Chris McGrath: Time to forgive Mido after his grand gesture

Striker's £1,000-a-week deal with West Ham shows us not all players are mercenaries

So that's what they mean by a salary cap. Your new striker takes it off his head when he gets to the tube station, and goes round collecting his salary in it.

Mido being Mido, of course, there will be plenty who reckon his agent deserves a bonus for finding anyone prepared to pay him even a grand a week. West Ham, who signed him on loan on the final day of the transfer window, are the 10th club to take a chance on the Egyptian over the past decade. His career has been full of fluctuations, not least in his waistline, but David Sullivan is nonetheless entitled to claim his signature – at £1,000 a week – as "one of the most amazing deals of all time".

In fairness, as West Ham's joint-owner also noted, "Mido is a rich boy, even though he is still only 26." And it seems safe to assume that he will have secured various bonuses, contingent on appearances or performance. Even so, it has come to something when – as must be the case, given the cost of tickets – appreciable numbers in the stand are taking home a better basic wage than a Premier League centre-forward.

No wonder Ruud van Nistelrooy and Eidur Gudjohnsen snubbed West Ham. Doubtless Benni McCarthy, who has also arrived at Upton Park, is poring anxiously over the small print of a contract reportedly worth £38,000 a week. But Mido says he is here to prove a point, and it is not a decimal one. Officially still on the books at Middlesbrough, he was banished to Wigan last season and then back to his homeland, to El Zamalek. Now he has resolved to show a sceptical public that not all footballers are mercenaries.

He is certainly entitled to be received in good faith by those West Ham fans who once required their manager at the time, Alan Pardew, to apologise to Mido for their xenophobic chanting, back in his Tottenham days. For here, on the face of it, is a bloke who just wants to play football – at any price.

Undeniably, it is difficult now to see Mido – fractious, disaffected, indolent – as some kind of exemplar. Until now he has always seemed a commuter on the gravy train, the man who put the roly-poly into role model.

But he apparently looks pretty trim at the moment. And to that extent, the Premier League could hardly have made a more vivid expression of its new, belt-tightening culture. For Mido's contract, like some smeared, improvised putty, sealed the transfer window that allowed an icy new draught into the game. For it is reckless wages, as much as transfer fees, that have opened the abyss for clubs like Portsmouth. Smaller clubs, of course, get far less slack than Manchester United or Liverpool. But it is the monstrous debts vested in the big "brands" that set the going rate for everyone, both in fees and wages.

This was the transfer window when clubs accepted they need to stop borrowing money, and start borrowing players instead. They must be kicking themselves at Pompey, to see relegation rivals paying a striker £52,000 p.a. But it is not as if the skewed economics of football are suddenly going to be corrected by Mido.

After all, the house of cards is ultimately held together not by the players, or the clubs, but by you and me. Fans profess revulsion for "obscene" wages, but are prepared to fork out commensurate sums for replica shirts or satellite subscriptions.

Moreover, we take unmistakable relish in our relationship with these undeserving millionaires. They do not "earn" their money in any way a nurse or teacher might comprehend. It helps, then, if Ashley Cole swerves off the road in disgust, yelping "55K!" It helps, come to that, if John Terry leaves his Bentley in a disabled parking zone, or indeed parks other things in places they don't belong.

Imagine if everybody were made to accept the reality that many elite footballers are pleasant, decent family men. Mido may not have made too many friends in the game, so far, but that makes him the ideal author of a heroic gesture like this. For we have made a Mephistophelian pact with football. For all its moral imperfections, our infatuation is helpless. And that, it is only fair to recognise, must be no less true of Mido himself.

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Morrissey pictured in 2013
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Robyn Lawley
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star