Everybody is angry about Coutinho, and this potential story.
Barça supporters are screaming about the stupid board, overpaying for the wrong player, etc.
Liverpool supporters are screaming at Barça for tapping up their player.
It would all be silly, except for psychology. As supporters, we have a lot tied into the club that we love, including notions of identity. If you are a Liverpool supporter, you love a club with a deep vein of tradition, pride and accomplishment. It’s a big club. You want and need to believe that there is status with that, that a club shouldn’t just be able to swoop in and buy one of your best players.
Instead of getting angry at the player, or the circumstances that cause that player to get restless, it’s easier to rail at the suitor, who has simply enough asked the player if they are interested in a move. Anger at the player? No. Why? He’s part of the club, some innocent who was perfectly happy until that Blaugrana rake crooked his finger from a perch atop piles of cash. “Stop tapping up our player.”
The best way to keep a player is, for most clubs, to ensure that they are happy. For a while, it means money. After a greater while, it means chances at big trophies if the player is at a certain level. In this day and age, players are mobile. The days of a single-club player are over. A top-tier player is always looking to move. More money, better chances at trophies, better status, a better job. That is what being an in-demand employee is about.
Employees never get angry at, say, an accounting firm that offers a colleague a better job. They have cake and coffee, and wish the person well. The psychology of a football supporter is different. That is OUR player. How dare someone try to lure them away, forgetting about the circumstances of an in-demand, mobile employee.
Every club “taps up.” Liverpool just signed Van Dijk. Do you think that he woke up one day and said, “Gosh. I think I want to head for Liverpool.” Agents talk to people, who talk to other people, and word gets out. A player is available, for the right price. And things happen, or they don’t. Then media outlets go wild, and supporter ire escalates.
From the Barça supporter perspective, the club is overpaying for Coutinho, if rumors are true. How dare they? But every transfer rumor has a number of hurdles for supporters, including their own hopes and dreams. For Barça this is particularly complicated, because it isn’t just about whether a player can improve the club, but whether the player can bring back a bygone era. Everyone wants a controller, the “next Xavi.” Coutinho isn’t that player so dammit, what a terrible transfer.
Like Paulinho was.
Transfer rage also has context. How many culers were angry at Thiago Alcantara for leaving the club for Bayern Munich? There might have been one guy, somewhere, but it is doubtful. Because the board sucks, and Guardiola is Guardiola. So it was everybody’s fault that Thiago left, stuffed in sack with a gag over his mouth and bundled off to Munich in the dead of night.
Vilanova didn’t play him enough. the board didn’t value him, the technical staff is stupid. Nobody screamed about Guardiola tapping up Thiago by saying that it was him or nobody, a powerful statement to make by the best coach in the game, who just landed at one of the best clubs in the world. Thiago left for a better job, and it was the fault of everyone except the migratory, ambitious employee.
It’s why transfer dudgeon and anger is nonsense. Players don’t care. They want a better, or different job. Or they think they might have a better shot at getting something that satisfies them at another club. There is no romance for them, even as for supporters, the romance is everything. The past is better because the outcome is known, even as transfer season opens the window on hope, that success and trophies are the right purchase away. Supporters want to keep every player that they value, sell the ones that suck and buy the players their club needs to succeed.
But if every club’s supporters want the same thing, it isn’t hard to see all that hope and longing working at cross-purposes. None of that logic stays the rage and anger. Damn that club for turning our player’s head, say the supporters of the club whose player is in play. That player would be happy at our club forever if those moneybags hadn’t filled his head with nonsense.
Culers are different. Unique in a way. They spent as much time being angry at the board as PSG for throwing money at Neymar. And of course they were angry at Neymar, a player they never trusted, who was always considered not fully committed to the club, so damn him. Neymar leaving for PSG also chipped at the armor of supporters who want their club to be the biggest ever. Those clubs don’t lose a star player. And the anger renews.
Or, for many culers, our board sucks, so every good player should leave so that they can fail, and resign in shame. Then the club can emerge, phoenix-like, from the ashes of neglect.
But at the next transfer rumor, try something: Put yourself in the shoes of that player, and ask yourself what you would do. More money, bigger company with advancement opportunities, nicer city. What would you do, absent any other mitigating circumstances or narratives?
Players do what they do, money and opportunities do what they do, the game does what it does. Yes, you have a set of ideas about your club, so you rage against anything that threatens those notions. It’s natural. It’s human nature, just as it is our wont to resist detachment, resist logic.
Meanwhile, life does what it does.