with a decent sized fan base and of decent size tried to punch above their weight by overpaying for players and their wages. They still haven’t found a buyer for the old stadium (or there’s no sign of him/them) and they have at the end of the month to find €30m. If things don’t pick up expect a clearance sale come summer.

3. Robin Van Persie once again inspired Arsenal to a 3-1 win over Hull City. The substitution of Adebayor when previously it would have been the Dutchman underlying his current importance. The performance also showed the ability of the team and that it is nearly complete. Still not as convincing when keeping the ball to deny pressure on the defence and one may argue not very dynamic therefore leading to the use of a high line and highly mobile players.

The strikers fit the mold and on the whole the defence look stronger but central midfield when everyone is back is the main position of uncertainty. Diaby looked strong, got some good tackles in (5 to Denilson’s 2) and tried to provide forward impetus. Both players average touch positions were higher up the pitch as the Gunners were more direct. An interesting stat is that Adebayor received the ball 44 times to Van Persie’s 28 and the two still need work on their combination play.


6 thoughts on “A lack of loyalty or the new psychological contract in football?

  1. Another damn good insightful post.
    What is loyalty really? Do players have an obligation to be loyal to their clubs? It would be another thing if this affected the national team.
    Money talks, always has and always will.

  2. Well in Kaka’s case, the situation isn’t entirely up to him. If Milan decide to sell him, he has to go. I’m sure he would love to stay but I don’t see Milan turning down 107M, especially when they already have someone to step into that role in Gourcuff, or they can buy another replacement and have more than enough pocket change left over. Due to football becoming so global lately, there are more foreign players, most from humbler origins who are seeking every opportunity to advance their footballing career. Football is a very risky way of life and most individuals are seeking the best chance to sustain their career and lifestyle. The average player’s lifespan goes up to their mid to late 30’s, that’s not very long and they need some kind of employment or financial security – even if that means breaking some kind of loyalty to a club.

  3. I’m a little curious about the loyalty of the players you listed.

    Sure, they were one-club man throughout their entire career. But would that have happened if they belonged to a smaller club?

    Manchester United and AC Milan were and are pretty big clubs.

    Regarding that point, I’m sure people understand that the players want to prove themselves at a bigger stage. Nobody knew if Berbatov could make it in the CL until he joined Manchester United.

    It’s just normal. If you worked for a small company dealing with sports shoes, your ultimate goal will be to work for Nike/Adidas. Not necessarily because of the money and fame, you just want to prove that you are good enough.

    Also, there’s the problem of players moving not because there’s no loyalty, but the clubs/managers are showing them disrespect by not fielding them? Are they to accept their fate to sit on the bench forever? There are only 10 outfield players of the same team on the pitch at the same time.
    I admit, though, some of them are too hasty in seeking moves away.

    Of course, for what I’ve listed, there’s loads of players that are black sheep to the players mentioned above.

    P.S. Why no mention of Tony Adams? And I thought this is an Arsenal fansite =p

  4. Yeah I could have mentioned a whole load of players especially from Arsenal.
    I was trying to say are these the new expectations now between clubs and players; that they have to be prepared to let them go now. Players sign a new 5 year contract and in a years time they leave. Where’s the contract in that, where’s the loyalty? Players have always wanted to leave to further their career but now there’s more money, more opportunities to leave and maybe on the whole less respect to clubs.
    Thanks for the comments

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