Refuse to train or be a model pro? Speak out against your club or decide to stay quiet? If you weren’t happy where you were and you had better options elsewhere, would you put the wishes of your club ahead of your own ambitions?
In other words, how easily would you abandon the dreams you’ve had since childhood?
Danny Rose did something for which he's been roundly hammered. The Spurs left-back spoke honestly on the record about his own career aspirations. In an interview with The Sun, which he apparently requested, he talked up his worth in terms of wages and his ambitions in terms of trophies.
Aware of the limited time he has to earn money and achieve success, he said he’d be willing to listen to serious offers from elsewhere. He called the club out on their wage structure while stressing the importance of signing players of a certain calibre, “not players you have to Google and say, ‘Who’s that?’ I mean well-known players”.
Gary Neville led the charge on Thursday accusing Rose of being unprofessional. Former Tottenham chairman Lord Sugar tweeted something similar, describing the interview as disgusting, ungrateful, demoralising and disappointing. He believed the club should get rid of him as a result. The popular response was to dismiss him as greedy and disloyal, just another mercenary footballer who thinks only of himself.
I’ve never settled on a particular definition of professionalism in football. There are too many contradictory ways to demonstrate and describe it. Sometimes it’s shown by fouling an opponent knowing full well you’ll get sent off. A model pro is also what you might call someone who’s never been booked.
Professionalism is avoiding the controversy and sanctions that come from mouthing off in interviews. It’s also railing against sub-par facilities and the performance of team-mates.
It's shunning the limelight like Paul Scholes did during his playing days, but it's also using the media to maximise your earning potential. Maybe it's professional to only think of money given the limited time to earn it. Some will say it's about thinking of nothing but football and how you can improve. It can mean whatever you like.
Here's the thing, though. Forgetting all of that, was Rose wrong in anything he said? He is reportedly earning £65,000 a week, half of what Kyle Walker is reportedly earning following his transfer from Spurs to Manchester City.
He’s England’s first-choice left-back and was in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year for the past two seasons. He’s absolutely right to say he’s underpaid for doing the job he does. Any other top team that signs him now would pay him much more.
He’s prepared to leave to win trophies, too, which has angered Spurs fans. His comments have disrespected them, apparently, but since when is it wrong to have an ambition like that?
They can say he shouldn’t have said it publicly but they can’t fault him for thinking that way. Do they think he spent his childhood in Leeds dreaming of playing for Spurs or dreaming of lifting trophies? Do they want a squad full of players who are happy to play for Spurs or a squad that’s full of players driven to succeed?
He also referred to the stick they've given him in the past. He said he hasn't forgotten how they taunted him for his poor performances earlier in his Tottenham career. They were up in arms too when he was given a new contract by Mauricio Pochettino in 2014.
They’re behind him now but he remembers when that wasn’t the case. It would be unreasonable to expect him to prioritise their feelings as he considers what’s best for his career, so I’d ignore commentary that says his interview was disrespectful to them. That’s not what this is about.
Rose, like every player out there, has one shot at a playing career. He believes he has only one big contract left in him. He’s at the peak of his career and it won’t last forever. He’s been linked with moves to Chelsea and Manchester United this summer but they’ll move on to other targets if he’s not available. And there’s no guarantee they’ll come back for him again in the future.
If Tottenham are serious about challenging for honours and attracting the players they need then the club’s wage structure can’t stay as it is for much longer. His comments may do nothing to achieve that, but at least Rose is bringing attention to where it belongs. If you’re not prepared to pay the going rate for top footballers, don’t be upset or surprised when they say they don’t want to play for you.
Rose isn’t the only player unhappy with his wage or the ambition of his club, but he was the one with the courage to speak out. He was reportedly fined two weeks’ wages for giving that interview amid suggestions the club are now prepared to sell him for £50 million. He issued a public apology yesterday acknowledging his comments were ill-judged, but I’m sure even that was was part of the strategy all along.
Apparently his actions were welcomed by his team-mates, some of them equally unimpressed with their lot. He’ll probably double his salary if they do let him go, ending up at a club prepared to spend the money required to push for trophies.
Exactly what he wanted all along, achieved by requesting one quick interview with a newspaper to speak his mind. Call it unprofessional if you like but he’s played a blinder.