There are many things I regret not happening to me as a player.
For example, I wish I had played for a team whose kit sponsor was adidas.
As a kid, I loved the simplicity of the sky blue outfit with three white stripes down the arm worn by Hans van Breukelen and Rinat Dasayev. It didn’t need the garish patterns that made the shirts of the 1990s look like someone had swallowed luminous paint and then vomited all over them.
Another thing that never happened to me was becoming the subject of a long, drawn out transfer saga. Sure, in the early days when I was showing some promise there was some long-term interest but nothing in the same league as what is played out in the media these days.
When you look at the sagas of the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Alexis Sanchez, you wonder if they ever get as sick of hearing their names mentioned in every news round-up as we do.
Of course, the difference between what we hear and reality can be worlds apart but for everyone’s sanity, especially the players themselves, surely it’s better that all that white noise buzzing in the background dies down?
Perhaps transfer speculation is more part of a player’s career than ever now and it’s accepted as something they have to deal with on a weekly basis but unless I wanted a move away from my current club, then I’d be inclined to put the rumours to bed so I could concentrate on my football.
In van Dijk’s case, his wish has been made perfectly clear in black and white this week and if there is some credit to be given to him, then at least he has been honest and up front.
From a financial point of view, I guess it’s easier to be honest knowing that if his demands aren’t met, he still has five of the six-year contract he signed last year to fall back on.
Questions have been asked why, if he wants to move to Liverpool so desperately, did he sign such a lengthy contract? But the answers are simple and not just to do with greed, as some have pointed out.
Allowing your contract to run down might give you more power when negotiating a contract renewal or one elsewhere, but you’re also running the risk of injury negating your position. He suffered an ankle injury in January and if that had proved to be more serious, the insurance of the new contract will have allowed him to concentrate on his rehabilitation, rather than worry about anything contractual.
Alongside van Dijk as a resident of the back pages, you have Alexis Sanchez who is playing a game akin to a poker player sitting at the table wearing a Niqab and sunglasses, thinking he is giving nothing away.
Fair play to Alexis for keeping his level of play high despite his apparent displeasure. It takes a measure of mental strength to park potential distractions and maintain your focus.
Some players thrive off that attention though, and the more his situation drags on, the more the spotlight is on him, the more he feeds off it.
Since the story of his potential departure began, you could carry the number of newspapers he hasn’t been mentioned in under one arm; a slight exaggeration but not too far from the truth
Maybe that’s it. The solo strops singling himself out from his team-mates, the unwillingness to commit to Arsenal, the cryptic messages through the medium of selfies with his dog on Instagram. You get the feeling that he revels in it. So don’t expect this one to draw to a close any time soon.
Bringing it back to van Dijk, if Sanchez should be applauded for his ability to still play on and play on well, is Virgil van Dijk mentally weak? If he doesn’t think he can focus 100% on playing because of his will to be somewhere else, is that a red flag to Jurgen Klopp that when the chips are down and he’s under pressure, he won’t be able to rely on Van Dijk?
Because this is the problem. It’s all fine that players want to better further their career and better bank balances so long as you’re professional and get on with playing for your current club until the deal is done.
You can understand Mauricio Pellegrino not including him in his squad because you only want players who giving their all. Van Dijk may dispute the two-week fine threatened by Southampton but this isn’t someone who is beset by a personal problem. By telling his manager he isn’t 100% focused, he is telling the manager not to consider him to play.
It’s a subtle move and he probably thinks he’s being incredibly clever but we see you, Virgil. We see you.
And if he thinks his fine is unjust then he should think of those who have been even less fortune than himself. Someone like me, who was fined two weeks wages at Aberdeen because I got lost on my way to a kids football team’s presentation night up in the Highlands.
It was the days before there was satnav in every car and to make it worse the club had given me the wrong post code - more than an hour in the wrong direction. But because the organiser complained directly to a director of the club, I was fined two weeks’ wages. A mere fraction of what van Dijk earns and I certainly felt the dent.
So suck it up, Virgil, some of us wanted to play for our clubs and were still punished.