The example of Drogba, Lukaku, Lambert and Holt, among others, sheds the game in a shadow of disloyalty and chaos.
Didier Drogba's final kick in the blue of Chelsea from that penalty spot in Munich catalyzed incessant jubilation and celebration in West London and afar. However, it was just that: his final kick. Even after eight trophy-laden years of glory and success at Stamford Bridge, Drogba was not satisfied. Even after shaping as the fulcrum of a Chelsea team which reached the zenith of its history, Drogba was not satisfied. Even after all the adoration and love washed over him by the adoring carefree masses, Drogba was not satisfied. Thus, in a microcosm of modern day footballing madness, Didier left. It would appear that the lure of Anzhi Makhachkala, the lure of Shanghai Shenhua, the lure of obscure footballing outposts agog with new-found wealth was, ultimately, more powerful and encompassing than the desire to develop and hone a true standing as legend. This is the quandary which besmirches our game in the present moment, with no sign of relent.
Such chaos and greed is not just a phenomenon restricted to Chelsea. However, that club shares a particular affinity with cases of sensationalized exits and unexplained capricious whim. Take, for instance, the very architect of their success. Roberto Di Matteo wrestled control of the reigns at Stamford Bridge in the immediate wake of the malfunctioning Andre Villas-Boas project. Faced with a fractured dressing room and an apparently aging, over-the-hill squad, Di Matteo not only galvanized a team spirit and a harmony conducive with yet more FA Cup glory, but set in motion the plan, the strategy, the technique that morphed into the realization of the Chelsea dream. He made them champions of Europe. However, in this era of year-to-year management and design, even Di Matteo, bedecked with winners medals as he so evidently is, fails to achieve complete inoculation from the axe of Roman Abramovich. The mere fact that his position is in any doubt is a truly harrowing case of footballing madness. Disloyalty, it would appear, spreads as far as ownership.
Perhaps the gravest case of disloyalty, and perhaps the most pertinent caricature of the modern day impulse of mercenary footballers is that of Romelu Lukaku. A phenomenal talent, Lukaku arrived at Chelsea last summer for copious amounts of money. However, firstly under Villas-Boas and now under Di Matteo, his has been a troubled time. Just four starts in the entirety of the season has left Lukaku, in the mode of many a footballer, disenchanted and disgruntled at his standing. Earlier this week, the Belgian reasoned that he doesn't "like people talking to me about the Champions League. It wasn't me, but my team that won," thus fortifying and substantiating the prevailing thought of football as a game of individuals dressed all in the same attire. Where is the passion? Where is the delight at victory? Where is the loyalty?
One-hundred-and-sixteen miles north-east of the exotic, unfathomable Stamford Bridge, Norwich City reside, in a state of flux and turmoil. Last week, the club was rocked by the scandalous transfer request of monolithic target man Grant Holt. Plucked from Shrewsbury Town in 2009, Holt has, by the Canaries management, been transformed and molded into the agent of success. Riding the wave of momentum spawned by his swathes of goals, and his excellent captaincy, Norwich have sprung from the embers of the Third Division to Premier League middleweights in the blinking of an eye. For three successive years, Holt has received the Norwich City Fans Player of the Season, setting numerous records along the way, and has enjoyed nothing but the most fervent of support and love from the Carrow Road faithful. Despite all of this, Holt, in a reflex decision born out of invisible frustration, wants to leave. Is not the backing and idolizing of thousands-upon-thousands of yellow-clad fans worth more than more money in the bank account. In years gone by, it was the very definition of footballing success. However, nowadays, egos have to be massaged, money has to be made, players have to move.
As Delia Smith grapples to keep hold of her star centre-forward, she too, is attempting to keep hold of her manager. Paul Lambert has worked wonders at Norwich City, achieving in great symmetry feats similar to Holt. Surely, those medals and promotions, those memories and achievements, are of more worth to Lambert than is suggested by his unceremonious offering of resignation amid cascading interest from Aston Villa? In this era, you would conclude not.
So, as clubs prepare to grow from year-to-year, as opposed to decade-to-decade, we must watch on in astonishment. Our favorite player will likely remain at our club for a maximum of two years, before testing the waters on "bigger and better things." Our manager will likely stay fixated for a maximum of two years, before either being sacked, or headhunted by a supposedly bigger club. Our squad identity and makeup will change and evolve year after year. Players and managers, now, are hired hands asked to fulfill a purpose without any overbearing emotional engagement. Players and managers, now, are nomads, roaming from job to job, club to club, crisis to crisis. The loyalty has gone.