Mes Que un Club;
For some this article may be pointless. For those folks be kind enough to just pass it by. For those who understand what troubles me..even if they agree or disagree your views, ideas and opinions on this subject matter are most welcome.
The title of the article; "Mes Que un Club" is the motto for FC Barcelona. For those of you who are Spanish challenged it means; "More than just a club". Those 4 words encompass the Barca philosophy and I have chosen them to make my points on this matter because our club owner Roman has made no pretensions of his admiration (some may say obsession) with all things Barca. It is well noised that he would like us to play like them, if he could he would like to get several of their players and he has been offering ungodly amounts of money in the attempt to lure their most successful coach to Chelsea.
The thing is ..there is far more to Barca than the tika-taka..there is far more to the club than all the recent trophies, there is far more to the club than even Messi..There is far more and I fear that superficial observers don`t realize this. What I say here also applies in varying degrees to other great institutions of club football in Europe (I am not versed enough in the history of the game in South America, Asia or Africa to speak of those regions). These same considerations apply to clubs like ManU, Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, Real, Juve and yes even Liverpool. Newer models of this ethos like Borussia Dortmund and Porto and until recently to even clubs like AC Milan, Arsenal and Benfica.
Beyond the present day Glitz of barca is a club that has a well defined philosophy of style of play and has patiently built it from the ground up. There is a history that has been handed on from one generation of players to the next with a constant basic set of values. There is a consistency of style and desired goals mixed with patience that has allowed them develop from within their ranks a number of players and coaches that have gone through some lean times as well as the now evident golden generation. But lest people like Roman forget this is more than a club..this a family..this club has retained in its squad an aging and sickly Eric Abidal, this is a club that is overseeing the current care of a sick Tito Villonova and had done the same previously for him without blinking an eye. This a club that dared to take a gamble on a young boy from Rosario Argentina and paid handsomely for his very expensive growth hormone treatments for years before he became the very best footballer of this generation..they cared enough to take the risk when he was essentially a nobody. This is a club that just granted a multiple year contract renewal to a club legend Carles Puyol who is not your typical new age sleek Barca defender. He is a fossil, a remnant of an age past..an old school no nonsense center back..but a Catalan through and though who started out with Barca when they were struggling in the shadow of mighty Real. This is a Barca that also just renewed the contracts of an aging Xavi who despite his obvious genius is clearly on the wrong side of 30, is no longer as spry as he used to be and has recently been having more time out on account of injury than ever before in his storied career.
So while there are clubs like Barca who are clearly 'more than just a club' then there are clubs like Anzhi Machachkala, the new age PSG, Man City and others who are clearly and unapologetically simply mercenary recruitment centers who are frankly speaking "Just a club". These guys make no bones about it..they are about success now and simply go out to try and buy it, they really could care less for their recruits as persons be they coaches or players or whoever else. Once any of these begin to decline or are not as glitzy as initially they simply kick them out and bring in the new flavor of the month.
I leave it to each of you to decide to which broad class of team you feel Chelsea belongs to..i thought I always knew without doubt since I started supporting this side in the early 90s but in the past few years I cannot but wonder and the doubts are growing. Yes we are getting results now which is great but my growing unease is what sort of team are we becoming? What sort of team are we ultimately aiming to be? I recollect the recent comments of Nico Anelka some time ago when he said " Chelsea use you when they need you and discard you when they don`t" It may have seemed harsh but may not be entirely unwarranted.
Some may actually say it is pointless how we run our business as long as we continue getting trophies and results. Some would say Lamps does not deserve to even be offered a new contract by us (no matter what type of contract not even a 1 yr recurrent with reduced pay or less), others say similarly that JT is also not deserving to even be offered any new contract no matter the terms. Others opine that the way we dealt with Danny Sturridge's situation was totally appropriate and fine as has been the way we have dealt with past coaches like Jose, Carlo, RDM and even AVB. This school of thought says these guys should be glad to get their severance pay from Roman..once we are done with you..take your money and move on and we will go out to get replacements and continue rolling. As long as we keep winning and get trophies who cares? This may all be about differences in philosophies. Should the club be run as a pure business, a family or an amalgam of both? Should the club be purely about dollars and cents and the bottom line or should we care that the club have a heart and soul?
Whatever you think, this merits some thought. One thing though; the mindset of a mercenary is always different from that of a soldier fighting for his home country..they can never be the same. There is a reason that Messi cannot be bought from Barca for virtually any prize and why the same probably applies to Phillip Lahm at Bayern..it is the reason Liverpool are not seeking to kick Carragher or Gerrard out the window and is the reason why Thierry Henry keeps coming back to the Emirates since he left them. There is a reason beyond the players why Barca always seem to have more passion than the current Real players..for one group they play for more than a club, the other group often seem to just be doing the job..clock in, clock out and get paid. This mind set of the mercenary when it creeps into a manager and his crew, when it creeps into players, it affects everything; the passion, and effort with which they do their jobs, the risks and concessions they are willing to take as well as their commitment to the cause. We need to remember this when we talk of players and coaches. A Rafa who sees himself as just a stop gap cannot but have a very different mindset than a Rafa if he had the respect of being a permanent appointed coach. Anyone who thinks that the English youngsters on our side have not taken note of how Danny`s situation was handled are kidding themselves. Beyond that we need to be very careful of what happens with our best players as they hit that 27-29yr old threshold..dont be surprised when some of these guys then up and leave to greener pastures at the first chance. We have been sowing certain seeds..a time will come when we will reap the harvest of what we are sowing now.
I will conclude this with a thought for Roman and his three Amigos to ponder. As long as this obsession for all things Barca continues for Roman it may be instructive for them to go back and study closely how that dynasty was built because we certainly seem to be going about it very differently..rather than "more than just a club" what seems more apt for Chelsea FC is that it is "No more than just a club"