How Olivier Giroud Can Rectify Big Money Football's Sins
There’s nothing wrong with premier league football that can’t be cured with what’s right with Olivier Giroud. President Bill Clinton may not have conjured up the French striker when coining his inaugural adage, but the Big Dog is onto something when it comes to the Beautiful Game.
While most major sports in the United States operate under owner-friendly collective bargaining agreements to ensure a modicum of parity—such as trades, free agency, and a salary cap (with somewhat the exception of the NBA)—the world’s elite soccer leagues do not feature any such measures.
The top flight teams in Spain, France, Germany, and England do not have trades nor a salary cap, but rather a free wheeling transfer system wherein clubs can pay exorbitant fees for the rights to a player under contract at another club. The most egregious example of this came this past summer, where the threshold for what was once unthinkable for transfer fees was raised again, culminating in the $263 purchase of Barçalona left winger and Brazilian prodigy Neymar by Paris Saint Germain (PSG).
While Neymar himself will not touch a penny of that fee, he stands to make over $720,500 per week in salary, which, along with other expenditures, will set PSG back over $500 million when the dust has settled from the transfer and contract.
It has been common place this summer for British clubs to spend over $40 million on transfer fees for players that might not even regularly make the starting lineup. Arsenal lost a versatile engine in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain—who could play wing-back, central midfield, attacking midfield, and on either forward wing—to Liverpool for $52 million, and the Beatles’ hometown club have no shortage of talent in any of those positions.
So where does Olivier Giroud fit into all of this?
Although Giroud is not an international superstar—and, at the insistence of many bitter fans, certainly not one of the top strikers in the world—he’s an icon in France, wearing the all-important number nine shirt and starting for the national team. More importantly, though, is that Giroud had the chance to leave Arsenal this summer after they signed his compatriot Alexandre Lacazette from Lyon in France’s top flight. Everton, Liverpool’s neighbor and biggest rival, were eager to sign him, and he could have landed himself at any number of solid clubs.
Yet his loyalty to Arsenal and their embattled manager, Arsène Wenger, led him to stay.
Giroud went viral last year for scoring one of the most eye catching goals in soccer history, the scorpion kick (you’ll know why it earned that name upon watching the highlight clip). He has one of the highest ratios of goals per minutes played, often coming off the bench last season to save his Gunners at the death. He also was never too bad as a striker, consistently finding himself among the club’s top scorers and never too far from the league’s biggest point earners.
What Giroud proves is that not every elite footballer is prone to chasing the money, and that club loyalty still means something. After being lambasted for never adequately filling the shoes of his predecessors—difficult shoes at that following the likes of Robin Van Persie, Dennis Bergkamp, and Thierry Henry—Giroud came off the bench in Arsenal’s debut match against former Cinderella-story champions Leicester City to score a forceful header, clinching victory just minutes before the end of the match.
The same fans who had jeered and emasculated him suddenly found themselves standing singing his goal song, a drunk North London rendering of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” (Na, na, na na na naaaa, na na na naaaa, Gir-oud).
The goal failed to earn him a place in the starting lineup for the next match, but Giroud did not budge when the transfer deadline approached last week.
Modern footballers may embrace their commoditization, but for every instance of greed and duplicity, players like Olivier Giroud loyally dawn their club kit and give it all not for the signing bonus or the transfer fee, but the fans signing their song.