Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Berbatov...what's the point in a contract?

Away from Manchester City for a moment and a quick look at the behaviour of their (once-richer!) rivals Manchester United on deadline-day - in particular their signing of Dimitar Berbatov for £30.75million (plus Fraizer Campbell) from Spurs.

That the Bulgarian international moved to Old Trafford was no surprise - but the events of Monday (Sep 1) gave more ammunition to those who think football is terminally ill. How could a player under contract at one club speak to another without their permission (as Sky Sports News kept reminding us was happening)?

Moreover, Manchester United were not even discrete about it. Sir Alex Ferguson - an arse at times, but without doubt a legend of the game - even picked the player up from the airport in his own car! And all the time, the media kept telling us the only club given permission to talk to Berbatov was Manchester City, who had offered silly money.

So what actually happened? Did Berbatov tell his bosses at White Hart Lane he was off to talk to Man City before nipping to Man Utd instead? Did Man Utd deliberately keep Berbatov with them for as long as possible so he couldn't physically chat to Mark Hughes across the city - and Sparky himself did suggest earlier in the day he expected to talk to the player? Those who know will probably never reveal the facts.

The eventual outcome showed how money talks in football. As part of the deal, Spurs agreed to drop their official complaint against Man Utd. Am I the only one who has visions of chants of "You Sold Out" flying across North London? No, I thought not. Given there seems to be enough evidence, a complaint should be made by someone, and investigated, no matter what agreement Spurs and Man City reached.

Message boards across the internet were full of neutral fans hoping Man City would somehow snatch the player from under Ferguson's large red nose, but it wasn't to be. Perhaps Berbatov should be applauded, however much it grates following how he treated Spurs, for following his heart and not his wallet. Because let's not kid ourselves, Man City could have offered him far, far, far more money than their neighbours in red (see Robinho's wage packet here!).

But even now, even though it is becoming clearer to more and more people that top-flight football is terminally ill as the cancer of silly money eats away at it at an ever-increasing rate, the fact "little" Man City tried to spoil the party of their big, bad neighbours is worthy of a chuckle.

For although the game is dying - and has been for some years - we are in for a roller coaster ride that promises to be incredibly enjoyable along the way...just not from a football viewpoint.