There is an important word in English law and that is the word precedent. It is part of common law, where a decision in a case establishes a principle. Then, precedent will be used by judges to decide new cases.
Therefore, in hundreds of areas of the law, one can read about precedents. However, when it comes to footballers’ contracts, this area is like a desert, leading to the conclusion that, in the case of footballers, the contract is sometimes not worth the paper it is written on, since no one ends up in court.
West Ham may have set a new kind of precedent in the case of Payet. The player had signed a five year contract with the option of an extra year in 2015. In 2016, he signed a new contract paying him £125,000 per week. In January 2017, Payet refused to play and was subsequently transferred back to Marseilles.
West Ham, therefore, set the precedent that a player can get his way out of his contract by going on strike. Slaven Bilic confirmed that the problems with Payet were having a detrimental effect on the squad. This is something that has surely influenced Arnautovic in the way he has approached his desire to play football in China.
Judging by the way the players performed against Bournemouth compared to a terrific performance against Arsenal, there is the suspicion that the atmosphere in the dressing room had turned negative as a result.
So, are there other options for the club? Perhaps a player who refuses to play should be suspended without pay for a set period. This could even be added as a clause in the contract. The club may even threaten to sue the player for damages, say £15 million in the case of Arnautovic, as a percentage of his transfer fee from Stoke.
One might say that these types of incident are bound to occur when clubs rely on transferring players, who turn out to be journeymen, playing for the club who will pay them the most. One answer may be to invest more in the Academy, bringing through young players and perhaps looking worldwide for talent. One must bear in mind that Lionel Messi joined Barcelona when he was 14 with a contract that was apparently written on a paper napkin.
Barcelona have La Masia , the farmhouse, with 300 young players. Iniesta, Alves, Alba, Busquets, Xavi, Fabregas and Pedro are also one of its graduates. Pep Guardiola commented that players who came through La Masia have something different to the rest, having worn a Barcelona shirt from when they were a child. Let’s remember Moore, Hurst and Peters. Mark Noble is the modern epitome of loyalty and integrity.
Hopefully, Pellegrini can work on Arnautovic and bring him back to his best. After all, it is in the player’s interests that he shows good form, if he wants to be transferred in the summer window. Arnautovic would be advised to bear in the mind the Chinese phrase that the person attempting to travel two roads will get nowhere.