Why Pogba, Hazard, many more flirt with a move to Real Madrid
Background photo: Carlos Delgado, CC BY-SA 3.0
Real Madrid attracts players like bridal magazines attract trophy wives. No matter how many clubs they’ve played for, everyone wants to wear white. Eden Hazard and Paul Pogba are the latest allegedly smitten by Los Blancos.
Both players admitted to reporters they would love to play their football at the Santiago Bernabeu. Context matters. In the Belgian’s case, it appears to be a lifelong ambition. For Pogba, the question included the opportunity to play for the French legend to which he is often compared and contrasted, Zinedine Zidane. Beyond keeping future employment options open with polite answers, such flirtation also alleviates any additional motivation from a prospective opponent. These days, the odds are good you’ll be standing across the pitch from Zizou’s Merengues if you make a Champions League final.
Regardless, Pogba’s diplomacy and Hazard’s supposedly shameless flogging don’t go down well with supporters at their current clubs. Fans can’t imagine why their players wouldn’t want to see out their careers with Manchester United, Chelsea or any other top club. They demand loyalty and commitment, expecting their heroes to laugh away reporters’ queries with Jose Mourinho’s scorn.
Like most people, most fans are not too wealthy. They can’t wrap their minds around what being a millionaire means. While they dream of all the freedom they would have if they could just pick the right six numbers, they seem to think a couple hundred quid per week obligates a footballer to be their slave.
Few players are homegrown these days. A talented lad from Paris, La Louviere or Lagos has no ties to Manchester, London or Leicester other than those he sets upon himself and he is free to remove those at his leisure. The same truth applies to managers. Football is a business. Fans are the consumers. But the business offers no guarantees. The product may prove faulty and terms are subject to change without advance notice. Think of it as a poorly written Rolling Stones song. You can’t ever get what you want and, even if you try sometimes, you can’t shake the need.
The thing is, constant, unpredictable change makes the game interesting. If players and managers came and went at the fans’ whim rather than the club’s or their own, it would be too easy. You’d be bored enough to wish the snooker was on. Or the golf. Transfer rumours and poor performances draw more hits on social media than tributes and highlights. #PogbaOut will trend higher than #ExtendDeGea. We fear change but are drawn by it like a slasher film.
Now, I’ll bore you with the facts.
Paul Pogba is under contract at Manchester United through 2021 with a club option for 2022. He is a massive social media presence whose attachment to the club makes the Glazers a nice chunk of change. He is a positive, expressive footballer who is free to express himself in the current setup. In short, he is happy. Pogba won’t stay at the club forever, but he isn’t planning on leaving this summer. United is the one club he knows won’t be hiring Jose Mourinho anytime soon.
Eden Hazard’s contract is up in 2020. Chelsea spent the last two years trying to extend his deal to no avail. Unlike the Red Devils, who are spending more freely than they ever have in the Glazer era, the Blues are entering the austere phase of the Roman Abramovich era. The Belgian accomplished everything anyone could ask at Stamford Bridge but it isn’t getting easier. If he wants to win more, the Bernabeu is the place for him. Unless Chelsea believe beyond a doubt they can win the Premier League with him in 2019/20, they must sell him before he can leave on a free.
United fans who want to keep Pogba needn’t worry. Those who have a burr in their side for flamboyant personalities must keep finding a more comfortable sitting position. Chelsea fans who want Hazard to stay must deal with the reality that their owner is less ambitious than he once was. If their company suddenly stopped providing vacation time and other benefits and asked employees to work longer and harder with less support, they’d start looking for a new job too.
Fans want their players to fight until the end on the pitch, never giving up on the dream. Why do we expect them to settle for less away from it?