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Sport and Fitness

From Pogba to Neymar, ‘player power’ is out of control

Words by Nathan Irvine

Contracts don't mean much anymore. Something has to change.

In 1995 when Belgian footballer Jean-Marc Bosman won his case in the European Court of Justice, the world of football was changed forever. Players at the end of their club contracts are now free to leave without their previous employer receiving a transfer free. The Bosman rule was born.

Bosman argued that RFC Liège had no right to hold him hostage when he had completed contractual obligations with them. By winning, he wrestled away a slither of power from football clubs – something that professional players still rightly use to forge their own career paths. However, fast forward to 2019, and it’s the clubs that now need their pivotal Bosman moment.

Get out

As I type, three of the biggest footballers on the world stage are agitating for a move. All of which are still under contract at their current club.

Atlético Madrid ace, Antoine Griezmann’s deal doesn’t expire until 2023, but he’s failed to report to pre-season training. Similarly, PSG’s Neymar hasn’t returned yet having decided that two seasons in Ligue 1 is more than enough. The Brazilian’s contract stretches to 2022. And although World Cup winning midfielder, Paul Pogba has joined his Manchester United team-mates on tour, he’s made it clear he wants out.

The clubs are then forced to send out limp press releases in an effort to show some authority. They rarely do.

In Pictures. Rebels without a clause

Photos. Multiple sources

Antoine Griezmann in Atletico Madrid home kit.


Antoine Griezmann of Atlético Madrid is rumoured to have spoken to Barcelona about a move without his current employer's permission.

Paul Pogba wearing Manchester United shirt with his hands on his hips in disgust.


Antoine Griezmann of Atlético Madrid is rumoured to have spoken to Barcelona about a move without his current employer's permission.


Paul Pogba of Manchester United seems desperate for a move with his agent saying a transfer has been in the works for a while.

Neymar looking pained while wearing PSG home kit.


PSG star Neymar has headed to Brazil rather than France as he looks to engineer a move away.

Leagues apart

In each case, the club is going to have to wilt to the player’s demand. Contracts or not, footballers and their agents know they can do what they like.

This is nothing new, of course. Players have gone AWOL and even threatened to score own goals if they weren’t allowed to break their contracts and leave.

But player power is continuing to evolve into an unsightly beast. It’s one that’s capable of wrapping the media around their every word and leaving every fan looking for hidden meanings in cryptic social media posts. It has, for all intents and purposes, two-footed the shine off modern football.

An intervention is needed.

Current contracts don’t mean anything to the wantaway star. It’s a grubby business, and one that looks set to keep running. Right now, all eyes will be on the Griezmann/Atlético Madrid stand-off. If the Spanish club go through with their threat of taking the player to court, and win, we could see a seismic shift that redistributes power more evenly than ever before.

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