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Wayne Rooney, Luis Suarez and the 'death' of player power

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and Liverpool's Luis Suarez have been heralded as examples of the death of player power, but is that necessarily a good thing?

Clive Brunskill

Whenever it's looked like any of the big transfer sagas in this window - Wayne Rooney, Luiz Suarez and Gareth Bale the leading three - might go against the player, and that they'll be forced to remain at their current place of employment, it's been celebrated as a swing away from 'player power.' A mysterious force which allows footballers and their agents to force the hand of their own club into selling them to their desired buyer, and which we are all intended to believe is a bad thing.

There's a problem here, however. Assuming there's only a limited amount of power in the footballing universe, then if one group of people become more powerful, another group becomes disenfranchised. If footballers don't have the power, who does? The fans? That's a quaint notion. No, it's owners.

Clubs rarely, if ever make decisions based on the fan reaction. This should be obvious by counting the number of times you've heard the phrase "let him rot in the reverses" versus how many times you can remember players actually festering there. Fans and owners don't have the same conception of what constitutes 'the club', and thus can never hope to agree on what direction it should take. Nobody gets to be in charge of a business by caring about things like loyalty, or sentimentality, or race relations.

Still, the thing about club owners, at least they got to their position through their own hard work, rather than by some fluke of nature like footballers. After all, running the show this transfer window have been.. ah yes, Ed Woodward. The Glazer Family. Roman Abramovich. Sheikh Mansour. Vincent Tan. That guy at Hull. Nietzschean supermen all, who deserve their place in the world and acquired their vast wealth through entirely fair means while deserving every penny, I'm sure you'll agree.

Owners of football clubs are universally very rich people, and what's good for them is rarely good for anyone else. Someone taking over a football club now who announces he will not rename the club and stadium after himself and insist a picture of his face is tattooed across the buttocks of every player is heralded as a staunch traditionalist and man of the people. There exists a 'fit and proper person' test which wouldn't prevent Bashar Al-Assad from looking at a retirement plan on the upper slopes of the Championship. This is not the current state of affairs by accident, but because of the designs of very rich people.

If Bale, Rooney and Suarez all do get their dream moves and leave, it's hard to see how any fans have been short-changed exactly, assuming the money is reinvested sensibly. Indeed, in the case of the latter two, many fans will only be too happy to see them out of the door at a reduced fee. There are questions to be asked about concentrating such power in the hands of millionaires, of course. But giving it to billionaires instead probably isn't the answer.

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It seems, after the latest England squad was announced, that a couple of good recent games are all that is required to get a shot in the team these days. Rickie Lambert and Leon Osman have been token old-man inclusions, while now Ross Barkley, prodigious talent though he is, makes the cut based on.., well, not very much at all.

Yet for all that, Roy Hodgson has made it clear that he has "every faith" in Joe Hart and will stick with him in goal. His most questionable big player has had a sharp and sudden decline in form, and Hodgson's response is to proclaim him as undroppable. If Hart is the sort of player who needs to be stuck by in the hard times, then surely he would've improved by now, given that he's been first choice for club and country during an appalling run? Nobody who had watched Hart and Fraser Forster over the past year would be moved to say the former was, on current form, a better player, but it seems other things are more important.

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It's odd that as we get closer to the end of the transfer window, it's actually becoming less clear who's likely to end up where. Luis Suarez, Gareth Bale and Wayne Rooney all looked certain to leave, and now deals are faltering and mystery buyers coming in from the shadows. Manchester United and Arsenal are also poised to compete with each other to launch the mother of all panic-sprees.

This is in sharp contrast to the likes of Manchester City, but perhaps Daniel Levy was right all along and it is best to wait until the end of the window to get business done. City vastly overpaid for talent that was available rather than exceptional, while Tottenham, who kept their powder dry for longer, got a far more impressive haul. If United and Arsenal can pull something as spectacular as rumoured out of the bag in the final days, then those who got their business out of the way at the beginning might look slightly daft.

Most interesting of all, however, is the prospect of United and Arsenal actually competing for the same targets. Mesut Ozil, Cesc Fabregas and Juan Mata are three players who have been linked to both. Given that Arsene Wenger has missed out on one target this year to Wolfsburg, it would be a brave man backing Arsenal were it to come to an outright tug-of-war. Leaving it late may be a better idea for some clubs more than others.

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