Like Gareth Bale, Luis Suárez and Wayne Rooney, the Borussia Dortmund striker who says club are 'being unfair' in holding him to his contract seems to have missed the point
So here we are. Another summer and another transfer saga. Or should that be transfer sagas? Surely, it used to be only one transfer saga a summer a few years ago. It was Steven Gerrard to Chelsea. Then it was Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid. And then it was Cesc Fábregas to Barcelona.
Now, for some reason, there seems to have been a most unwelcome proliferation in deals that are set to drag on and on. This summer we have, of course, Gareth Bale to Real Madrid. That's the big one. But we also have Luis Suárez to Arsenal and Wayne Rooney to Chelsea.
Germany has been hit too as the question of whether Robert Lewandowski is leaving Borussia Dortmund rereared its ugly head on Wednesday, when we all thought that that particular story had gone away. The Pole who, admirably, has been told by his club to see out his contract was quoted by the newspaper Rzeczpospolita as saying that the Champions League finalists were "being unfair" in asking him to fulfil a contract he happily signed himself three years ago.
Unfair? UNFAIR? He didn't really say that, did he? He didn't really even think that, surely? Could he possibly have sat down and felt sorry for himself for having to play another season with the second best team in Europe? In front of 80,000 fanatical home fans every other week? It seems so.
"I always give everything. To be honest with you I feel cheated by Borussia," he was quoted as saying, before adding: "I don't know if I will be unaffected by the situation. It's there in my subconscious and there will be a time when I will turn up for a game in a bad mood."
Give me a break. Enough is enough. This just can't carry on any longer. What is in it for a club when a player can just throw his toys out of the pram after one or two good seasons and pretty much go on strike? Perhaps it is time to abolish long-term contracts in football.
Because, what is the point of Gareth Bale "committing his future" to Tottenham with a four-year deal last summer, when he is apparently desperate to move to Real Madrid 12 months later? Equally, Luis Suárez was extremely happy to extend his contract at Anfield – on improved terms, of course – before the start of last season.
Suárez said at the time: "I hope to play for many years here. This is a great team and everyone around the world knows Liverpool. To sign a new contract with Liverpool is unbelievable for me because I am so happy here at both the club and also in the city.
"That is important for me and I am very happy with my new contract. I am happy off the pitch because the people of Liverpool are good with me and my family. I try my best on the pitch and when you are happy off the pitch, you are happy on the pitch."
Nine months – and one 10-game suspension for biting an opponent – later and Suárez is clearly not happy on or off the pitch or anywhere in the north-west of England, although you wonder whether the situation would be different had Liverpool qualified for the Champions League.
Either way, the clubs are in almost an impossible situation. They give players long-term contracts on improved terms in the hope that they will be loyal but, of course, they are not. If they don't give them four- or five-year deals they risk losing them on a free after one or two seasons. The players, as so often, are the winners. They can sign long contracts and if they lose their form and are not that interested in playing anyway, they can just see out their contract in the Professional Development League as an over-age player or, if they are really uninterested in anything apart from picking up their pay cheque, just turn up for training.
So what would be the solution? Well, how about players and clubs only being allowed to sign for one season at a time? Such a rule – although probably at odds with EU employment laws – would have a lot going for it. First of all, it would make it all a bit more honest. There would be no players "committing their long-term futures" to any clubs because they would know that they could very well be out nine months later. It would also – to a certain extent – stop the interminable transfer sagas that we have to witness every summer.
And it would not necessarily stop clubs from having continuity in their squads because if they were doing well – and looked after everyone – most players would like to stay. It would also abolish the transfer system and ensure that less money ended up with the agents, which is no bad thing (although they would probably get their fair share through negotiating salaries).
Most of all, it would prevent clubs being stuck with a player who, for some reason or another, is not contributing as much as was hoped when they signed. Players such as Winston Bogarde at Chelsea spring to mind.
Such a system would not be without faults – clubs would, of course, lose out on transfer fees (in Spurs's case up to €100m), and agents might have an even greater say if their players are effectively available for a move every summer – but is it really worse than what we are witnessing at the moment?
In the meantime – before Michel Platini and Sepp Blatter et al listen to my suggestions – we can only hope that more clubs demand that their players honour their contracts. Like Borussia Dortmund. After hearing how sorry Lewandowski was feeling for himself, the club's chief executive, Hans-Joachim Watzke, said: "We have, at the moment, a special kind of relationship. It is clear that he is disappointed and that he pins it on me. But I have to make my decisions thinking about what is the best for Borussia Dortmund."
And asked whether the two parties are still speaking to each other, he replied: "We are still talking to each other. But we probably speak to each other a little bit less than we used to."
A small price to pay, perhaps, in an attempt to make a football player honour his contract.