The One Club
by Dave Gardner
Jul 17, 2014 3:46 AM EDT
Steven Gerrard has had a tough summer.
His slip late in the Premier League season was blamed for opening the door to Manchester City’s run for the top; he lacked any kind of spark while leading England’s brief sojourn in Brazil and Liverpool lost the one player truly capable of winning the team the title.
But as the post World Cup spending spree goes on apace, Gerrard remains one of a dying breed.
He’s a one-club man, a player with such loyalty to Liverpool we can no longer imagine him playing for anyone else. Neither, I suspect, can he.
There’s also Messi, of course, and his Barcelona teammates Iniesta and Xavi. John Terry still bleeds Chelsea blue and Roma captain Francesco Totti has played for the same team for a staggering 22 seasons.
Even at Real Madrid, with its revolving door for superstars, Iker Casillas has been between the posts for over 600 games.
Ryan Giggs skipped through 900 games for Manchester United, following in the tradition of one-club legends like Bobby Charlton, and Paolo Maldini appeared in 647 league matches for AC Milan.
But it’s becoming increasingly difficult for managers to rely on players being there from one year to the next, particularly if they are seen as “selling” clubs..
With Diego Costa and now left-back Filipe Luis departing for Chelsea, manager Diego Simeone is likely to be left with a mere shell of the Athletico Madrid team that was so successful last season. Southampton was stripped like a hot Mercedes.
Using the finals in Brazil as their shop window, many more players are hoping to cash in on a big money move.
Liverpool’s legendary manager Bill Shankley was always a little mystified by the idea of a contract. His attitude was, why would I want to manage anywhere else? He was equally impatient with players who wanted to move away from the team he considered the best in the world.
Fans don’t switch from club to club just because they have a little more money in their pockets or a little less. They stick to one team and suffer through the bad years clinging to memories of happier times or hopes of better things.
Moving on to another club is not an option, at least for real fans.
Why then do we put up with our favorite players following the money and not looking back? Does anyone really believe that Luis Suarez will still bleed red when it’s striped with blue? Carlos Tevez is still revered as a hero at Upton Park for saving West Ham from relegation and gets a standing ovation every time he returns – but that was four clubs and just as many pay hikes ago now.
So kudos to the Gerrards and Terrys, the Messis and Tottis. They have shown that quality that transcends sport – a loyalty that joins humanity through the best and worst of times.
So let the soccer mercenaries make their moves and change their strips with the seasons.
One day they will find themselves looking for their spiritual football home – and they won’t be able to find their way back.