There’s subsequently been a lot of hand-wringing about what’s happened to the soul of the game, the usual questions bemoaning players running the show and so on. Yet the reality is that, depending on the player’s value and the club’s situation, almost any board are happy to play as dirty as any player or agent.
France international striker Bafetimbi Gomis—a top target for Newcastle United—has endured a miserable summer of his club trying to push him out as they continue to make big cuts to a substantial wage bill. With just a year left on his contract, Lyon have become quite aggressive in their attempts to sell him, excluding him from the first team, while president Jean-Michel Aulas has repeatedly mused how Gomis needs to move on his personal Twitter feed.
Lyon have, in previous windows stretching back two years, attempted to sell the prolific Gomis to Fenerbahce and Rubin Kazan; moves which he rejected despite the prospect of a big salary bump in both cases.
That is his right. A playing contract is not unilateral. Aulas blaming Gomis’ refusal to accept these transfers—or proposed ones to Cardiff or Swansea—for the need to sell teenage prospect Anthony Martial to Monaco, according to Yahoo! Sports, this summer was just one extraordinary tactic in the spin war.
Throughout this summer’s near character assassination, Gomis has remained as well-mannered as his impeccable dress suggests he should be. He has played for the B-team with no complaints, come to the stadium to support the first team as a spectator and not got involved in any online nonsense despite the provocation of those who should know better. Gomis has used social media only to support his teammates.
After weeks of tortuous negotiation, it seems he will not be coming to England after all. What ultimately appears to have blown his move to Newcastle out of the water is fellow forward Lisandro Lopez’s sale to Al-Gharafa last week, getting in a good transfer fee and shedding a salary bigger than Gomis’ but leaving Lyon light of experience up front.
All this means that Gomis will probably be reintegrated into the professional group as soon as his match fitness is anywhere near acceptable. Again, a stand is a stand only as long as it suits its purpose.
Aulas is already beginning his climb down, having signalled his readiness to “discuss things with Bafe” in a Monday interview with the club’s official website (olweb.france via ESPNFC). “We have to show some humility— firstly, me,” admitted Aulas, who amazingly went on to suggest a potential contract extension for Gomis.
We should expect better than this from clubs. When you’re talking about behaviour beyond basic obligation, clubs have to be held accountable more than individuals do. Players simply represent themselves and have to look out for their best interests and those of their families.
Clubs, on the other hand, represent a community of fans in their stadiums, regions and sometimes all over the world. They stand for decades of history and must behave as such.
Yet they rarely do. There is much to admire about Olympique Lyonnais and their success in the 21st century, but the Bafetimbi Gomis episode is not something to include in that. All it shows is that, in today’s game, it’s every player for himself.