Serge Gnabry is a brilliant young player. Certainly one of the best teenagers in the Premier League. Arguably one of the best in Europe. Now I am not going all hyper-boil on you all. As previously mentioned, the overrating of young players is an epidemic in the current game. Gnabry is supremely talented.
Yesterday it was announced that he had signed a new 5 year deal worth £20,000 a week. Some are reporting that it is a 6 year deal. Now whilst it is good that we have tied up his long term future, the announcement of the deal brings up a catch-22 problem.
Firstly, Serge Gnabry has signed for £20,000 a week. That is a lot of money. Remember, he is an 18 year old, who whilst extremely talented, has played just 9 games for Arsenal, 5 of which were from the bench. A total of 398 minutes. £20,000 for less than 400 minutes playing time. The fact is, were every player fit, Serge Gnabry would be playing in the reserves. He would not get near the bench. We are potentially tying up £20,000 a week on potential, on someone who might not play a single game once Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski are fit. £1million a year for someone who is a reserve.
Now I know full well what the contract is about. We are tying up his future. Ensuring we do not lose a prestigious talent on a free. Look at the situation of Paul Pogba who left Manchester United for Juventus. They failed to invest in his future, and ended up losing him. He is now a starter for the Italian side and would certainly improve the Manchester United side. In a summer where they spent £28 million on Marouane Fellaini, it does not take a genius that for a lot less, they could have secured Pogba for the future – a player who is perhaps as good as Fellaini already, and will only get better. The same summer they also lost Ravel Morrison on a free to West Ham.
Manchester United showed they learnt their lesson after securing youngster Adnan Januzaj to a new contract. Like Gnabry, he has signed a 5 year deal, but at twice the amount – £30,000-40,000 a week (depending on sources). That perhaps brings the Gnabry deal into perspective. Clearly the average wage of a talented youngster who has not played a great deal of 1st team football is £20,000-£40,000 a week. Supported further by Pogba being paid £20,000 a week at Juventus. Clearly the ‘going rate’ has been set.
So to secure a young talent for his future, you must pay that youngster at least £20,000 a year. Fail to do that, and he will leave on a free. Imagine if we lost Gnabry on a free. The out roar there would be then. We would be moaning about our managements gross negligence. We would complain that our cheapness has lost us a top talent.
And here is the catch-22 situation. Gnabry is 18. He has just signed a £20,000 a week 5 year deal. If he puts his feet up now,stops working hard at his game and becomes lazy, he will walk away in 5 years with £5,000,000 in his pocket. We often read about players getting ‘too much, too young’. That such large amounts of money can damage a players motivation. That players are pampered – they no longer clean the stadium ,changing room or boots – and the money gives them an ego which makes them believe they have made it so stop trying.
Now this is not a generic brush stroke. Plenty of players have been on big money young, and continue to work hard at their game and succeed. Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey are two recent examples of this, as is Carl Jenkinson. Despite getting good money, they have continued to improve as players.
But there is also a list of players who have lost motivation after getting big money. The mid-2000’s is littered with players who were nicknamed the ‘Baby Bentley’ generation. The first group of youngsters who got thousands as a teenager, clearly too their foot off the gas, spent more time partying, less time training, bought Baby Bentley’s and failed to fulfil their potential.
Alan Curbishley was the first to coin the term about the Baby Bentley generation, when he believed that players earning northwards of £20,000 had lost motivation and direction. That they often visited the likes of nightclub Face in Gants Hill too often. And he has been proved right as none of the players who were part of the ‘core group’ at West Ham ever really fulfilled their potential – Bobby Zamora, Carlton Cole, Anton Ferdinand, Tyrone Mears, and Nigel Reo-Coker. You can add the likes of Jermaine Defoe. Ledley King and Jermaine Pennant to the list too. All players with incredible talent, of similar age, who were more interested in cars and girls then improving as footballers.
The problem is also at Arsenal. Nicklas Bendtner definetely lost motivation after signing his famour £53,000 a week deal. The same day Denilson also signed a new long term deal, reportedly on £45,000.
Denilson is perhaps the best example we have at Arsenal about a drop in motivation. He signed for Arsenal at the age of 17 on a 5 year deal. 14 months later, he signed a new contract, once again a 5 year deal. He had played less than 30 games for the club! Then, in 2009, he was offered another contract. Another 5 year deal. His original 5 year deal signed in 2006 would still have had 2 years to run. Yet he was given 2 large pay rises. No wonder he took his foot off the pedal. Getting a new contract was easy. And here he was, at 21, with the next 5 years of his life secure. £11million in his bank without even having to try ever again.
The most recent player to suffer from this is Emmanuel Frimpong. He signed, like Gnabry, a £20,000 a week deal as a teenager. Whilst he has had a string of injuries, a poor attitude and a higher motivation to print t-shirts, hang out with Lethal Bizzle and be a general knob have been the main reasons he has failed at Arsenal. With his contract due to expire in 2014, it is unlikely he will be offered a new one. He is very reminiscent of the West Ham Baby Bentley generation. More interested in outside interests then his football.
Will Gnabry’s motivation drop now he has secured the next 5 years of his life? Will he go out tomorrow and buy the 2013 version of the Baby Bentley? Will he turn up to training all blinged up? Will he suddenly let the world know that he is Tinnie Tempah’s cousin and start releasing t-shirts with his own catch phrase on them? Or will he knuckle down and fulfil his great potential?
At the end of the day, it is about risk. Is it worth signing up a Denilson to a long term deal to ensure you do not lose a Ramsey. Or sign do you decide against offering Frimpong a new deal at 17 and also fail to offer Wilshere? Do you end up losing a Pogba, or do you end up keeping a Bendtner? It is a catch-22 scenario.
So this is what clubs face. Play hard ball against a youngster, and risk losing a top talent, or bow down to his demands, and end tying up a large(ish)money for a long period in a player who fails to make the grade after losing motivation to perform.