Those who go on strike are primarily treated with scorn by the majority of people. This is not the most empathetic reaction, as most people will likely face the same difficulties as the nurses and bus drivers who take to the streets with protest signs. However, these inconveniences can cause annoyance, despite the fact that these people are much the same as us.
This is not entirely the case with top-level professional footballers. While they undoubtedly face the same personal problems or homesickness as anyone else, it cannot be ignored that they make a lot more money than the average person. The average wage in the UK was £27,195 in 2016. Dimitri Payet earns £125,000 a week.
Payet has refused to play for West Ham United. A potential return to former club Marseille is likely the reason for this, with Payet citing his family being homesick as the chief reason he seeks a move back to France. Reportedly, he has turned down lucrative offers from China and other English clubs, so his motivations may very well be genuine. However, while the money needed to pluck West Ham’s star player out of the Olympic Stadium was considered to be well outside of the French side’s budget, a £25,000,000 offer was enough to secure his services in the end. In the end, Payet got what he wanted.
However, is it wrong for Payet to go on strike to ensure a move away from West Ham? Yes, for two important reasons. Firstly, it displays a misunderstanding of what a striking action is supposed to be about. Payet cannot claim he is being underpaid, mistreated or forced to work under dangerous conditions. He simply wants out of his contract. Secondly, refusing to play may very well be a breach of said contract. While it is unlikely West Ham will take legal action against him, should cases like this start to become the norm, a court case is probably inevitable. The proper procedure was to hand in a transfer request, an action which should never be held against a professional footballer, in a legal sense anyway.
To declare that loyalty is still an important part of Premier League football is so ignorant to recent history as to be laughable. Football is a mercenary culture for all but a handful of players. This attitude goes both ways, with one-club men like Iker Casillas finding themselves turfed out the door when they have outlived their usefulness.
Diego Costa’s sidelining is a much more fraught case. While his agent has been spotted in China, it is unclear if that caused his removal from the first team squad or was merely a reaction to it. Whatever the cause, Chelsea look unlikely to sell Costa until at least the summer.
The curious case of Carlos Tevez provides a precedent for this issue. The Argentine was placed on gardening leave in late 2011 after allegedly refusing to come on as a substitute in a Champions League group game. He returned to Argentina and a move away from Man City looked inevitable. Yet a club will forgive a lot when they are chasing a title. After failing to secure a transfer, Tevez returned to the first team. He scored four times in the latter half of the season as Man City stormed to their first Premier League title. There was room for another full season and eleven more league goals before he finally transferred to Juventus.
Diego Costa has scored 15 goals this season. He has looked the most dangerous striker in the league and on three occasions Chelsea scraped through to win 1-0 thanks to his timely goals. While Conte is unlikely to put up with him forever, a pragmatic man might form an uneasy alliance with the Spaniard. Unlike Payet, Costa’s time in the Premiership might yet end in triumph.