This morning we had some quotes from Victor Moses that will no doubt cast the youngster in a negative light with many fans. In January, Gary Cahill received much of the same sort of treatment when his contract talks caused his transfer to drag out over the course of several weeks. Samir Nasri is wildly unpopular with Arsenal fans, Ashley Cole and Emanuel Adebayor are the same type of pariahs in their eyes.
As fans, we look at football as something fun to spend our free time following. Most of us tune in every week to watch Chelsea play, and I'd assume we all do so because we love the game. Some gamble on it, some use it as an excuse to drink, but in the end whatever we've invested in football is of our own choice. If the sport suddenly ceased to exist, we'd find something else to do with our time.
Professional players, on the other hand, would have much more to lose without the game. Most of these guys have been training since childhood, putting in tens of thousands of hours before they ever collect their first modest paycheck. Those fortunate enough to become professionals often make fairly minimal salaries upon signing their first contract, certainly nowhere near enough to live the rest of their lives on.
As fans, most of us have jobs doing something other than playing football. We go to school until we're around 18, and then many of us continue our education at a university. Some even go so far as to continue learning after that, as better jobs often require more education. There's flexibility here for students, as many times the education they'd received will give them qualifications for any number of fields, opening many doors for career changes down the road. We can change careers a few times as well, as the bulk of the workforce has a good 45-50 year window to carve out their career. The mind tends to decay slowly, so we all have a long time in the work force ahead of ourselves.
Footballers are different. They train to play football. They take classes and receive a similar education as the rest of us up to the age of 17 or 18, but at that point they move into their respective "work force". They train to be a better player by playing, the harder they train the better they generally become. Unfortunately this training doesn't really translate well to anything outside of the sport, so after their playing days are done there will be very little in the way of work that they'll be qualified for. Honestly ask yourself...as an employer, could you picture Ashley Cole being qualified for, well, anything?
As a footballer, Ashely is likely to have a career spanning at most 20 years. Most average players are just about done in their early 30's. That means that most footballers will have careers that last about 1/3 the length of the average joe before being placed into the same work force as ourselves, but they enter as some of the least qualified potential hires imaginable.
There's also inherent risk in football. Some jackass like Stephen Hunt could recklessly fracture your skull. Joey Barton could act like his loathsome self and decide to stub his cigar in your eye. Your body could do something unexpected, as Eric Abidal or Fabrice Muamba would certainly tell you. These things happening to you or I would certainly affect our job, but in most cases it would not end our ability to pursue our chosen career. In the case that it did, we'd still have our education to fall back on as we changed. As a footballer, those types of events could spell the end of your playing days immediately. What exactly will they be able to do at that point?
Victor Moses will take a lot of grief in the coming days for saying that he'll go to the highest bidder, but take a moment and look at things from his perspective. He's 21. He's probably made a tidy check for you or I in his time at Wigan, but if he suffered the same fate as Fabrice Muamba he'd certainly not have enough to survive on beyond the next few years*. He'd be back to square one, and at the bottom of the food chain in the work force.
*I say that without knowing if he's hit the jackpot with investments, but somehow I doubt it
Victor Moses showed flashes of greatness last year at an age where most players are staring to break into the first team as semi-regulars. He's in the last year of his contract, a deal which pays him next to nothing. As far as Wigan goes, I'd hardly call it the ideal workplace. I'm sure they are far from awful, but even the most diehard Wigan fan would admit that there are certainly clubs that offer better facilities, training, and coaching. There are plenty or greener pastures out there.
Wigan are indeed offering Moses a raise, but in all likelihood that raise will still be among the smallest offers he'd see (if not the smallest by a good margin) if he was out of contract. This will be his first chance to sign a substantial contract, and it's very possible that it could be his only one. After the season he just had, his value is as high as it's ever been. Can you really fault him for wanting that contract that will let him live more comfortably and start to prepare himself for life after the game? Would any of you fault Graham of I for leaving SB Nation if some other site came calling with a 100K salary? Would you boycott reading our work at the new place because we weren't loyal?
There's another side to this coin as well. Had Wigan assumed some risk and offered this deal a year ago, do you think there's any chance we'd be having this debate now? They knew Victor was nearing the end of his deal, and instead of locking him up with a big deal early (the way Arsenal tend to work with youngsters), they waited to see how he developed. If he had a poor year and regressed, do you think they'd be offering him a big new deal at all? They wouldn't, they might not even be offering any extension. That's the right of the club, and they took it. Moses having a great year helped the club, but it certainly hurt their chances of retaining him. It's hard to fault Moses for not being loyal to the club when they took a very businesslike approach to him last summer.
Consider this as well...Victor Moses is a competitor. He's a very talented 21 year old with elite clubs looking for his signature. Do you think he got to that point by thinking he's not good enough to find a role at any club there is? If Chelsea bid for him, it should only reaffirm his belief that he's got elite talent. While you or I would likely debate whether or not he'd be Chelsea quality I doubt that thought really crosses his mind. He'd obviously know that there's more competition here, but I'd actually be shocked if he felt he wasn't good enough to prevail. He'll certainly see himself outgrowing Wigan as a player in the very near future if he doesn't believe he already has. We should really be criticizing him if he was to settle for their offer, as he's clearly too good to play out 5 more years at that club.
I've rambled for a bit here, but my point is very simple. Wages are important to all of us, footballers included. I don't think anyone here has ever been loyal enough to their employer that they'd turn down a job with better work conditions and double the paycheck at a new employer because of loyalty to the guy currently paying the bills. We're certainly talking about much larger figures with footballers than we are with accountants, but should that matter? At what point is it unacceptable to want more money if employers are happily willing to pay it? People all over the globe survive on scraps. Does that make it wrong for me to change employers so I can live more comfortably even though I already get by more comfortably than some? Am I wrong for wanting to make more money so that my kids college education will be paid for? Players have other things in their lives beyond the game, and wanting to earn more in their brief career should never be frowned upon.
In my eyes, Victor Moses is doing nothing wrong. He's worked hard and improved, and he's never been dishonest with Wigan. He signed a contract with them and has honored it, and has never made a peep that he'd be unwilling to play out the final year of his deal. Wigan didn't feel strongly enough about Moses to lock him down before he outgrew the club, and that's the risk you take when you take longer to evaluate what you have. This isn't a Cesc Fabregas situation in which the player forced his way out of a long term deal in which his employer had assumed large amounts of risk, Moses has honored the commitment he made to Wigan when he joined. He's just developed beyond their payscale, and that fact that he's acknowledged that shouldn't make him a pariah. Don't hold players to different moral standards than yourselves because they are working on a different payscale than you are. You and I follow clubs for fun, for these guys, it's how they survive. If anything, he should be applauded for being honest with the fans and the club about what he'd like.