After the merriment of the weekend Monday afternoon brought with it the sobering news that Sochaux chariman Alexandre Lacombe has reported Newcastle to Europe`s governing body for allegedly tapping up striker target Modibo Maiga.
Lacombe told L`Est Republican “Newcastle are going on contacting our players despite our refusal. So we will register a complaint with UEFA, telling them such behaviour is not fair play. It is provoking destabilisation.” A report has since been made stating a violation by Newcastle of Article 18 of international regulations which can be found here.
To be honest I was waiting for this to come out for a week or so. Once I had read the article in which Maiga stated he had already met with Newcastle, already knowing that Sochaux had blocked a move, hence his strike, I knew trouble was brewing with this one.
After a few days, although I still think it could cause a bit of hassle, my opinion had changed slightly. I had heard stories like this before. I had heard of investigations. Yet even in the case regarding Chelsea and John Obi Mikel which was so blatant it was funny although they were found guilty and there was a transfer ban enforced, it was forcefully appealed by Chelsea, dragged out, temporarily reversed, put back etc.
My gut feeling on this is, like so many of the rules UEFA and football in general has in place, there is a massive grey area and who can say what exactly constitutes tapping up a player. So I done some digging just to see how much of it goes on. Here are some of the cases and accusations I found within five minutes of searching.
Manchester United and Manchester City were both accused of tapping up Samir Nasri. A Legitimate claim one would think when you hear Roberto Mancini and Patrice Evra talking about him well before any move was made.
Spurs accused of tapping up Robbie Keane when he was at Liverpool, and funnily enough vice-versa. Spurs said Liverpool done the same before they bought him.
Liverpool accused of tapping up Gabriel Heinze when at Manchester United as well as Rafa Benitiez being accused by HJK Helsinki of making an illegal approach for Pal Forisol.
Spurs have been accused by Aston Villa in the past of tapping up Ashley Young, while Aston Villa only recently themselves have been accused of doing the same to secure Alex McLeish as manager.
Chelsea were accused of it before they signed Fernando Torres last season and with that came the same concerns from Newcastle over the Andy Carroll move to replace him at Liverpool.
Real Madrid were accused of it for a long time over their attempts to secure Cristiano Ronaldo from Man Utd, and crossing Alex Ferguson usually does not end well for the other party. Again, nothing came of it.
Barcelona have been involved in the most blatant and longest running “tapping up” of a player I have ever seen. Staff, players, board members, and basically anyone they could find to make a public comment have spent almost two years doing everything they could to unsettle Fabregas and get him back to Spain.
Barcelona have themselves accused Arsenal of it on at least three occasions in the past with Arsenal stealing promising youngsters from under the noses of the Catalan giants. Knowing Wenger’s love for the young ones I`m sure there are dozens of similar cases that have never made it to mainstream media.
Now if all of those accusations and cases constituted “tapping up” most of the big sides in both England and Europe would not have the players they do today. This I think proves there is a real grey area surrounding this issue and it must be extremely difficult to enforce sanctions on teams for their sneaky activity in the transfer market.
It has been put to me that Newcastle should be a team that does not resort to this type of thing and it is unprofessional. Fact is we would all love our club to do things the right way and be squeaky clean but to think that will actually happen is kidding yourself.
Agreed, everyone should play the rules. The reality is these are the rules. It is a cut-throat world in which the playing field is far from fair. To get ahead or even stand the slightest chance of competing in the market the motto seems to now be, get it done by whatever means necessary.
The loopholes in various rules, mainly the one in question as regards acquiring players, are plenty and are manipulated on a constant basis by clubs. An accusation of tapping up is no more than that, an accusation. Unless extremely unlucky this seems to be merely seen as leverage and if punished for it can bring up any one of the above mentioned cases as well as I`m sure a hundred more to say, well what about these cases, how are we any different, why should we be punished?
So all things considered the conclusion I have come to is this. As much as the Sochaux chairman may be fuming at the prospect of Newcastle contacting or trying to take one of his players, fact is Sochaux are not as big a club and will lose players to bigger and better clubs and leagues. If we were all to go about playing nice and not using what leverage we could the personnel in some of the biggest clubs in Europe would not be what they are. The playing field is not at all fair and we are playing by the same rules as everyone else by the looks of things.
To stand a chance in dog eat dog you have to some big teeth, and even bigger balls.