Monday 14 July ~
Some hardy old football phrases never go out of fashion. This summer, for example, there have been several instances of players supposedly issuing “a come and get me plea” to would-be purchasers. In many cases these are accompanied by the individual's request to be “rescued from his [fill in name of team] misery”. Both these expressions have been plenty of mileage in relation to El Hadji Diouf who announced his intention to leave Bolton well before the end of last season, although he still has one year left on his contract, and indeed bid farewell to the crowd at the Reebok in his final home match. Yet in amongst all the rumoured comings and gongs that have been filling up the sports pages over the past month or so, there has been not a word about anyone moving for talented but highly erratic Diouf. It could be that he is in the process of typing up a complex deal involving image rights and loyalty bonuses. But it's just as likely that Bolton fans will soon hear that he hasn't found another club prepared to match his ambitions.
The newspapers have got plenty of mileage of out Alexander Hleb's desire to leave Arsenal which has been brought about, he says, by his rowing distaste for the “chaotic life in London, where everyone is racing around 24 hours a day”. Hleb isn't the first Arsenal player to cite London living as his reason for wanting a move. In 1995, Swedish midfielder Stefan Schwarz complained that “too many things here just don't make any sense” at the end of his first and only season at Highbury before moving on to Fiorentina, though he did return to England later with Sunderland. More recently, Jose Antonio Reyes came up with the reverse problem to Hleb, complaining that there was “nothing to do in London after 5pm”, a claim which even ardent Londophobes would have found bizarre.
One might imagine that whatever gripes Premier League footballers have about day-to-day life ought to be at least partially offset by a bulging wage packet. Crucially, however, they also know that there are always likely to be several other clubs who will be undergoing a summer shake-up after a disappointing season and they will advised by agents who also have a vested interest in their moving on regularly through their careers. During his diatribe against London, published in a Russian newspaper, Hleb also remarked that several other European clubs had indicated they they would like to sign him, and now he has duly departed for Barcelona, another city renowned for its fast lifestyle – though presumably he will be staying home at night with his stamp collection.