“Act in haste, repent at leisure.” It’s one of the great truisms of the world. There are footballers all across the global game who are living, breathing, testaments to its truth. One of them is our own former player Jota, who jumped at the offer to go to Saudi Arabia so swiftly there are probably skids marks from his trainers somewhere.
He has done nothing but regret it ever since. In a sense anyway.
Of course, repenting at leisure is a lot easier when your hands are brimming with oil-stained gold, and there’s a temptation to suggest that in the long run you’re not going to repent at all. Ask him in 20 years, when his bank balance is still bulging, if he regrets it and I would bet that you’d get a rueful laugh which suggests that you not be so silly.
Still, in the here and now there are more than enough regrets to go round. For starters, if you sift through the confusing reports, you find one which says he expects his salary if he terminates his deal early. There will be colonies on the moon before that happens.
Why would he get his salary? Is he even getting paid what was originally reported? You just never know what’s in those contracts, what clauses or small print. It may well be that much of his salary is actually made up from appearances – which there now won’t be. Or dependent on his being registered to play – which he’s not.
Right from the start of this, I have been sure that Jota was badly advised. In the end, what do agents care whether their players have reached the Promised Land or a luxurious version of Hell on Earth?
Until his dying day, Jota’s agent will tell the world that he got his client the best deal, the most unbelievable deal, and a lot of people will swallow that, in no small part because it’s true and because that’s the job of any agent above all else.
What he won’t say, but what we all know, is that his own hands would have been overflowing with cash at the same time. I didn’t know for years that an agent gets a cut of a player’s weekly salary. When I found that out, I realised why a lot of deals which hitherto seemed to make no sense to me, from the players perspective, suddenly do.
Would a smart agent have allowed clauses like that in a contract?
Of course, if the alternative was not getting the signatures of all the parties on it.
Besides, who expects a scenario like this to unfold? He must have thought there was no way a club would pay a transfer fee to his player on this level and then not put him in the team. The idea that Jota isn’t good enough to start regularly in the Saudi league is plainly mad … so the risk, next to the reward, must have seemed very small.
He won’t get his contract’s worth if he walks; I’m willing to bet that his club can afford better lawyers than he could ever dream and those deals, on their end, will be watertight. I suspect he probably is getting what he’s due, or close to it.
Not that the finances are necessarily the be-all-and-end-all here … as I’ve said before, the thing that gets me about deals like this is that you can only spend so much money unless you’re some Logan Roy lunatic with a private yacht and six different house (and you can only live in one of them at any given time of course) … after you’ve got the house and the car you always dreamed about it gets to the point where it just loses all meaning.
This guy is a professional athlete, and he wants to play.
Even if the financial situation is solid, Jota knew he’d be spending much of the next few years in the football equivalent of a gilded cage. Saudi Arabia is not the place you go if you want a rich and vibrant social life, although Dubai and its much looser atmosphere is a short plane hop away. You can’t exactly do much in Saudi most of the time.
The one consolation was that he’d get to put on his show and do his thing, and it must be enormously frustrating, and even humiliating, to be at the centre of this ever-evolving nightmare.
Don’t think for a minute that’s easy to do. He might live in some luxury over there, but he doesn’t get to play football, which is what he loves, his friends and family are thousands of miles away, there’s no social or night life worthy of the name and the embarrassment he must feel at not getting registered for the squad must be acute. It can’t be an easy situation to be in.
Regular readers know my sympathy has limits when it comes to this guy but it would take a heart of stone not to realise that his dream move is now a bit of a disaster. He has the money, but he’d have some version, some lesser version, of the money anyway had he bided his time and waited for England or somewhere decent in Europe.
Instead, he’s in a fight against forces much bigger than him, and perhaps not even at the centre of that fight … reports today have branded him “collateral damage” which really isn’t a good situation to be in.
When you consider how feted and loved he was at Celtic Park, and the new deals being handed out to players, he could have been a hero here for a couple more years at least, and he’d still have been financially secure with the big move teed up for later on … and he jumped at the money, that’s all there is here, he jumped at the money and like so many players who have left this club for that reason he’s found out that the grass isn’t necessarily greener elsewhere.
In fact, so few players who leave Celtic do find that … and many of them have said so.
But his case might be the most lucrative, but it’s also the most terrible and it’s fitting, in a sense, that those should go hand in hand here because they say the greater the risk the greater the reward, but the reverse is also true and anyone who wasn’t in on the negotiations and due their own cut could, and should, have warned him that the risks here were obvious, with the possibility of separation anxiety the least of them.
The grass isn’t always greener. It’s not always worth chasing the Really Big Bucks.
It’s pretty bad what’s happened to him here, but he followed his own judgement although the advice he was getting would have been more along the lines of “take the money” rather than “take your time and think it through.” And that’s how they got him.
Act in haste, repent at leisure.
And even if you’re repenting, for now, in a luxury air-conditioned apartment worth more than a row of Glasgow houses, we should set aside that aspect of this; this is a man who’s struggling, a man who’s got regrets, a man who feels like he’s in a very expensive, well appointed prison and whilst comparatively he’s so much better off than many, many, many of our own fans will be … comparative suffering doesn’t change the nature of suffering and it is possible to lament and scorn the decisions he’s made whilst still feeling bad for the guy.