Skip to main content

Of Loyalty and Trophies


Earlier this summer I wrote about how Sacchi’s Milan was not built in a day. In addition to not having the same foundation as we had then, football has changed so much. The bandiera, a “flag-bearer” who plays his entire career at one team, is basically extinct. And not only does the almighty dollar rule every aspect of the sport now, but players who move clubs actually usually boost their careers and skillsets, too. No longer are trophies won primarily by teams who play together for ten years or more. Loyalty is rewarded neither in money nor silverware. Thus, bygone are the days of loyalty and trophies.

From relegations to trophies, his loyalty was rewarded with legend status

When the world’s richest men began to buy clubs and just pour money into them in search of titles, it seemed for a while it would never pay dividends. But as their purchases began to inflate the transfer market and whole squads were filled with superstars, eventually, their investments paid off with the silverware they basically bought. This made it difficult for other clubs to compete in the market or to keep their own players, because there was always another club who was willing to pay them more. Loyalty became a lost art.

But inflating the transfer market wasn’t enough, these teams' unchecked spending meant that they also paid players wages no one else possibly could. UEFA came up with FFP (Financial Fair Play,) but this only increased the deficit between the uber-rich clubs and everyone else. And while they’re making some drastic changes that help some of the smaller clubs to spend more and possibly compete, all clubs are still subject to the overinflated values caused by the wealthy clubs’ spending. Especially now that the rich clubs are finally winning the trophies, too.

Loyalty unrewarded: 11 years at Udinese, zero trophies for this legend

But even the players no longer really benefit from staying at a single club. They can drastically increase their salaries by moving from club to club. And by playing at different clubs and leagues, they enhance their skillsets. They get exposure to different styles of play, different coaches, and different teammates, all of which make them more marketable, more valuable, and more likely to make more money and win more trophies.

The balance of power in football has shifted drastically. Whereas once upon a time loyalty was rewarded with trophy-winning dynasties, now loyalty is like a weight around a player’s neck and the only real benefit is that the players can live in the same house if they choose. Not even the captain’s armband is guaranteed anymore, even if you stay at a club for 15 years. Now if you are pushed out of playing time at one club, you can find playing time and perhaps better wages and maybe even trophies by changing clubs. This is hard to watch, especially for fans who have their favorite players torn from their club rosters on a dime. Certainly Milan fans remember the departure of Ibra and Thiago Silva, with the almighty dollar absolutely responsible for that heartbreak.

No room for loyalty: Money giveth and money taketh away

The beautiful game is certainly becoming less attractive. Even when we think we’re aware of how money makes the ball go round, there’s nothing like the transfer market to give us daily poignant reminders. Loyalty is scarce, and the trophies seem to go where the money is and so do the players. Even if your club plays the money game and finds a way to win a trophy, it is unlikely that it is going to be lifted by the players of your hearts. No player is safe anymore, leaving fans very uneasy. Maybe it’s time to make jerseys where you can change the name on the back each mercato, because if our loyalty isn’t going to be rewarded with our favorite players staying at the club long term, then we should not be asked for our loyalty in handing over our precious dollars to help finance the attempts for trophies in this money driven world. Money has taken away the days of loyalty and trophies.


This post inspired by the music of The Bangles