To Cash In or Not Cash In?

Years ago, a contract was a contract.  If a player was in the middle of a contract with his team, he stayed there.  If he wanted to leave and go elsewhere, it only happened if his team allowed it or wanted it to happen.  But over time, things have gradually changed to a point where I'm confused.

Last year we had the Ronaldo move from Man U to Real Madrid.  Man U didn't want to let him go and Ronaldo was under contract.  But he moved.  So what happened?

Now we are in the middle of an identical situation with Fabregas at Arsenal.  Arsenal don't want to lose him and he his under contract.  So why is there a good chance that he could move to Real Madrid?

Both these situations highlight the power that the top players in the game have gradually acquired over the years.

Let's try and break it down, looking at the Fabregas situation.

Arsenal don't want to lose him.  They don't want to let him go.  They have invested about six years developing him from a raw, talented 17 year old.  He is now one of the top midfielders in the world and they have him under contract.  Now obviously, when his contract runs out, he becomes a free agent and can leave.  But while under contract, he is obligated to stay...right?  Maybe not.

If the player (Fabregas) shows he is unhappy and wants to leave, that puts Arsenal in a tricky situation.  Any or all of the following could happen.

1.  Fabregas might not play well if he is unhappy.  He might not have the motivation to give it 100%.  So do Arsenal want to risk this sub par performance?

2.  I believe Fabregas has one more year on his contract.  If he is saying he wants to leave now, then chances are he will definitely leave at the end of his contract in a years time.  If that is the case, he becomes a free agent and Arsenal won't get a penny for him.  If they decide to let him leave now, they will get millions...figures of about $50 million have been mentioned.

3.  If they let him go now and cash in, they get rid of a discontented player, but then set a precedent for other players to do the same.  And they without doubt, upset their fan base.  If Arsenal want to be one of the elite clubs in the EPL and Europe, cashing in on their best players while they are in their prime is not the way to do it.

So what is a club like Arsenal to do?  It's extremely difficult to try and replace players like Fabregas.  It would hard to turn away $50 million just to keep him for one more year, but it would also be hard to disappoint your fans and get a reputation as a club who can't keep its players happy.

In the NFL and MLB there are "tampering" rules that forbid teams or agents from contacting players at other teams who are still under contract.  I admit it would be extremely difficult to mandate this and police it with clubs from different countries, but it would certainly stop the likes of Real Madrid unsettling players at other clubs just so they can sign them.

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