I’m an avid fan of the Football Manager series. The game has evolved so much in the last 10 years by introducing all manner of managerial issues such as individual training options, types of team talks and the most annoying of them all, player contract negotiations.
Often you will stumble across a player who has exceptional talents, be it defensive stalwart or prolific goalscorer, with a buy-out that’s more than affordable only to find he wants a higher though still ridiculously low release clause included in the new contract. I usually swiftly exit talks, withdraw contract offer and call it a day.
From a managers perspective I find it infuriating. Why should I invest my time on a player who will only be looking at the exit door when a bigger, richer club comes in for him? However, is it really bad business for the club? I don’t think so.
When Ba first arrived in the UK he was branded a ‘ticking time-bomb’ and liability by Stoke manager Tony Pulis. Terms had all but been agreed until he failed a medical citing a knee injury as too big a risk for the £6m being demanded. West Ham took the plunge with only a paltry £500k and didn’t really get to reap the full rewards. Even though he was promising to be a prolific scorer he couldn’t save the club from relegation.
This was when Ba first decided to use a release clause in his contract, allowing him to leave for nothing following the Hammers going down and also leaving a very bitter taste in the fans mouth. The Toon was his next destination although from the start it was clear this wasn’t a permanent home. The £7m buy-out in his deal at St James Park was so widely known that speculation was always there in either transfer windows. Hell, even Football Manager knew about it! And for Benitez it was a no-brainer with a departing Sturridge and an inconsistent Torres.
So as a result he now resides in London with the current European champions on a reported £75k-a-week deal, higher profile and talented players around him. Life is good for Demba Ba. But what about Newcastle? They can’t feel too aggrieved. As pointed out above the Geordies directly benefited from Ba utilising a release clause in his previous contract. Signing a proven Premier League goalscorer for free at the age of 26 was a marvellous bit of business, even if there were still lingering doubts about his fitness and must have hurt West Ham and their fans deeply. Newcastle enjoyed the strikers average of just over a goal every 2 games.
Dig a little deeper though and speculation suggests that Ba has made a pretty penny out Newcastle and its not all profit for them. Co-owner of West Ham David Sullivan said:
“I’m told he’s got a £7m get-out at Newcastle and he gets half the money, so if they sell him for £7m they’ll only net about three. Getting £3m is not bad but, for a player of his quality, it’s not fantastic. And Newcastle paid his agent £2m to get him out of here [West Ham]. Newcastle keep denying it but I think you’ll see in the summer he will either leave Newcastle or get a monstrous rise to stay there.”
Not bad for 18 months work. Savvy business skills from Ba and/or his agent.
Nowadays player loyalty is a very rare occurrence and the working man can no longer relate to footballers, especially as the ludicrous wages on offer for their equivalent to a days work cannot be compared. But one thing we must understand is their career can be short lived. Given that it can be such a short playing career I actually understand Ba’s approach to the business side of his work.
The degenerative knee condition that has caused 2 clubs (Stuttgart & Stoke) to promptly cancel previous transfer deals must have caused serious doubt for the strikers career progression. Would anyone else take a risk on him? How many other chances would he get and what kind of level would he be playing at? If the claims by David Sullivan are true then Ba has set himself up for life and can now enjoy the benefits. His parting shot to his previous clubs wasn’t the best choice of words. “[Chelsea] is at another level, it isn’t West Ham or Newcastle.” He definitely isn’t loyal but ambitious? Looks like it.
I believe these types of clauses are actually beneficial for the player who has the belief in their ability and wants to go all the way up the modern game. Make a name for yourself and a bigger club will come and trigger the release clause. Repeat the same club after club until you get to the top.
If you’re a smaller club then come to terms when you sign the player that you are a stepping stone but that he will be playing out his skin to get that move and hopefully resulting in great performances for your club. Although Chelsea aren’t the biggest club in world football they certainly are one of the biggest in England, which is also the richest.
At Ba’s age and the level he has now reached we will see if he really is as ambitious as his rise to prominence suggests or just the mercenary who thinks he’s now made it. And is there another release clause we don’t know about yet? Two goals in his first game suggests he might still have one more move to play for or maybe this is now in his mind ‘the big time’.
Watch this space.