What's the point of having a contract if the athlete who signed it isn't going to honor the contract?
In the highly fluid world of modern football, the wishes of the individual are all that matter. The desires of the player have turned the concept of contracts and club loyalty into a farce.
This summer alone we witnessed this sad spectacle when Emmanuel Adebayor artfully whinged his way out of Arsenal, and when Xabi Alonso departed Liverpool for Real Madrid despite the efforts of Rafa Benitez.
Now, Joleon Lescott seems dead set on joining the ranks of those who seem determined not to honor their contracts, alienating fans and teammates alike in the process.
Throughout the latter part of this summer, the Everton defender has been a big target for Manchester City's Mark Hughes. Lescott's own manager, David Moyes, has repeatedly told the Citizens that Lescott is not for sale, warning them on multiple occasions to end their pursuit.
Lescott is a very valuable asset to Everton. His performances on the pitch have led to him being voted the club's Player of the Season twice. The fans also showed their appreciation by awarding him their Player of the Year honor for the 2007-2008 season.
Moyes has also shown how highly he rates the defender this summer by repeatedly refusing City's overtures, despite their significant economic clout. It seems that Moyes can't put a price on a defender who has meant so much to the club during his short tenure with the club.
How has Lescott repaid the admiration and adulation levied upon him by teammates and supporters alike?
By losing his focus and mailing in his performance in the 6-1 season-opening defeat at the hands of Arsenal. He was on the pitch in body only, his mind distracted by the ongoing transfer drama.
Where's the loyalty to the manager who plucked him out of relative obscurity with Wolves and helped make him into the player that he is today? More importantly, where's the sense of professionalism and competitive drive that makes a player want to give his best each time he takes the pitch?
Judging by physical abilities alone, Lescott is Everton's best option in the back line. Mentally? Right now he's completely unfit to help the team as they try to progress through the season and clinch qualification for Europe once again.
As a direct result of his mental state, Moyes has dropped him for the Europa League match against Sigma Olomouc.
"Joleon's attitude has not been right these past days; he has disappointed me and he has disappointed his teammates. He is not in the right frame of mind," said Moyes in The Guardian.
Even though Moyes has been understandably reluctant to sell to one of their biggest rivals for a European slot, a move for Lescott should come sooner rather than later. The Toffees can't hope for anything close to a repeat of last season's fifth place finish if such lackluster performances from the defense continue.
The club needs everybody to be focused when they're on the pitch, and there are serious doubts as to whether or not Lescott can deliver on that front.
Lescott's actions—or rather, inactions—on the pitch signify the continuation of a disgusting and deeply disturbing trend. Players who are under contract yet desire a move elsewhere can basically hold their clubs hostage by sinking their performances on the pitch or upsetting the balance in the dressing room.
Hypothetically, if a perfectly happy player is valued at £15 million, clubs will be able to get him on the cheap if the player becomes disgruntled. Their current club will be desperate to sell, especially if the alternative is keeping the unhappy player around to produce more poor performances on the pitch.
Just like that, a £15 million price tag could become "£15 million or best offer," a deal that damages the seller on multiple fronts.
First they lose the services of a talented player, and then they don't get properly compensated, making it difficult to fill the void left by the departure. A drop in quality at the club could lead to more players wanting out, causing a vicious downward spiral that could take multiple seasons to reverse.
Lescott has put Everton in a very difficult position—sell him and they risk dropping out of Europe thanks to the buyers. Keep him, and they risk dropping out of Europe thanks to a continually distracted defender.
It's a classic catch-22, a no-win situation. Everton are damned if they do, damned if they don't.