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Can Walcott match Lampard for loyalty?

With the news that Chelsea are prepared to trigger Newcastle United striker Demba Ba’s £7.5 million release clause comes the £2 million ‘loyalty bonus’ the Blues reportedly prepared to offer the player if he signs.

It seems like an oxymoron of sorts – a club willing to pay a player vast sums to turn his back on his club, his manager, his teammates and his fans. That sounds a lot more like a disloyalty bonus – one awarded to players who are willing to abandon their ‘loyalty’.

All the badge-kissing, chest thumping, and allegiance pledging these days seems out of place in the context of the modern game. Players are disposable commodities and clubs are profiteering consumers. None of it really makes sense to a generation of professionals who joined their local clubs as teenagers and played for the love of the game.

Money talks but only to those who’ll listen – loyalty and money don’t mix. Those words don’t really belong in the same sentence as each other. If a player needs to be paid for his ‘loyalty’, then it’s much the same as trying to buy friends – you can’t put a price on something that cannot be bought or sold. It’s value, however, is priceless.

I’m not quite foolish enough to suggest that Ba isn’t entitled to go in search of pastures new and let’s not pretend he’s come up through the Newcastle youth ranks or is in any way ‘home-grown’. But, whether it’s Ba, Arsenal’s Theo Walcott, or Frank Lampard – it’s always about one thing: money.

Walcott wants £100,000 a week from the club and the manager that stuck with him through season after season of mediocrity while Chelsea want to off-load one of the best players of his generation and one of the club’s last true Blue leaders because he costs too much to keep around. Where’s the loyalty in that?

Lampard clearly wants to stay, the manager probably doesn’t even know where his own office is yet, and the owner seems hell bent on sacking a manager per season. Where’s the loyalty in that?

The fans love him, Super Frank, as I don’t doubt he loves them – every time they interview him about it, he looks like he’s about to burst in to tears, bless him. He’s given his career to them. That’s loyalty.

And shame on Theo Walcott, while we’re at it – at 23 he’s having his best season yet after 6 years of perseverance and faith from the manager and the fans who had such high hopes for him.

Back when most of his country thought he was just a useless sprinter with no footballing brain, Wenger shielded him, praised him, guided him and trained him.

Now Walcott’s prepared to turn his back on him and the fans that sang his name, ironically enough at top speed.

If he agrees a pre-contract deal this January with a foreign club or holds out until the summer when his contract expires, his loyalty bonus along with his wages, will ensure he becomes a wealthy young man. But he’ll also prove himself to be desperately lacking and, frankly, poor in moral fibre.

They will no longer sing his name in adulation at the Emirates and, like his Dutch counter-part; he’ll find upon a hostile return he is no longer welcome there.

Fans know the real meaning of loyalty and they never forget a traitor – true legends wear their hearts on the sleeves of their shirts and their true colours never fade.

image: © wonker

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