Gavin Hamilton
Tuesday November 6th, 2007

Loyalty is a much-maligned concept in soccer. Players have long been castigated for switching clubs at the slightest opportunity -- often by coaches who don't think twice about following the money themselves.

In the past 10 days, a number of high-profile cases have exposed the hypocrisy at the heart of the European game. Ronald Koeman quit PSV Eindhoven to join Valencia; Juande Ramos turned his back on Sevilla to move to Tottenham Hotspur; and Henk ten Cate resigned as head coach of Ajax to become Avram Grant's assistant at Chelsea.

Elsewhere, Gary Megson was in charge of English Championship side Leicester for a matter of weeks before resigning to take up a more lucrative offer from Premier League club Bolton Wanderers.

In all of the above cases, the men on the move have been motivated by one reason -- more money -- and they have joined clubs whose situations can at best be described as volatile. Koeman, for example, moved to a Valencia side that was humiliated 5-1 at home by Real Madrid last week and is struggling in the Champions League, while Ramos took charge of a Spurs team that had slipped into the Premier League's bottom three.

Though ten Cate quit Ajax before he was sacked, following the Dutch club's exit from both the Champions League and UEFA Cup, the others walked away from clubs that were well-placed to achieve success this season.

Ramos, after steering Sevilla to five trophies in 16 months, guided the Spanish club to a strong position in the group stages of this season's Champions League, its first time in the competition. Koeman, meanwhile, had steadied a PSV ship unsettled by the summer departures of Alex and Arouna Koné and the retirement of Phillip Cocu.

By quitting their respective clubs a few weeks into the season, all the above coaches did something that players are forbidden from doing by the rules of the transfer market. Players tend to justify big-money transfers by arguing -- quite legitimately -- that their careers are short and they must take advantage as and when they can.

Coaches, by contrast, don't have such as a limited working lifespan. Ramos, for example, has been earning a comfortable living for almost 20 years in Spain. Now, at Spurs, he is reportedly the world's highest paid coach, earning an estimated $10 million a year.

Ramos was earning around $3 million a year at Sevilla, but has been plotting a move to England for some time. In certain corners of the English media, Ramos has been hailed as a cross between José Mourinho and Arsène Wenger, a messiah-like figure who can revive Spurs.

Sevilla's achievements over the past three seasons certainly command respect, but Ramos hasn't been the only person responsible for the Spanish club's success. Sevilla's sporting director Monchi, for instance, doen't have an agent. Compare that to Ramos, who actively courted the English media -- my own magazine, World Soccer, included -- via his agent.

Roy Hodgson, the current coach of Finland, formerly in charge of Switzerland, Internazionale and Blackburn among others, once told me that he felt his greatest achievement in soccer was working continuously for the past 25 years "without an agent."

Yet if coaches of the stature of Ramos, Koeman and ten Cate can behave as they have done in recent weeks, walking away from legitimate contracts that were signed in good faith, how on earth can we can expect players to behave any more responsibly?

Gavin Hamilton is the editor in chief of World Soccer Magazine. He contributes to SI.com on alternate Mondays.

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