What's happening with young footballers these days? Players today seem to have different priorities. In a society where participation and financial benefits are celebrated more than achievement, we are seeing more and more young players choose clubs where playing time is ensured over clubs that have better chances of winning major trophies.
What happened to fighting for a position in the first team? What happened to getting a contract based on performance rather than potential? Lastly, what happened to showing respect to clubs, coaches and fans?
Gareth Bale moved to north London in 2007 to play for Tottenham Hotspur with the prospect of first team football being the most appealing aspect. Perhaps the move was great for his career initially. But, having just signed a new contract, he could have played for any club in Europe. However would he be willing to sacrifice first team football, and challenge a player for his position, to have shot at winning trophies?
Ravel Morrison is another example. A troubled youngster who had the full support of his club, Manchester United, and the hopes of all the fans. But with unrealistic contract demands, based purely on potential rather than performance, and a lack of respect, one of the most talked about products of Manchester United's academy moved to London. Will he be able to reach his full potential at West Ham?
Even Eden Hazard was afraid of challenging the Manchester City players for a spot in their first eleven. He is clearly talented and knows it enough to auction himself to City, Manchester United and Chelsea, among many other clubs. But, again, we have another young player making first team football his top priority. Of course they're all not the same.
Phil Jones is keeping Rio Ferdinand on his toes and many other young players, in the reserve and youth teams of every major club in Europe, have the same frame of mind. However, some seem to give up and move on quite early, such as Ezekiel Fryers who has, all but, signed for Tottenham at only 19. Even with Evra's form in decline and Fabio moving away on loan, he has chosen to shift away from Manchester United due to his wage demands.
But now the question is; why is this trend starting to appear? Is it because of our society where participation is praised, but competition is scorned? Probably not. Without ambition and competitiveness, young players wouldn't have become professional footballers. But has it created a feeling that money and participation are much more important than winning? How many young players actually have a winning mentality? Have players lost the urge to fight for a spot in the first eleven?
Another possibly is the creation of the squad mentality. The first eleven is becoming more non-existent every season. Why fight hard for a position when someone else will play there next week? Teams such as Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Real Madrid all play with a squad. Only world class players such as Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and a few others would be guaranteed a place in their respective teams each week, if fit. The rest of the team becomes interchangeable parts for the manager to piece together each week in order for the squad to perform throughout a grueling season. Has this given less satisfaction in winning a place on the first team thus making young players move on to other clubs?
Lastly, players these days, perhaps due to football agents, also have high wage demands. But these demands are based on nothing but potential. Do these players really have a better opinion of themselves than their clubs and managers?
Nevertheless, there are just so many possible reasons. It's probably better not to fight against it, but to accept it. Clubs don't show respect to players and managers either, so who's to blame? Modern football has changed and will keep changing. Clubs and supporters will just have to live with it. All we can do is hope these young kids have the right guidance and support before making such big decisions.
For as long as they reach their full potential, club supporters shouldn't be bitter. The club is bigger than any player anyway. If we get to see just one moment of magic from any player mentioned above, just be happy you witnessed it and ignore the color of his shirt and the emblem on his chest.