West Brom: Has Peter Odemwingie Irreparably Damaged His Career?
On one of the quieter January transfer deadline days in recent history, the biggest story of the day was a transfer that didn't actually happen.
Claiming he had a "gentleman's agreement" (according to The Guardian) with West Brom's technical director Dan Ashworth, striker Peter Odemwingie bid adieu to all staff and players at the club, signed some autographs, gave out some hugs and drove 125 miles south to negotiate a new deal with free-spending Queens Park Rangers.
The 31-year-old had been angling for a move away from the Hawthorns for some time. Last week, he received criticism for a series of tweets he published that overtly suggested his desire for a move to London.
They have since been deleted, but a few remaining tweets summarize his headstrong attitude:
I am crazy haha adviser text saying don't tweet, it weakens our position. Doesn't weaken nothing ! When I want to do something, I Do it.— Peter Odemwingie (@OdemwingieP) January 26, 2013
I can understand the reaction of few Albion fans on my desire to leave the club.Real reason? Cos they once doubted my commitment. Cantletgo— Peter Odemwingie (@OdemwingieP) January 26, 2013
As deadline day veered toward its climax, it became clear that Odemwingie did not have the permission of his club to leave and seek a new deal. When he arrived at Loftus Road, he spoke to Sky Sports News and referred to QPR as "we," implying a deal was a few formalities from being completed, according to the Daily Mail.
But Rangers would not even let him in the building because he did not have permission to be there, nor had any kind of deal been set up.
He then faced the mortifying prospect of driving back up to West Bromwich with his tail between his legs to face the music.
It was a baffling situation. If he has an agent, he definitely needs to find a new one.
The Baggies issued a statement on Thursday declaring Odemwingie "wholly unprofessional" for his actions (via Sky Sports).
On Friday, they told the Nigerian not to return to training until next week, and that he will be surplus to requirements for Sunday's match with Tottenham. Speaking outside the West Brom training ground, Odemwingie seemed intent on fanning the flames of indignation, by avoiding an apology and reiterating his desire to leave. From the BBC:
"I am a very emotional person who sometimes doesn't think," he told Sky Sports News on Friday.
"I will still leave the club. It is only a matter of time."
Odemwingie's lack of remorse and self-serving actions have not only called his professionalism into question, but made him a laughing stock with fans. A cursory image search for his name on Twitter shows he is the target of endless memes.
On the surface, the former Lokotmotiv forward appears to have committed career suicide. But has he actually damaged his career?
The answer is almost certainly "no."
In any other line of work, leaving a company to force a move to a rival, then coming back hours later with no remorse or desire to stay with the current employer would be tantamount to killing your career. Whatever your town was, you would never work in it again.
But this is football. This is a business that doesn't punish mercenaries. It gives them countless second chances, provided they can perform on the field.
Take the case of Carlos Tevez. In December 2010 he handed a transfer request to Manchester City while negotiating a new contract. Less than two weeks later, he decided to stay. After refusing to come off the bench in a 2011 Champions League match and jetting to Argentina for many months without permission, he was still welcomed back into the fold, and remains a valuable asset.
In 2012, Clint Dempsey literally refused to play for Fulham, informally announcing that he was heading to Liverpool. That forced move never materialised, but he now thrives at Tottenham.
In the closing stages of the 2008 summer window, Robinho cried during a meeting with Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon, so keen was he to engineer a move to Chelsea. He eventually accepted a bigger deal from Manchester City, but still called them Chelsea during a press conference!
Odemwingie has five goals in 13 league appearances for Steve Clarke's side this season, and played a valuable part in West Brom's impressive pre-Christmas success.
The fact of the matter is that he does not have to prove himself in contract negotiations with club technical directors. He does not need to prove himself on an outspoken social network feed. If he proves himself on the pitch, there will always be a club who will be willing to disregard his off-the-field indiscretions.
If the Russian-born striker has learned anything from this experience, it's that he can count himself lucky that he makes his money in a circus-like industry that turns a blind eye to unprofessional behaviour when the ball keeps hitting the back of the opposition's net.
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