Three good reasons for Manchester United to sell Wayne Rooney to Chelsea
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David Moyes insisted after yesterday’s game that the only difference between the sides was a couple of set-pieces, but the near-unanimous pre-match consensus that Chelsea would win handsomely suggested otherwise.
On January 4th, Borussia Dortmund’s best player travelled to Munich and signed a pre-contract with Dortmund’s biggest rivals, FC Bayern. Robert Lewandowski’s free transfer wasn’t even really news. Everybody had known it was going to happen. The only reason why it hadn’t happened already was that Dortmund had also lost Mario Götze to Bayern, and they were determined not to lose two of their best players to the same rival in the same summer. They decided Lewandowski would serve out his contract even if it meant losing him for nothing at the end of it.
From the point of view of both Götze and Lewandowski, moving to Bayern was a no-brainer. The world measures the success of a footballer by counting his money and his titles. They knew that by moving to Bayern they would make more money and win more titles than they would by staying at Dortmund.
Most fans are irritated by that dispassionate logic, while simultaneously empathising with it completely. Players who don’t make their career decisions according to the conventional logic of ambition can find themselves being questioned, even mocked, by fans.
Look at Matthew Le Tissier, a genius who played his whole career for Southampton and never won anything. Le Tissier might be the anti-Lewandowski. He liked playing for Southampton and felt happy there, so he stayed. Today, for every fan who admires Le Tissier’s loyalty, there are several who dismiss him for lacking ambition.
Made little difference
The question for Dortmund now is whether it was worth making Lewandowski stay. Keeping him has made little difference to their domestic competitiveness: Bayern are walking away with the title even without Lewandowski. Had Dortmund sold the player last summer, they could have taken the transfer fee of €15-20 million and invested it straight back into the team. Now they have to replace him anyway, except they’ve got €15-20 million less with which to do so.
The only argument that still stands in favour of keeping Lewandowski is that Dortmund are still in the Champions League, and having a striker of that quality gives them a puncher’s chance. So the decision may yet prove to have been worth it, but right now it looks like Dortmund let their heart rule their head, and made the wrong call.
The situation will have been studied by Manchester United, who once hoped to sign Lewandowski, because a similar dilemma is looming now concerning their own Wayne Rooney, whose contract expires in summer 2015.
Imagine Rooney’s feelings as he watched yesterday’s match at Stamford Bridge. David Moyes insisted afterwards that the only difference between the sides was a couple of set-pieces, but the near-unanimous pre-match consensus that Chelsea would win handsomely suggested otherwise. If there was an element of surprise about the result, it was that Chelsea eased off once the score was 3-0, apparently indifferent to the prospect of inflicting a massive humiliation on their rivals.