James Lawton: Gallas finds offer easy to refuse from a family more Corleone than Von Trapp

When Mourinho lost Gallas, an unbridled rage appears to have set in
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The Independent Football

Though more or less everything about Chelsea's official website denouncement of William Gallas beggared belief, one phrase was particularly mesmerising. It said: "When Jose Mourinho generously offered him a way back into the 'family' this was thrown back into his face."

Could Mario Puzo still be alive and working for the Stamford Bridge thought police? Was the offer accompanied by a dead fish and the severed head of a fancy racehorse? Apparently not, in both cases, but this did little to modify the idea that Gallas, however desperate, or despicable his language and methods might have been in the view of Mourinho, had reason enough to make his break for the relatively safe house of Arsenal.

Chelsea no doubt will be offended by such imagery but when they used the phrase "family" to describe a football operation that for quite some time has in its arrogance and style - if not substance - put even casual observers rather more in mind of the Corleones than the Von Trapps, they held themselves on offer in a way hard to refuse.

Equally difficult is not identifying Mourinho as the driving force of this latest evidence that Chelsea not only find the concept of defeat almost impossible to accept, but also that the same applies to virtually any development that doesn't dovetail neatly with their belief that their destiny is to control everything and everyone within their sphere of wealth-inflated influence.

The flagrant tapping-up of Ashley Cole - who was blandly telling the nation this week that he had come to Stamford Bridge for all the right reasons - the effective ending of referee Anders Frisk's career on allegations that were proved to be false; and charges that they have attempted to intrude illegally into the youth policy of Leeds United had already provided a heavy body of evidence, so when the Chelsea chief executive, Peter Kenyon, said he saw the Premiership race as something to be decided by a "bunch of one", his view wasn't entirely based on Mourinho's proven knack of getting expensive players to play.

However, the Gallas affair breaks new ground in ruthlessness. Regrets and angst follow many break- ups, but character assassination is not quite so routine - even in the higher levels of football.

Chelsea's behaviour towards Gallas could scarcely be in starker contrast to the way Arsenal parted with Cole, a player they nourished from boyhood and then saw publicly flaunt his disloyalty in a London hotel, not with any old rivals but the club who had most seriously challenged a decade of soaring achievement. Still, when the Arsenal chairman, Peter Hill-Wood, states that in no circumstances would his club have considered such a public attack on an old player, there is no reason to disbelieve him. Arsenal, in this sense, belong to an older football world where the image of the club - and the game in general - was more important than passing advantage in the court of public opinion. Even in Manchester United's most tumultuous days in recent years, the intimacies of collisions between Sir Alex Ferguson and such luminaries as Jaap Stam, David Beckham, Roy Keane and Ruud van Nistelrooy have never been vented remotely so venomously, so publicly as in the case of Gallas.

The same was true of Ferguson's predecessor Sir Matt Busby when he watched, as a powerless father might, the systematic disintegration of the talent of his most gifted player, George Best. At Leeds United, Don Revie charged himself with re-aligning the life of Jack Charlton along professional lines - and once he demanded that the young, and at the time not totally disciplined Billy Bremner get on his knees and thank God for all the advantages he had been given. None of this reached ancient equivalents of the club's website.

More recently Stan Collymore agitated for a move from Nottingham Forest - then demanded a loyalty bonus when he was signed by Liverpool. Forest manager Frank Clark kept his counsel as his best player undermined his job.

Until this week that was a recurring pattern. It was based on the assumption that if players couldn't talk to their manager, if they couldn't voice their fears and their anger and frustrations without concern that all would be revealed whenever it suited the club, there would be no foundation of trust for an individual or the team.

It is something Mourinho might need to reflect on in the coming months of a season in which he unquestionably faces more pressure than ever before. Whatever Gallas's past record of loyalty, there is no doubt he was both a vital and versatile force for Chelsea. He won the admiration of his captain, John Terry, for the accomplishment and the hardness of his work, and there are few more weightier endorsements in the matter of physical commitment available in English football.

Now Gallas has been humiliated far more profoundly than his team-mate Ricardo Carvalho was when he voiced displeasure at being left out of the first team at the start of last season, a fact which will surely cast doubts in the minds of those who have most publicly proclaimed unity as one of the greatest of strengths at Stamford Bridge. Most players piece together the strands of their manager's behaviour, and when he is in credit he can be assured of their best efforts. But such loyalty is far from a permanent gift. It can be eroded even by small slights. Insecurity, sometimes to the point of neurosis, is endemic in the football dressing-room, and this particular condition could not have sharply improved at Chelsea last season when after defeat at Fulham, Mourinho contemptuously threw down his match notes. The message was explicit. He had laid down his beautiful plans and they had been betrayed.

The fact that Mourinho had no success as a player, that all his yearnings have had to be accommodated from the dug-out, has long been seen by some as a point of weakness - a pressure point that could expand at moments of maximum frustration.

Mourinho knows the value of William Gallas the player, and it is why he fought so hard to keep him. But when he lost him, when it turned out to be the price of stealing Cole from one of his main rivals, an unbridled rage appears to have set in. It was vented on the website, a place where a football match - or true loyalty - will never be won.

So Mourinho had the satisfaction of public revenge. He sought to destroy the character of a player he alleged had threatened deliberately to betray his team out on the field. Whether Gallas said it - or had any intention of delivering on his threat - is no longer the issue. The only certainty is that Mourinho broke an unspoken rule. He did that because he had failed to keep one valuable player.

The risk attached was that he might, sooner than later, lose an entire dressing-room.

NFL could teach a feeble Premiership all about transparent honesty

Premiership football's thus far feeble attempts to police itself have again been overtaken by undercover journalism.

The BBC programme Panorama's investigations appear to have outstripped those of former police chief Lord Stevens. It is a familiar story. On the last significant occasion, when the then Arsenal manager George Graham was suspended for accepting payment from an agent, a "major" probe by the football authorities unearthed one big-name miscreant, an ailing Brian Clough.

Because of the way football works, because of loopholes which have long astonished professional sports counterparts in North America, detection is undoubtedly difficult - if not impossible. The bodies are buried with unerring efficiency.

It means, surely, that the job of the Premiership sleuths, which is not exactly hugely financed, should be made rather easier. Here, the challenge is much less daunting. Indeed, a few qualified lawyers might just work the oracle.

What they need to do is copy the rules of the National Football League in America, the main outlines of which are repeated again here without apology.

In the NFL agents do not touch a cent of any transaction until it is paid to them by their sole client, the player involved in a deal that has been officially approved. All contracts have to pass through a central clearing office set up by the league. Clubs deal directly with each other. Intermediaries are banned. If installed here, it would mean that clubs would have to spend more money on staff appointments concerned with monitoring talent and recruiting it - and perhaps less on publicity and promotion. This might be deemed less than cost-efficient. Indeed, it might cut sharply into the profits. And for what? A transparently honest game.

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