Luka Modrić, an injury-prone attacking midfielder who plays for a London club, is desperately trying to force a move to a bigger club where he feels he has the best chance of winning medals.
Does this scenario sound familiar? Well, it should because all one has to do is swap out the name Luka Modrić and replace it with Cesc Fabregas and to steal a phrase from Yogi Berra: “It's déjà vu all over again."
Luka Modrić wants to play for Chelsea. He's made that very clear both verbally in various interviews and also in a written transfer request sent in early July to Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy. Yet the club still insists on keeping him.
Spurs only need look at their crosstown rival Arsenal to see how this can damage a team. Arsene Wenger tried desperately to hold on to Cesc Fabregas for an entire season only to finally give up and let the player leave to fulfill his wish of warming the bench of FC Barcelona, the club he's supported all his life.
The Fabregas distraction hurt Arsenal during the 2010-2011 season where they finished fourth and now have to qualify for the Champions League.
The malaise carried over into Arsenal's preseason tour for 2011-2012 where they were unconvincing, winning two games out of six, drawing three and losing one.
It also dragged on to their first game of the season, a lethargic 0-0 display against Newcastle United where the only spark Arsenal showed during the game was during the bust-up between Joey Barton and Gervinho.
Arsenal are only now starting to show signs of recovery after a fine first leg display against Udinese in their Champions League qualifier, taking the lead on aggregate from a fourth-minute goal courtesy of Theo Walcott.
Do drawn out transfer sagas have a negative psychological impact on a team?
A similar wantaway saga also played out at Blackpool last season. In the early part of the 2010-2011 campaign, Blackpool surprised everyone by racking up 25 points and getting to 10th place by the January transfer window.
Blackpool had everyone convinced that they had a chance to stay up during their first year in the Premier League. That was until Liverpool showed interest in their captain and star Charlie Adam, making a 4.5 million euro bid for the midfielder which was quickly rejected by Blackpool—much to the chagrin of Adam.
After that, Blackpool went on to lose six out of seven games in the month of January and from January to May were only able to manage 14 points out of a possible 66. They ended the season relegated.
Contrary to popular opinion, these distractions have an influence on the other players in the locker room, especially when it involves the captain of the team who is by all means the spiritual leader on the pitch and in the dressing room—like Fabregas and Adam were.
Sports athletes by nature are egotistical. They need to be because it's an essential mindset that every coach wants in his players. No coach wants a player on his team who doesn't think that he is the best at his position. If a manager is only paying attention to one player and forsaking everyone else, then other players begin to feel that they aren't as important, that they are being ignored for the sake of one guy, which isn't good for team morale.
Other great managers like Brian Clough and Alex Ferguson have been in similar situations during their brilliant careers and usually made short work of the situation by moving troubled players out to keep their teams focused on winning games.
Fergie especially is a master at this and has, over the years, sent many wantaways from Old Trafford in the middle of the night with a one-way ticket to wherever they wanted to go (on his terms of course).
The question one has to ask is: Why are Harry Redknapp and Daniel Levy allowing this to drag out by rejecting two bids from Chelsea for the player? They must clearly know that they have more to lose than gain if this is allowed to go on for the entire 2011-2012 season, as it has the risk of creating a toxic dressing room.
Spurs are coming off of two successful back-to-back seasons, finishing fourth in the 2009-2010 season and even though they dropped one spot, finishing fifth in 2010-2011, they still managed to put up a fine display in the Champions League, making it to the quarterfinals where they were dumped out by Real Madrid.
But if they don't end the Modrić situation before it is too late, they could see all the hard work they have put in over the last few years disappear in a cloud of smoke and end up finishing out of a European place and back in the mid-table where they languished for many years before.