For those Chelsea fans puzzled about why the club are apparently re-signing Tiago, not to mention offering the 33-year-old midfielder a two-year contract when the norm is just a yearly one for players over 30, the answer may be that being suggested in one Spanish newspaper.
Spanish press report that Tiago, whose contract was being run down by Atletico Madrid, was specifically recruited by Chelsea to tap up his team-mates and get them to sign for the Blues. They claim that Jose Mourinho and his agent Jorge Mendes (who just happens to be Tiago’s agent too) told the midfielder that if was able to recruit Diego Costa and others, he would be rewarded with a two-year contract and an unspecified coaching role.
If this is in any way true, then it has to be admitted that Tiago has done a first-class job. Costa is signed, Filipe Luis is likely to be on his way despite a dispute between the two clubs over a couple of million quid in the asking price, and it is being suggested that central defender Mirandha may also be making his way to West London this summer.
Should we be shocked by this? Luring a player under contract to another team to act as your undercover employer, deliberately persuading other players to seek transfers, does on the face of it seems a little underhand? But the Spanish, strangely, don’t seem to be very put out by this at all.
Firstly, it should be pointed out that there is not a shred of actual proof for the story – the only evidence appears to be circumstantial. Secondly, tapping up players at other clubs is a long-standing part of the game – the only point at issue would be about how you do it.
Clubs use any manner of means to get to the players they want to buy. First and foremost they use agents and negotiators to let the players know of their interest and to negotiate about what it would take to get them to sign. This is why the official “talks” between a club and the player they have made an accepted offer for are usually concluded so quickly – the details have been sorted out in advance.
It’s not unusual for clubs to use players as contacts either – Manchester United routinely used their players to tap up ones at other clubs while training together on international duty. This has been the case for decades – Peter Bonetti once came back from an England match demanding a move after chats with the Manchester United players in Alf Ramsey’s squad. Clubs will also use their former players – ones who’ve left on good terms, that is – to sell a move to their team-mates or compatriots. Michael Ballack talked to Andre Schurrle about moving to Chelsea, for example.
If – and it’s a big if – Chelsea have used Tiago in this way, however, they may have pushed the game one step further. It would certainly not be illegal (or at least, not yet), and it would certainly be ingenious – whether it is quite fair is debatable.
There is another possible explanation for Tiago’s contract and any talks he held with his team-mates. It’s rumoured that Mourinho’s right-hand man Rui Faria is looking to go into management on his own, which would leave a spot for a trusted lieutenant. Mourinho is an admirer of Tiago’s tactical ability, and so the offer of a coaching role may well be genuine, rather than simply an inducement to carry out cloak and dagger activity on Chelsea’s behalf. And if Tiago is joining the Chelsea coaching team, it would only be natural for him to try to bring players he has already worked with into the squad.
But that’s not quite as good a story, is it?