As the legendary quartet decided to terminate their association with their beloved clubs this summer, we look at the circumstances which forced them switch allegiances at such a late stage in their respective careers. Was it a mere coincidence that these 4 greats of modern football happened to depart at the same time? Or is there a deeper underlying malaise afflicting modern football that has influenced their departure from their childhood clubs? .
The summer of 2015 has marked the end of several eras. Four luminaries of modern day football will no longer be seen gracing the pitches of Anfield, Santiago Bernabeu, Camp Nou and the Allianz Arena wearing the iconic shirt of their childhood clubs. As thousands of tributes poured in from all over the world, many fans were left scratching their heads as to how these legends were allowed to leave their adored clubs in the first place.
The truth sometimes is stranger than fiction. It is not a mere coincidence that four of the most loyal club servants in the history of football decided to part ways with their employers at a similar phase in their careers. There is a deep underlying malaise that is afflicting contemporary club football. Players who have spent the better part of their lives serving a single club are victims of an illness that is slowly spreading its smeared tentacles over the beautiful game.
That illness, that malaise, is Money.
As ESPNa s Craig Burley rightly pointed out in his recent article, a aging pros are no longer carried as a gesture of goodwilla . The documented reasons for the departures of Xavi Hernandez from FC Barcelona (24 years), Iker Casillas from Real Madrid (25 years), Steven Gerrard from Liverpool (26 years) and Bastian Schweinsteiger from Bayern Munich (17 years) may be different, but the underlying cause is the same.
Take the case of Casillas for instance. Having served his beloved Real Madrid since the tender age of 9, Casillas went on to win every major trophy on offer with the Los Blancos. He was mercilessly booted out of the club by its oligarch Florentino Perez, who wished to replace the ageing 34 year old with Manchester Uniteda s Spanish shot stopper, David De Gea. After being hit by a wave of criticism for his distasteful handling of Saint Ikera s departure from the club, Perez hit back stating, a No one from Madrid asked Iker to leave the club. There was an offer from Porto and we took it into considerationa .
It is true that it was Casillasa s decision to leave Real Madrid and join Porto. But the circumstances of his departure were the result of a smear campaign launched against him by Perez and his cronies. a The campaign to tarnish Iker has been orchestrated by Florentino since 2010; he has suffered for many years,a thundered Casillasa s mother to a local newspaper. His painful exit from Madrid was best encapsulated by Sid Lowe when he wrote in the Guardian, a there was something telling and uncomfortably fitting about the way it ended. On a Sunday morning, in an empty stadium, no trophies, no videos, no embrace. Nobody, in fact.a
Barely a few hours after Casillas dropped the bombshell, Bayern Munich legend Bastian Schweinsteiger announced his departure from the Bavarian giants when he came out and said, a My destination is Manchester United. I hope you understand my decision. No one can take away the incredible journey we had together. MiaSanMiaa . Plagued by persistent injuries, Schweinsteiger was able to make just 15 appearances for Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga last season. With him not featuring prominently in Pep Guardiolaa s plans for next season, Schweinsteiger decided cross the English Channel and join Manchester United.
The Raheem Sterling saga best epitomizes the time we are living in. Sterling and Gerrard both left Liverpool this summer. 20-year-old Sterling, with a little help from his outspoken agent, was able to engineer a move to a club of his choice (rival club Manchester City) for a staggering amount of money (49 million pounds). On the other hand, Anfield legend Steven Gerrard was forced to manufacture his move away from his spiritual homeland upon learning that he had no role to left to play in guiding Liverpool FC into the future.
Even Xavi, who went out on a high after winning the treble with Barcelona last season, would have surely loved to end his career in front of thousands of Catalans packed inside the iconic Camp Nou stadium, rather than play out the rest of his days in the empty deserts of Qatar.
The bitter truth follows. This is the age when loyal stalwarts are not given the luxury of choosing the time and the moment of their retirement from their childhood clubs. This is the age when a prized assetsa and their notorious agents can alter the traditions of a football club. The concept of a a one club mana is a fading phenomenon.