Legend – A player who has pledged every ounce of blood, sweat and tears to the club he has spent majority of this life representing. A one club man in the eyes of many, someone who chose to stay and fight for his club when the going got tough.
“The real warrior fights not because he hates the ones in front of him, but because he loves the ones behind him.” And there are few who love their club more than the likes of Francesco Totti, Steven Gerrard, Iker Casillas and Phillip Lahm. These players are some whose devotion to the club is unrelenting, and unconditional. However, is the club’s devotion to them on the same level?
From what I have observed, more and more of such iconic players are being confined to the benches and substitute appearances. One doesn’t become a legend at a tender age, and while age and the consequent lack of stamina and top drawer fitness may be questioned, it isn’t the players who are requesting this time on the side lines. These players are raring to step out on the pitch and strut their style, their class and their overall deftness at the sport. However, they are not being afforded opportunities to do so.
It would be harsh to blame the club and the management for opting to field, what is, in their eyes, the strongest available XI, but it also does not seem fair that men with such glittering careers have to be content with being the onlookers. Until such a time as they decide that they do not have more to offer, it seems to be cruel that the same decision is being made for them. This lack of game time has resulted in more and more such ‘legends’ of the game moving to slower leagues like the MLS, and from one perspective, this means that their status and their careers are fading or easing away, rather than them going out with a bang at the highest level.
The only reason I bring up this topic is because of the changing nature of football today. It is becoming increasingly demanding, and the status and security of players is becoming more volatile by the day. Players past the prime of their careers are being increasingly overlooked as starters, with clubs preferring to splash cash on promising younger players. What this means for one club men like Pablo Zabaleta or John Terry is that once they have offered everything that they had to their clubs, they will inevitably have to choose one of 2 decrepit roads. Hang up their boots while they’re still at the top and waste all the ability that they know they still have, or they must risk fading away into obscurity and insignificance by moving to a weaker team in the same league, or switch leagues altogether.
And the way things are headed, a day may soon come when the phrase “One club man” itself becomes legend.