Darren Bent: Avid Mercenary Or Victim Of English Hypocrisy?

As you’ve probably been made aware by now, a footballer who essentially only excels at one very basic aspect of the game, i.e. kicking the ball the way he is facing, moved clubs for an obscene amount of money yesterday – a rather straight-forward transaction that has since incurred several more intense levels of searing wrath, muddled conjecture and ramped-up sh*t-slinging than it had any real right to.

On Tuesday afternoon, Aston Villa formally announced that they had signed striker Darren Bent from Sunderland, doling out an initial £18 million for the privilege – an already weighty fee that is set to rise as high as £24 million, should various add-ons be activated and contractual stipulations met.

The whirlwind move (details of a prospective transfer were only leaked the day before) caught nearly everyone on the hop, though it wasn’t long before fervent tirades began to form in the minds of jilted Sunderland supporters and the impartial cognoscenti of the footballing sphere were offering forth their well-rounded observations of the matter in hand – with the general consensus appearing to be stuck somewhere around the ‘Bent is just a cash-stacking whore’ mark.

Via a barbed statement issued on the club’s official website this morning, Sunderland manager Steve Bruce saw fit to echo his supporters’ swelling ire, publicly airing his ‘massive’ disappointment at Bent’s apparent defection to the Villa:

“It’s hugely disappointing that Darren has decided that his future lies away from Sunderland and the players, our supporters and the club as a whole has every right to feel massively let down.

The timing is especially hard to take, given that we are progressing positively and are in a great position to push on.

Everyone has been nothing but supportive of Darren in his time at Sunderland but it’s obvious he’s not been himself in training and and we’ve certainly not seen the best of him in games in recent weeks – and now we understand why.”

Of course, whether or not Bruce is an ideal candidate to begin lecturing anybody the notion of ‘loyalty to a cause’ is up for debate.

Bent was officially unveiled at Aston Villa this morning

Bent himself has been busying himself this morning, batting away suggestions that his move to the West Midlands was purely motivated by the hugely inflated financial terms he was offered at Villa Park (£65,000-a-week, compared to the £45,000 he was reported to be earning at Sunderland), with Villa’s new No. 39 insisting that his decision to leave the North East was taken with the express intent of improving his often tenuous standing with the England national team.

So said the striker at his official Villa Park unveiling whatcha-ma-bob:

“Sunderland are having their best season for a long time in the league and I’m sure they think I’m just abandoning them, but these opportunities don’t come around too often.

I’ve scored a lot of goals over the years and it’s always been touch and go with England, but Villa are a massive club and if I can score goals on a regular basis like I have done, then hopefully it will give me more of an opportunity.”

The 26-year-old striker is also adamant that he isn’t about to let a monolithic transfer fee play on his mind again, after flaking under the pressure following his big money move from Charlton to Tottenham three(ish) years ago:

“When I was at Spurs I said that it [£16.5million fee] didn’t bother me but I was quite young and it did wear me down a little bit.

It does hurt to be [branded as a mercenary] to be honest.

When I was at Charlton, I could have gone to West Ham for double the money, but I chose to go to Tottenham for footballing reasons.”

And next comes the quote which proves that leaving Sunderland must have been a wrench – @DBTheTruth has vowed to abstain from Twittering until the worst of the storm blows over:

“While it’s fresh in everyone’s mind I’m going to be public enemy No. 1 up there. Once the dust settles, I’m sure they will remember me for more than just the way I left.

I had two great years at Sunderland and I hope that’s how people remember me up there, playing well and scoring goals for them.

I’m sorry it ended the way it did. I won’t be Twittering for a few days. I can imagine that I’m getting annihilated by the Sunderland fans.”

Christ! Things must be bad.

Southampton's Oxlade-Chamberlain may be the next victim

For what it’s worth (which is, granted, next to nothing), I think Darren Bent is just the latest in a long line of English players to have fallen victim to this country’s ridiculously insular valuation of both itself and it’s gaggle of footballing proponents.

I’ve read a couple of articles playing Bent’s transfer off against Man City’s recent £27 million capture of Edin Dzeko – wherein the argument has been that, for a similar price tag, City have bought themselves a highly-coveted, proven goal-scorer with all-important Champions League experience, whereas Villa have acquired a one-trick pony with a ridiculously fortunate scoring record in the ‘Greatest League in Kingdom Come’ (© Sky Sports).

Firstly, since when has having played six games equated to possessing ‘Champions League experience’ of any worth?

And secondly, the examples of blatant English over-hyping/valuation are ridiculously abundant – take Southampton prodigy Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as a recent example, a 17-year-old with nothing to show for his career except the £10 million price tag swinging between his legs.

It’s patently obvious that his massively over-estimated worth is not his, nor is it Bent’s, fault – just an unavoidable side-effect of a long-standing (remember the Empire?) national character flaw.

FA Cup: Leeds 1-3 Arsenal Highlights (19 Jan 2011)
The Round-Up: West Ham Need Bendtner Like A Hole In The Head