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The Role of footballers: What should we really expect?

The Boot Room

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As the dust settles on another footballer caught in the vice of social media, we yet again have to think about what our perception of footballers is. The football world more than any other sport, and maybe any other occupation, has huge pressure placed on it. There are vast amounts of money flowing through the game without any barriers which has increased the attention on the sport.

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Recently Jack Grealish has been snared in another moment whereby a footballer has been criticised heavily. This is not the only time Grealish has been in trouble this year, having attracted media attention two other times. He has not been the only player, however, as we have seen Raheem Sterling and three young Leicester City players also receive media attention. We should not condone the acts of footballers, what we must ask is whether we should hold footballers in such high regard. Moreover, we constantly complain about the lack of characters in football compared to the 90s, but these players are doing the same as the players in 90s were doing, but under the constant pressure of social media.

Footballers in England are idolised and are in the public eye. Players like David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are quasi royalty in this country. What we must ask ourselves is, why do we, and why footballers should be held up as role models. Unlike by gone eras, footballers now command huge money, which in turn has risen our criticism, ire and admiration of them. Footballers, however are paid to play football. Nowhere in their contract does it stipulate that they should offer themselves as role models to other people.

Another question has to be asked, does anyone actually hold footballers as role models? It seems common knowledge that footballers have high wealth and often flaunt it in ways which many don’t agree with. So if many don’t hold footballers in such high esteem, then it seems wasteful for newspapers to print so many lines towards it. For many, it is common place for a footballer to pop up in the news for something they shouldn’t be doing. Most of us have realised that our favourite footballers aren’t perfect. Money has corrupted the game and social media has highlighted the faults that we had not seen in years past. Because of the incredibly high salaries footballers earn, we seem to place more importance on what they do. Yet we also don’t give much attention to players like Wilfred Zaha, who gives money to charity from his monthly salary, and Duncan Watmore who recently earned his economics degree.

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Young footballers get paid huge amounts of money at their age, and are often under huge amounts of pressure, pressure that if they weren’t footballers would not be existent. These young players, often younger than 22 have the most media coverage outside our most revered players (Rooney etc). Often young players between 17-22 are given huge amounts of money, too early and too often which leads to mistakes. They have no guidance and are left without much authority. The clubs and managers must take a role in fathering these young players like a Ferguson or Wenger. Ferguson in his book, even references that before signing a player they would look at his family so he would know any character issues but also care for them in a pastoral sense.

Because of their lifestyle and occupation footballers will receive much more pressure and attention than anyone else. What do we expect? Young men will make mistakes, and with that money these mistakes will be in the full view of the public eye. These players never asked to be held as role models. We obsess over their mistakes because of their occupation and money, not necessarily their acts. Take away the money and the sport, then these men would just be like any other eighteen year old.

Football holds a huge precedence in our society. The nation’s favourite pastime is taken very seriously. The real reason we despise the foolish acts and immaturity of footballers is that we envy and desire their job but also take our support for our respective clubs seriously- maybe more seriously than the players. Footballers are highly paid athletes come celebrities. We need to realise that they have never pretended or been asked to be role models. They are paid to be play for our clubs. It is also a sad indictment that players like Zaha and Duncan Whatmore don’t get enough press. Footballers on the whole are not role models, they play football and make mistakes that us normal people make but in the spotlight of the public eye.

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Tottenham Hotspur

Alireza Jahanbakhsh perfect alternative to Malcom if Tottenham miss out

The Iran international scored 22 league goals last season.

Liam Thomas

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Alireza Jahanbakhsh
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Tottenham Hotspur are edging closer to signing Brazilian starlet Malcom from Bordeaux with the 21-year-old keen to make the switch from Ligue 1 to the Premier League, according to The Sun.

However, despite the apparent interest from Spurs, no formal bid has been made by the North London side and, considering the rife competition for the youngster’s signature from around Europe, other alternatives should be considered.

This is where Iranian World Cup star Alireza Jahanbakhsh comes into the mix. The talented 24-year-old forward could be the perfect alternative to Malcom if Spurs miss out on signing the Brazilian starlet.

You only have to look as far back as last season to see the quality Jahanbakhsh possesses. Plying his trade in the Eredivisie with AZ Alkmaar the forward managed to notch up an impressive 22 goals and 14 assists in 39 appearances for the Dutch side.

(Photo by Saeed Khan/Getty Images)

This killer instinct in front of goal is something Spurs have been craving to lift some of the pressure off of talisman Harry Kane’s shoulders in recent seasons.

Furthermore the Iranian international has to ability to play anywhere along the front three and is equally capable of playing with both feet, two traits which led to Spurs’ interest in Malcom in the first place.

However, despite the forwards fantastic record and undeniable talent, there will always be an element of risk when requiring a player from the Dutch top flight, with many players in the past failing to step up and settle into life in the Premier League.

Nevertheless, Jahanbakhsh’ World Cup performances for Iran proved he is more than capable of stepping up to play on the big stage. This is something Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino should consider if they miss out on signing Malcom.

It remains to be seen whether or not Tottenham will land the signature of Bordeaux’s Malcom. However, if they don’t, Jahanbakhsh could prove to be a savvy bit of business and a cheaper alternative.

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Liverpool

Does Allan have a future at Liverpool after nomadic loan spells?

Liverpool brought in the talented midfielder three years ago but he has yet to play for the club.

Mathew Nash

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In the summer of 2015, pictures emerged of an unknown footballer in training with Liverpool’s first-team. It soon emerged that the player in question was Allan Rodrigues de Souza. Liverpool had signed Allan from Internacional in a deal reported to be in the region of £500,000. He looked like a great signing for the future and went on to play exceptionally well during a loan spell at SJK, helping them to their first Finnish title.

But since then it has been something of a struggle for the midfielder. Subsequent loan spells at Sint-Truiden in Belgium, Hertha Berlin in Germany and Apollon Limassol in Cyprus have been less of a hit. His last spell ended when a shoulder injury needed surgery and he has struggled with his nomadic career path since.

(Photo credit should read CARMEN JASPERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

One pressing issue is his need for a work permit. So far the 21-year-old has not yet managed to procure one and can therefore not play for the club.

Even if he did, it seems Allan would be some way away from the first-team picture at Liverpool.

When he first arrived and was sensational on loan in Finland it was excitement with trepidation considering the standard of football in the nation.

Now Liverpool fans will be wondering if the player will ever make it at Anfield. With his contract expiring next summer 2018-19 could be last-chance saloon.

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Stoke City

Gary Rowett opens the door for Robert Huth’s return to Stoke

Martyn Cooke

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Robert Huth
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Stoke City boss Gary Rowett has opened the door for Robert Huth to return to the club on a permanent basis as the central defender continues to train with the first team squad as he attempts to regain his fitness.

The German was released by Leicester City at the end of last season following a hugely successful three-year stint at the King Power Stadium which included their historic Premier League title triumph in 2016.

Subsequently, he approached Stoke at the start of the summer and has been allowed to train with Rowett’s squad whilst he looks for a new club.

Huth remains a popular figure at the Bet365 Stadium having made over 150 appearances for The Potters over the period of half-a-decade following a £5 million transfer from Middlesbrough in 2009.

The 33-year-old formed a dominant central defensive partnership with Ryan Shawcross that provided the solid foundation on which the club’s modern success was built.

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

The notion of Huth re-signing for Stoke is a romantic concept, one that many Stoke supporters will be keen to see, and Rowett told the Stoke Sentinel that the door is still open for the German defender.

“He’s coming to train. We’ll see how it is for both parties and we’ll assess it as we go along … We’ll try to help him and that’s where we are at the moment. I don’t think there’s any real rush to make a decision.”

“There’s no strings attached for either party but come in and train, we’ll get you involved – we’re a little bit short in terms of numbers in that area anyway.”

Stoke are currently short of central defensive options following the departures of Kevin Wimmer (on loan to Hannover 96), Marc Muniesa (who has signed for Girona) and Kurt Zouma (who returned to Chelsea following the conclusion of his loan spell) as the club adapts to life outside the Premier League.

With that in mind, Huth’s availability as a free agent and his pre-existing standing within the club makes him an attractive option as Rowett continues to re-mould his squad in preparation for the new season. He has already featured heavily in Stoke’s early pre-season activities and fixtures whilst he is also likely to be joining the club on their tour of Germany.

However, Rowett is right to be cautious about signing the German defender.

Huth did not make a single appearance for Leicester last season as he struggled with a string of injuries and fell considerably down the pecking order at the King Power Stadium whilst, at 33 years of age, he is stepping into the twilight of his career.

Could he realistically adapt to the physical demands of the Championship where there is a requirement to play two matches most weeks as part of a demanding fixture schedule?

Furthermore, Stoke should be looking to the future rather than attempting to recreate previous glories.

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Whilst Huth remains a legend in the eyes of supporters he would only provide a short-term solution and will undoubtedly return as a very different player than the one that last played at the Bet365 Stadium in 2015.

Rowett is quite rightly looking to bring in a new generation of young, fresh and hungry talent which will be led by new signing Oghenekaro Etebo, Nigeria’s 21-year-old World Cup star. Does Huth fit within those parameters? Probably not.

Whilst Huth’s return may be a somewhat romantic notion that would certain provide a short-term solution to the club’s lack of defensive cover, on a practical level which looks at the long-term in would leave much to be desired.

Ultimately, much may depend, as it so often does in football, on money.

Stoke have already made significant moves in the transfer market following the arrivals of Etebo and Benik Afobe whilst they have been linked with a string of other big-money signings.

Without the safety net of Premier League TV revenue the signing of Huth on a free transfer could allow Rowett to focus his investment on strengthening other areas of the team.

So the door is certainly open for Huth to return on a permanent basis, although Rowett will need to decide whether his focus is on the short-term or long-term future of the club.

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