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Objects Of Affection

It's difficult enough to reconcile the trauma of departure and the uncertainty of newness without some ham-fisted symbolism being foisted upon us. For the love of all that's holy, stop the romance allegories, media types.

BRENDAN: "Love you, wee man." RAHEEM: "Steady."
BRENDAN: "Love you, wee man." RAHEEM: "Steady."
Michael Steele/Getty Images

Relationship metaphors, used as some kind of sage insight into the machinations at play when a footballer decides his future, can be buttock-clechingly cringeworthy and more than a little inadequate. The language of romance seems to be the default setting whenever a sporting bond is to be broken and a new one forged, and no matter how much grandiloquence the scribe invests his wittering with, it is beyond irksome when applied to football.

I remember an early piece by a fine professional athlete, who had since jumped the fence in retirement and joined the dark cabal of hacks who scribble unstintingly about the game. His effort centred on ex-Red Steve Staunton and his over-and-back moves between Liverpool and Aston Villa, which our journalist friend, now a genuinely excellent scribe, depicted as rival lovers, Lisa and Amy, (see what he did there?) clamouring for primacy in the Dundalk man's heart and soul.

I read this unfortunate parable, as an impressionable teen, in a rictus of horror. Even then, with no knowledge of the world worth a damn, the clunkiness and impotence of the device knocked me for six. My distaste has since proven to be valid, for the relationships players have with their clubs are nothing like any romantic entanglement I've ever been a part of. Frankly, for any right-thinking human, the presence of money in the equation is the pachyderm in the room, here. The worship of Mammon is not the type of thing starry-eyed lovesick idealism is supposed to embrace, is it?

Nobody has ever been after this Irishman for his vast wealth, so perhaps I'm being hopelessly ignorant and pathetically gauche here. However, even in the cases of players like Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard, who, for the purposes of illustration only, could be said to have had one great love in their professional lives, the metaphor seems ropey at best, given what we know about contractual wrangles at various points in their Anfield sojourns.

Worse again are the crass and offensive efforts to depict football clubs as coquettish women, desperately vying with each other to see who can allure the thrusting young studs in studs to be their amour. The notion of a club's pulling power is, it would seem, inextricably bound, in the minds of lazy scribblers, with vulgar comparisons to the type of flirtation and unwise drunken copulation that goes on during a particularly lurid episode of What Happens in Kavos.

The latest high profile victims of repeated relationship analogies are Raheem Sterling and Christian Benteke. Both have been depicted as young blades with a wandering eye. Liverpool's prodigious forward has been constantly linked, mainly thanks to the concerted efforts of his agent, to various high profile clubs in England and abroad.

Aston Villa's Belgian striker, meanwhile, has been portrayed as the focus of the lustful advances of the Anfield club. Having recovered from a serious Achilles injury, he is now away with his national squad and understandably wishes to forget a season in which he finished with twelve goals and a loser's medal in the FA Cup. In a manner reminiscent of Sterling, Benteke seems to defer to the supreme judgement of his agent when it comes to the small matter of his career.

"It's about him, he knows what I want and I’ll let him do the job," the target man averred to Sky Sports News. "I don’t know, I don’t think about Aston Villa now, I did my season with Villa and now I am focused with the national team. It's important to play. If you want to be in first 11 you have to play in your club. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I had some hard times with my injury but I knew my time would come and I would work hard for it.

"I think I can be better in every situation -- my left foot, right foot, heading," he continued. "I'm still young and I'm motivated about working hard and being better than before. My agent knows my ambition. I once want to play in the Champions League. That’s a dream and my ambition. But we are building up to a European Championship. It will also play an important part in my decision."

Liverpool fans, who can scarcely marry the attacker's form with the eye-watering £32m fee that his club will reputedly ask for his services, are less than enthused by this potential pairing, but the rumours are relentless. The Anfield club seems to have perfected a less-than-ideal method of allowing their targets to be common knowledge and the upshot has been a tremendously underwhelmed group of fans, who can only wince as even the likes of Benteke seems to discount the club as a potential destination, given the depressing absence of Champions League football on its horizon.

As the summer lurches on, the only way for us fans to retain sanity is to adopt a zen-like acceptance of the club's transfer activity. As I type these words, for example, I'm side-eyeing a story about how Arsenal will not match Liverpool's £150,000 weekly wage for James Milner. Now, if one was to genuinely contemplate that sentence, in all its absurdity, one should surely go barking mad.

No, far better to simply shrug and remember that even if the Redmen recruited Tony Pulis and his entire Crystal Palace squad, we would still passionately support the club. This ardour is not some fleeting flirtation. This is true love. One does not simply leave Liverpool Football Club. We did endure the Hodgepocalypse, after all. Although, that said, a few ill-advised relationship metaphors involving Ball-Cap Tone might test the amatory resolve of even the most ardent fan.

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