Winston Reid and Fabian Delph have set a good example
At the turn of 2014, the list of expiring contracts in European football was as rich as it had been been for a while. The group of players who would be available on Bosman transfers from June onwards was diverse and talented and it offered clubs across the continent a rare opportunity to shop on a budget.
Semi Khedira was and remains the big-ticket item, with his Real Madrid contract still not having been renewed, but Balasz Dzsudzak, Andre Ayew, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Dani Alves, Andrea Ranocchia, and Luiz Adriano are all still unprotected and will all likely find new homes for free during the Summer.
More locally, several Premier League also find themselves in similar situations. James Milner seems no closer to agreeing an extension at Manchester City, Danny Ings will clearly not extend his stay at Turf Moor beyond the current season, and Youssuf Mulumbu, Ron Vlaar, Michael Carrick, Mathieu Flamini and Glen Johnson each offer cut-price solutions to a variety of domestic sides.
To the surprise of most, though, Fabian Delph and Winston Reid are no longer in the same situation. Delph extended his Aston Villa contract shortly before Paul Lambert left the club and Reid announced this week that he had committed his long-term future to West Ham.
Back in December, you wouldn’t have got odds on that happening. Both players had reputations which transcended their current sides and both, should they have wished to, could have secured moves further up the table.
The allure of playing for a bigger club is obvious and, had they opted to leave, both would have been playing some form of continental football in 2015/16. Beyond that, however, there’s a clear financial incentive: without the burden of a fee to pay, interested clubs are more inclined to offer more generous personal terms and so, in all probability, Reid and Delph have each turned down a material, as well as a reputational gain.
And they should be applauded for it.
English football has been afflicted by this problem for too long. Because of the wealth of the Premier League, a culture of avarice has grown and players have – in the past – been determined to ignore their pure footballing interests for the sake of a weightier weekly cheque.
Similarly, sides who are able to acquire players on free-transfers often, as a result of the lack of financial risk involved, seem to see such players as squad-filler and as a good way to fill the gaps on their substitutes’ bench.
With both Reid and Delph reportedly being of interest to sides like Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal, that was a very real danger. Both have made substantial progress as a result of continued first-team selection, but both could have taken a figurative backward step by putting their playing time at risk.
It sounds like an obvious situation to avoid, but how many players – both in free agent and normal transfer situations – have fallen into that very trap?
The circumstances around Fabian Delph’s and Winston Reid’s extensions are presumably different, but it’s refreshing to witness what seems like the beginning of a shift in mentality. There will always be players who chase the notoriety and wealth on offer at a top club – even if they never stand a chance of becoming a regular starter there – but to see two high-profile, highly-desirable talents buck that trend and re-commit to clubs to whom they owe their development is not only refreshing, but also very healthy.
At the very least, if Reid or Delph do decide to leave their clubs in the future, they have now guaranteed them the receipt of a substantial, compensatory transfer-fee.
These two have set a good example and, rather than chastise them for a perceived ‘lack of ambition’, they – and their respective advisers – should be congratulated for their level-headed approach to career-building.