No matter how much I'd like to believe otherwise, Football Manager is not like real life (my impressive trophy haul, notwithstanding). And yet as I read the reactions and over reactions of people the moment they hear contract negotiations are underway it seems to be the majority of football fans have built up their knowledge of the negotiation process from something as realistic as Fernando Torres winning a Golden Boot.
When playing the game, when it's time to sign up your promising youngster to a long term deal or extend your star players time at the club, you click a few buttons and away you go, you offer, they counter offer, you re-offer and this goes on until five minutes later it’s all settled. But in real life the art of negotiation is more of a subtle dance, a tango between a team and its player and his agent.
Warning: Not real life!
Playing the background music for this is the press who publish whispers and rumours. Every day we hear a change, Manchester United have offered Welbeck 40k, a day later its 50k. But the player wants 70, no make that 100! All the while fans look aghast thinking that Welbeck is simply about to walk out the door any minute now and never play again. If his new contract isn't signed today, then it never will be!
The fact is like so many things in football, contracts come down to simple business. Supply and demand. The clubs want to pay as little as possible, the players and their agents want to extract every last pound they can. This takes time to agree, clubs start low, players ask high and if you're lucky, they meet somewhere in the middle.
What I've heard most recently is the comparison between Rooney and Welbeck. If Welbeck truly wants 60-80 thousand a week, how is that not fair when Rooney is on over 200 grand. Welbeck is a lot more than half the player Rooney is don't you know! But it doesn't work like that. When Wayne Rooney decided it was time to re-negotiate, he had Manchester United bent over a barrel. He was not only by far their best player but also one of the most commercially sound asset. Not only that but had he left, Manchester City were waiting to make all his bank account balance dreams come true. Manchester United could NOT let that happen. Rooney had the upper-hand and so he walked out with the highest wages Manchester United have ever given. When summer time came Wesley Sneijder didn't have the same advantages so he walked away with nothing.
Danny Welbeck does not have the same power as Wayne Rooney. He's good, could be great. And for United fans his huge appeal is he's a local lad, home-grown. But the money men don't care if you're from Manchester or Mumbai. If they can get Welbeck to accept 40k they will, they don't pay bonuses for locality. If Welbeck is serious he could play back, request to leave the club and allow Ferguson and Gill to look at the market. Can they replace Welbeck with a similarly good player for the same amount they are offering now? If not, increase the wage offer. This won't happen in a day or two, this can take months. This isn't a ‘pay row’ as the papers will try and tell you, its contract negotiation and United still have 18 months before the worst possible outcome becomes a reality and Welbeck leaves on a free.
For United fans, this goal alone was worth seventy grand a week.
What’s made the situation even more dire for fans however is the word that Paul Pogba and Ravel Morrison are in similar straits. Two hugely promising talents but I can count their first team appearances on two hands. They, or their agents, seem to have aimed high, asking for United for the kind of wages an average first teamer gets elsewhere in the Premiership. The fans are clamouring for United to give in, we cannot lose these two, not in our most weakened position. But to allow this would be to set precedent. Every player coming through would play a game or two and ask for 20k. This isn't like a game where you can accept paying out an extra 10 or 20 grand just to seal the deal. This is real money. These aren't just names on a screen but real people with teammates just as anxious to see how it turns out as the fans are. It’s actual ability that earns high wages, not potential.
I want Pogba, Morrison and Welbeck to stay, I hope and believe they could be the future of Manchester United for years to come, but now is not the time to give in to player power and allow the other side win. Negotiations are a war, a battle filled with misinformation and mind games. The fans will just have to sit back and try to relax and let the papers pull out their imaginary figures probably stoked by the agents looking to get their clients, and by proxy themselves, the highest pay-out.
Huzzah! Thirty grand contracts for everyone!
Unlike a game, this will take time, but if the players truly want to be at Manchester United and fulfil their potential an agreement will be reached. Not as low as United want, not as high the players want, but somewhere in the middle, which is just what the fans should want.
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Good article, don't disagree with any of it. The key point for me is that wages have to reflect ability and/or achievements and not just potential. In addition to setting a dangerous precedent, the other danger is that if players do not fulfil that potential then they will be overpaid and we'll never get rid of them! Just ask City...
Great point. And ask any football fan with a good knowledge of finance (of which I am not claiming to be) and they will tell you that its wages which are the key spending factor for clubs. Not transfer fees. Thats why United were willing to pay 30 million plus for Sneijder in the summer but baulked at 200k a week. You get stuck with high wages and you went up loaning a player out to your rivals all the while paying him 5 million a year (see Adebayor)!