How often have you seen a player go from promising to almost looking like the worst version of himself when he gets a new transfer?
Greedy agents looking for the best move financially for them and their clients have become a normal occurrence in football these days. Players let their agents do everything for them to then come up with the final solutions in the end, effectively ruling them out of transfer fiascos and nonsensical rumours. While that side of the deal makes sense for the player, they can end up missing out on the best deals in terms of their career going forwards.
How much of a player’s poor showing can you assign to a player not being good enough and how much to the fact that the new environment they’re in simply doesn’t fit them?
Different tactical setups, no teammate cohesion, a toxic atmosphere or just a much different league are just some of the reasons why your favourite new transfer isn’t working out.
ALL OVER THE WORLD
We see it every year without fail. From Dusan Vlahovic and Pepe to Joao Felix and Philippe Coutinho, the list goes on.
Throw a player into a positive atmosphere into a position he’ll fit in and a club flying high and you’re likely to see the best version of that player sooner rather than later. I don’t feel like that’s talked about enough, however simple it may sound. Football is a very reactionary sport where opinions change every single game. That’s why you’ll often read that player “X” is a poor footballer and that player “Y” is not good enough after a series of bad results.
Take Juventus when they were going through a rough patch earlier on in the season. Are you seriously telling me that Locatelli and Vlahovic weren’t good players anymore?
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Look at Virgil Van Dijk for Liverpool this season and compare it to his games in the World Cup. A series of poor results and unfavourable setups are a recipe for disaster. Players easily fall into the flow of their surroundings and he’s no different. Despite him being on a downfall considering his age, previously absurd high level and a knee injury he suffered two years or so ago, the atmosphere around the club and on the pitch makes it difficult for players to shine in their best light.
Kalidou Koulibaly is the latest to fall into the toxicity surrounding Chelsea at the moment. Poor setup with big open spaces to defend and a lack of 1st/2nd phase receivers in the middle and that’s not even half of it. How do you expect a player to show his best form in an environment like this?
Same with Felix at Atletico and Portugal’s national team. And players know this. “The way you play here (Portugal NT) and at the club are different,” he said. “When the conditions are favourable, things go better.”
Is Chelsea a healthy enough side for Felix to thrive in? Only time will tell but it’s healthier than at Atletico in his case, that’s for sure.
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The factors I mentioned above get pushed under the rug so soon in today’s football, the expectations are so high that people don’t want to stop and look around. Clubs could do the same. If you cannot offer the new shiny player similar surroundings he’s had at his previous club or time to grow into the role (provided he’s capable of it), don’t expect him to hit the ground running immediately. With all the data and modern technology today you’d think clubs would be smarter in the way they do their big transfer dealings, but outside factors and people who see name first, fit second are being indirectly responsible for the future of players’ careers.
This brings me to my next point. If it’s not a case of a player suffering a steep physical decline (age, injuries etc.), examples where a player is outright “bad”, are rare at this level nowadays. That especially goes for big clubs.
To sum it all up, just because you don’t like a player, that doesn’t mean he’s a bad footballer. He just might be at the wrong place at the wrong time.