I’ve always wondered, long before this site ever existed, how it would be to say goodbye to a player who’s served your club so admirably. The feeling of parting would be one thing that’s not totally alien. But expressing all those feelings that come rushing into your head, all at once, in some concrete form, is a different challenge.
So in this way, I wondered how difficult it might have been to say goodbye to such players – more prominently, names like Beckham, Ruud, Keano, even Stam and Phil Neville, come to mind. I’ve also wondered in the past about how tough it might be to write a fitting farewell to current players like Rooney, Ronaldo, Giggs, Scholes and so on. Needless to say, they are all extremely difficult if you plan to write a farewell that does justice to their contributions.
Apart from those names I mentioned above, I did also wonder about Gabriel Heinze.
A player, for whom, the fans on the Stretford End chanted ‘Argentina’ much to the fury of fellow Englishmen. A player, who won the Matt Busby Player of the Year award in his very first year. A player, for whom, after the Villarreal game, we wept and then waited, and waited for eternity. A player, for whom, we, and the management, including Sir Alex, showed a willingness to allow him to put country over club. A player, who was known especially for his commitment and work rate on the pitch.
Surely such a player would be the stuff of legend, no?
Things change. But nothing quite so dramatic as this one. Yours truly has always been defending Heinze, despite the barrage of media reports that came about, early in the summer, linking him to a host of clubs. We waited and waited – and in the process, kept rubbishing every report that came out – for the man, himself, to speak. And finally, after several weeks of waiting, he did open his mouth with these words:
“For me to go the offer has to be good for everyone. I’m very comfortable in Manchester. I’ve been a champion, captain and the fans love me. Everything is perfect.”
Exactly. Those were the words. Now, surely, no one could ever contest that statement. But there were certain ambiguities in the statement about things being suitable to all parties and so on.
It was in late July, and early August when things started getting real, when the fact that Heinze might actually leave the club dawned upon us. But then, it may not have mattered to many fans had he made his intentions of moving to a Spanish club clear. (For that matter, many fans honestly believe Ronaldo would eventually leave for Spain.) But Heinze decided to move to a club that was our most bitter rival.
While we talk about disloyalty and inevitably use the word that best classifies such people (cunt, for those wondering what the word is) it is interesting to note another left back who showed a similar desire to move to a rival (Ashley Cole to Chelsea).
However, in pure professional terms, it was possible to explain Cole’s desire to move to Chelsea on two factors, namely, money and the chance of winning big trophies more consistently. Heinze’s move, on the other hand, didn’t make sense, either from a professional perspective or an emotional one. He had already won the league with United. And, surely, United could match anything that Liverpool could offer. Heinze was dear to most fans, and he’d certainly not betray us.
But no. He had mastered the art of making an enemy of his most devoted and loyal fans.
I, for one, loved Heinze as a player. I still do respect his ability. But the events that transpired over the past month has brought out another side of him that has made me question if I really liked him, in the first place. Losing his place to Evra, who was better in terms of going forward and helped add another edge to the already heavily attacking nature of this United side, I thought he – the tough character that he is – would work hard and fight for his place in the side. It is surely disappointing for a player if he were to lose a starting place. But when he knows he’s in with a good chance of starting if he does well in training, then it would be good for him if he can fight his way back into the side.
I thought he was a tough character, and such challenges would drive him on further to do better. But again, for the nth time, I was mistaken. All his determination was now focused on engineering a move to Liverpool, much to the chagrin of SAF and the fans. It’s credit to the management for sticking to the principles that was central to our relationship with ‘Pool for not backing down on our stance, even when they were, apparently, our only bidders.
In a way, I am happy that he moved to a club outside of the Premiership. In a way, I feel cheated by his complete (and still baffling) change of heart.
Madrid haven’t played United in a Champions’ League for four years. It may be fair to say we are due a face-off with the Merengues. After Beckham’s departure the ex-United contingent will now be two strong. While Ruud would certainly be welcome with open arms, Heinze would be better advised to stay at home, or better, run off to his beloved Argentina. The Argentina chants would still be there – we have a new favourite Argie in our ranks – but the vitriol thrown at Gabby might probably equal that faced by Figo when he crossed over to Madrid from Barca. Well, Heinze didn’t cross the ‘forbidden bridge’ that Figo or Phil Chisnall did, but his intentions and behaviour, throughout this saga, is more than enough reason for him to look for personal bodyguards when (and if) he ever happens to play against United again.
So fuck off Heinze, and thanks for the Â£8 million.
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