In baseball players are sometimes known to have extremely good seasons just before their contracts expire. The thinking here is that they’re about to enter the free market and know that their value will be judged on their most recent performances. So they give absolutely everything.
In football we seem to take another approach. Players near the end of their contracts are dangerous. Every moment they are either not signed to an extension or not sold to someone else is another moment they’re losing transfer value.
Transfer value is interesting. If a player is in demand he will cost a lot. If a team doesn’t want to sell someone they cost more. It’s called leverage. If a player is part of things the selling team can reasonably expect a premium price. If the player isn’t being used it’s a lot harder for the selling team to say “nah, we’re not selling him.””why not? you’re not playing him!” “Oh yeah. We are selling him.” “How much?” “10m” “how about 5m?” “No” “Okay, bye” “Wait! 4m!” “No, we’ll pay 2.5m.”
And so on. The leverage is always with the buyer.
All of these players have track records, to varying degrees. If Fulham go down by a point, or miss the playoffs by a point, will they regret not fielding the above players? We can talk about going in a new direction but if you look at it rationally, how stupid is it to have international quality players not being selected in the Championship?
If you then sell them, you play someone else in their place.
Have we really gelled so much as a team in the games they’ve been omitted to justify their absence? Has not having them around accelerated the new Fulham? Yeah, maybe the youngsters have enjoyed their role in the team, but is this the optimal approach to achieve the club’s stated goal of promotion?
I would suggest that the job of the manager is to maximise the points his team earns. If he doesn’t like all his players, fine, but find a way to get the best out of them. The players want to leave? Are they under contract? Well then. I’m not stupid, I appreciate that contracts in football aren’t all that. But if we want a season of Ruiz as a #10 behind Ross McCormack it’s in our power for that to happen. If we want Fernando Amorebieta as a centre-back while the younguns acclimatise, well we can do that. Or Dan Burn, who has played well in the Championship before, could play. Mitroglou might be something other than what Felix appreciates in a footballer but at some point he was bloody good. I can’t believe that he’s still not fit. He would be one of the best strikers in the Championship. But Fulham willingly ignore him.
Are we that good that we can do this? Are we so good that we can throw out some good footballers in the name of ‘going forward?’.
It just seems absolutely stupid to me. Ridiculous. This kind of self-sabotage sums up Fulham at the moment. Promotion and progress will come when we make efficient, optimal decisions. Make the most of the assets we control, not rubbish them, devalue them, give them away for much less than they’re worth, all on a whim.