The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.
We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.
Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.
Michel Platini, who has brought pleasure to so many in his career as a football bureaucrat, took the opportunity afforded by an interview with BBC Online today to criticize Arsène Wenger for his tendency to buy young players and…you know, brilliantly develop their talents. “I do not like the system of Arsène Wenger,” Platini said.
In France, Italy and Spain it is easy to buy with money the best players at 14, 15 or 16. I don’t like that. If the best clubs buy the best 15 or 16 players that is finished for all the clubs in Europe.
If my son is playing at Millwall and at 16 Manchester [United] come in for this player then when will Millwall have a good team?
First of all: Millwall? What’s more wonderful about this hypothetical, the fact that Platini took the time to construct a scenario in his mind in which his son was a player at Millwall, or the fact that, after casting himself so puckishly as the parent of this phenom of Bermondsey, he expected us to believe that when Manchester United came calling his main concern would be with the development of Millwall F.C.?
I can’t speculate with any confidence about the feelings a father might experience when Manchester United made a bid for his son in the Millwall youth academy. But if I were to take a wild stab in the dark, I might guess that my concern for Millwall’s league position would be tempered by my delight that my child’s talent would be nurtured by some of the best coaches, trainers, and facilities in the world. I might feel some small happiness that his exponentially higher salary and increased public visibility would help secure his financial future. It might at some stage occur to me that Millwall wouldn’t have likely given him up for free (it’s easier, as Platini points out, to buy players “with money”), and that they might begin to “have a good team” when they invest their transfer income in improving their infrastructure and bringing in experienced players who can help them progress. As a lover of the game, I might even feel that football was the winner when the best young talents were matched with the best coaches and given the greatest chance to reach their potential. I might actually be beside myself with joy if a manager like Wenger showed an interest in my son. But then, I would only be an idiot from Bromley and not the president of European football, and the big picture would probably escape me.
by Brian Phillips · October 30, 2007