Sarah Sands: Skip the hanky-panky and you just might score

Share
Related Topics

George Best used to tell the story of the night porter who brought a bottle of champagne to his hotel room shortly after he had walked out on Manchester United. The football star lay sprawled on a bed with casino winnings and a Miss World. "Would you mind if I asked you a question, George? Where did it all go wrong?"

Fabio Capello would not see the joke. He understands that the perks of football destroy the players. Last week he was being talked of as if he'd converted the England football team to Opus Dei after he said to leave their wives and girlfriends at home. Some commentators have been puzzled that someone from Milan should behave like a German, overlooking the contempt that the industrious north of Italy has for the lazy south.

In fact, Capello has solved a simple equation. In order to succeed, you need to focus. It's the quality to which the investor Warren Buffett, a man who makes even more money than Premier League footballers, attributes his entire fortune.

I've been reading Buffett's best-selling biography, The Snowball. He is not a man who could be accused of living life to the full. In his early professional years he sat up in his pyjamas, reading financial reports and drinking Coke. At the height of his powers and fortune, he would eat a hamburger, call out for a Coke and look at more financial screens. He was hurt and puzzled when his wife finally moved out. After she died, he declared that the purpose of life was to be loved, but the accumulation of money appears to have remained his driving passion.

His championing of thrift was partly thinking that spending money was a distraction from making it. If you see a businessman behaving lavishly, the chances are that something is amiss. Bernard Madoff knew that the way to convince clients of his wealth-making abilities was to live quietly.

If stock investors, whose sole purpose is making money, can't be bothered to spend it, there is less excuse for footballers to do so. We look back on the arrival of the wives and girlfriends in Baden Baden in 2006 as the last days of Rome. Shops shipped in £200,000 worth of luxury goods and could barely wrap it fast enough. The women were dressed to undress. What were poor befuddled footballers supposed to do on the pitch, after being licked to the bone by WAGs still wearing the price tags on luxury lingerie?

Recently, the England captain John Terry took issue with the papers for inaccurately reporting a six-figure team bar bill at a fancy Chelsea club. The sum had not seemed large by footballer standards, but Terry saw the way the wind had blown. High-spending entertaining was not merely vulgar: it was also unserious.

For some time, football has been out of line with the ferocious discipline of other sports. Look at the joylessness of tennis, where we have long since ceased to expect charm from Andy Murray. How charming would you feel after undergoing the kind of psychological training that even Dick Cheney would find too dark?

It may not be true that behind every fortune lies a crime, but it is has to be right that extraordinary success is not founded on a rounded approach to life. Greatness is the fruit of obsession. Footballers have wanted the rewards of success, but the reward is success. It is beyond Darwin, who called only for the survival of the fittest. This is the fittest of the survivors. What Capello was trying to say, when he told his players to take the iPods out of their ears, was heed the wisdom of Buffett: "Intensity is the price of excellence."

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Manager (retail, upgrades, rollouts)

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project...

Project Manager (upgrades, rollouts, migrations)

£350 - £425 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project Manager - 3 mont...

IT Administrator - Graduate

£18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

Year 4 Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Year 4 Teacher - NestonRandsta...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Francois Hollande at the Paris summit on Iraq with ministers from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain on 15 September  

What's going to happen in Syria and Iraq? A guide to the new anti-Isis coalition's global strategy

Jonathan Russell
The colours of autumn leaves are among the many pleasures of the coming season  

In Sickness and in Health: As autumn arrives, more of us should wear high-vis clothes

Rebecca Armstrong
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week