Modeste Watch Day One – As Usual, Nothing New

Today is the day FC players officially begin their summer vacation before returning to work in early July. Some will have football duties at national-team level, but their official club duties were largely wrapped up yesterday in a 10-1 win in a friendly match in nearby Lohmar.

One month from today, the transfer window will officially open for the hottest two months of unsubstantiated rumors and discussion over who is going where.  I nearly got caught up in it myself, watching videos and reading stories about Martin Braithwaite of Toulouse FC, who is said to be a “wish candidate” for the FC.

Braithwaite would be a target for either bolstering the attacking options in Köln or for replacing Anthony Modeste, assuming he leaves on a transfer, which is the default assumption of many. Whether it’s lingering weariness from the Anthony Ujah incident or the wider-spread issue of top performers necessarily moving on to take the “next step” in their career (cough *YANNICK GERHARDT* cough), it seems many want to emotionally prepare themselves for the departure of the beloved strike figure.

The contract extension between the club and Modeste last summer runs into 2021. This hardly means that a move cannot come, but it also is not without significance.

At the time Modeste signed the deal, he said he was “delighted to continue being a player for 1. FC Köln for the coming years.”

“Years.” Plural.

This also fails to serve as fail-safe proof against the possibility of a move, though is also not without significance.

Whatever mechanisms within the contract might allow for a move this summer, there are bound to be some limits on them, and hardly anyone is likely to understand them as well as sporting director Jörg Schmadtke.

“There are times when you can discuss anything,” says Schmadtke about handling any interest in a deal for Modeste. “And there are times when it is too late.”

Remember when a Chinese club made an indecent proposal earlier this year that would have required an immediate move of Modeste? As tempting as the financial figures might have been, Schmadtke had said that putting the competitive goals of the club at risk is not on the table. Clearly, selling Modeste mid-season would have had a significantly negative impact.  Can anyone imagine that we would be singing/raving/talking/fantasizing about Europapokal this summer had the deal been made?

Right now, the club is proceeding with what they have in front of them, which is their top scorer under contract and no offer (yet) to pluck him away and force further action.

“There is only one plan, and it says that Tony has a long-term contract with us that we extended just last summer,” says Schmadtke.  “There is no concrete offer.”

Coach Peter Stöger is similarly pragmatic about the situation and reminds everyone that two years ago, the team lost its leading goal-scorer to an unexpected transfer to little ill effect.

“(If Modeste) has something he believe he must do, then he should take it on and come to us to discuss,” Stöger tells Express. “Up to this point, we have been able to compensate for everything we have lost.”

Make no mistake, the offers will come.  There is little anyone can do to dissuade clubs with big bank accounts from looking afield to add star power to their roster.  If you score 25 goals in the Bundesliga and are not employed by Bayern, someone will have more money and “prestige” to offer you than your current club possibly can.  The television-revenue gap between the English and German leagues is so great that even side newly promoted to the English top flight is likely to have a budget big enough to bully most Bundesliga clubs. Add to that the fact that playing in England is a childhood dream for so many footballers, and it’s incredibly difficult for clubs to build without interruption. It’s just a fact of modern football.

Yet, we’ve already seen stars choose to stay in Köln.  Undoubtedly, Jonas Hector could be playing elsewhere for more money had he chosen to do so.  Same likely can be said for Timo Horn, though I don’t recall whether there was any actual heat behind all the rumored interest.  It’s not common for top clubs to be in search of a number one, so it might just be that the right opportunity was not there. In April, Horn extended his current deal with the club into 2022, granted via a contract that features an escape clause that triggers next summer at an amount that is well within the budgets of Europe’s elite.

Modeste has repeatedly said he and his family are comfortable and happy in Köln.  He also is the undisputed king of the club with fans.  He has his own fan chants, rap songs, and will always be remembered for bringing the club into its first European competition in a quarter-century. He is the FC’s biggest star right now. Can he walk away from all of that to play a lesser role elsewhere?

Naturally, players don’t make the move to bigger clubs expecting to “play a lesser role,” but the numbers bear out that that is precisely what is on offer in most cases. Even in a case like that of Robert Lewandowski, who is collecting titles and still scoring at a rapid rate, he is now just the forward-most cog of the big red machine rather than the “straw that stirs the drink,” as he was in Dortmund.

And Lewandowski is the exception.  Often enough, when a player jumps to a larger club following a big year or two at the less-famous outposts of European football, there is an adjustment in stature.  Then again, maybe there is also comfort in moving to a bigger pond so as to not be such a relatively big fish.  Even a talent as immense as Kevin De Bruyne was able to fade into his Manchester City surroundings after being the most-vital part of VfL Wolfsburg’s second-place finish in 2015.  That’s not to say that KDB is not a star in England, because he is, but being one star on a team laden with them is not the same as being THE MAN on a relatively anonymous squad.

Sidebar:  Relative is relative and we are talking my relative.  Your mileage may vary.

Anyhow, back to the topic at hand: Anthony Modeste.

What we learn today is this:

  • No offer has been presented to the FC, either directly or via Modeste, that would mean a sale of Big Mo’.
  • While a sale is not off the table, there will be a deadline after which the team has to plan with Modeste as part of the 2016-17 squad. It might not stop speculation or even would-be buyers, but I believe Schmadtke when he says there is such a thing as “too late” for a sale.
  • Stöger’s approach is about the same as it is with everything: nothing to worry about until there is and then we’ll deal with it, but not until.

Realistically, there already exist some legitimate issues to be addressed in the transfer window, but none of them will get the attention that will be spent on Modeste.

So goes the ‘summer void’.


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