What Place Does Loyalty Have in the Transfer Market? The Case of Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa

Before you answer, remember that we vilified this man for making similar comments.

Last week Newcastle target and talented young center back Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa of Montpelier grabbed some headlines of the wrong sort when he made some comments that seemed to suggest that even if he were to move to Tyneside, he wouldn't plan on staying there for very long. In case you missed it, here's what he said:

I know that Newcastle are also interested in me. Newcastle would be a great opportunity for me, and I would hope that eventually I could join Milan. Joining Newcastle before Milan would give me the chance to mature even more and gain more experience.

[Lee Ryder, The Chronicle]

It's not the first time that Yanga-Mbiwa has intimated that Newcastle would be a stepping stone for him. It turns out he's quite the charmer:

To play for Manchester United would be a great satisfaction and a dream which could become reality. Arsenal, also, is a big team. Marseille also, despite their difficulties, remains very attracting. I would never have thought Marseille would follow me.

[Canal Plus]

So what we have here is that early on in the transfer window, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa had all kinds of suitors interested in his services, or at least reported to be so. Apparently, that interest has cooled for one reason or another, and the clubs still queueing up to gain his signature are not quite as "big." MYM has aspirations, which is admirable. However, it's probably not advisable to publicly advertise your intentions to move on before you've even arrived at your next potential destination. I've been looking for a job recently, and I work in a field where a moderate amount of experience (say, 15 years or so) is enough on its own to get you hired just about anywhere you'd like to work. Most people working in my field with that much experience will have worked for at least 3-5 different employers. A 3-5 year stint on the job is considered normal, and anything longer is admirable. Still, everybody I've interviewed with has stopped just short of demanding a 10-year commitment from me. Employers know that their new hires are going to move on eventually, but they don't want to hear that in an interview. Admitting that I'm looking for a short-term job would almost certainly disqualify me, even if I were the best fit for the position otherwise. (To be clear, Person Who Googled Me, that's not the case for me. I'm willing to settle down. Also, I totally don't work on this blog in my office.)

I realize that the world of sport is different. More than most fields, it is a meritocracy, and players with less than ideal attitudes and work ethics get chances based on their talents alone all the time. There's a pretty good chance that MYM will not end up in Newcastle (sorry), and it may be for any number of reasons, not necessarily his public stance on really wanting to play for AC Milan (or Manchester United or Arsenal or Marseille would be nice, too). I would love to be a fly on the wall in the room when Alan Pardew meets with Mike Ashley, Derek Llambias, and whoever else gets to have a say in personnel decisions. Just how much do they value the perceived loyalty of a player to the team? Are they willing to take on mercenaries, knowing they're gone as soon as a bigger club comes calling?

Personally, I don't have a problem with it. More players than we realize feel the way Yanga-Mbiwa does; the only difference is that they have the good sense not to blabber about it to the media. Even if that weren't the case, what would be wrong with bringing on a talented young player, taking advantage of his play for a year or so, and then turning a profit when his dream club comes along? It's just a good bit of business. As long as you don't stop looking for a replacement, there's not a lot of downside - that is, unless you're trying to cultivate a certain type of culture. That's what makes this case so fascinating to me. On one hand, there's a philosophy in the boardroom that says that any player that gets overvalued by the marketplace is sold. (One could argue this doesn't show a lot of loyalty to the player.) As a young player and developing commodity that will continue to mature, Yanga-Mbiwa represents an opportunity for the club to make some money in the long-term. On the other hand, Alan Pardew has paid a lot of lip service to the idea that he's building a club that values loyalty. If a player's got Ambition or Aspirations to be elsewhere, he can leave. There's only enough room for those who are devoted to the crest. Bringing in a player whose stated purpose is to use the club for his own selfish gains could send the wrong message to the dressing room.

Where do you stand on this issue? Do you care whether or not a player views Newcastle as a stepping stone to bigger things?

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