"The King is dead, long live the King" - how Carlos Cuellar left the Gers
It just made me sick to my stomach. At 18, I was too young to remember the circumstances of the sale of Gazza or the loss of Laudrup on a Bosman. I only watched the games. The sale of Boumsong was softened with what seemed a huge fee, especially at the time. I was gutted when Ferguson, then the next season Arteta left but I didn't have the fizzing rage that I had when the 'King' left. There was transfer talk, but I honestly felt that Cuellar didn't want to leave. He would stay for years, he said so himself. Besides, when a player has an outstanding season like that it's inevitable that he would be linked with a move to a bigger league with more money (albeit a smaller club).
I may sound naïve, but I don't think that Cuellar wanted to leave, nor that he didn't play against the Lithuanians to prevent him being cup tied. If that's the case, then it's a bit elaborate to play, then come off injured in the first half against Raith Rovers. He also didn't make his Villa debut for a couple of weeks after he signed if I remember correctly. Walter spunked £7m on strikers, as that's what he felt we needed (God knows why). After all, Davis and another midfielder could be signed with the CL money after we'd beaten these pub teams.
I don't know what was worse: the fee, or the fact that it was Martin O'Neill who signed him. The fee was stated at £7.8million, which I think for a centre half of his ability in the current climate is far too low. The usual argument against bigger fees for SPL players is that "they haven't proved themselves at a higher level". This couldn't be used in Cuellar's case. He had been outstanding not only in the SPL but in our CL campaign and the UEFA Cup run. As for the second part, Martin O'Neill showed his true colours in regards to Rangers during his time here, and in my opinion the club shouldn't conduct business with him. It may seem to be cutting of our nose to spite our face but O'Neill has no respect for Rangers FC and is partly to blame for the current MOPE mentality that infests 'Ra Sellik', but that's a totally different issue.
I felt lied to by the club. All of a sudden we have the news of a 'release clause'. Well I, for one, do no believe it. How come no other clubs were interested? There are plenty of clubs in England and Spain that probably would have went for Cuellar had they been aware of this 'clause'. So Villa, assuming that they had no knowledge of this, made a bid that was EXACTLY his release clause? I think that Murray panicked over the lost CL money after Kaunas and took the first bid that came our way.
This feeling of being cheated manifested itself on FF as well as the vast majority of supporters. We were all "raging" that our King had been sold. For the first time that I can remember, there was a proper feeling that there would be a supporter's revolt. The news about this spread. There were articles in the papers, on the news. A protest was organised. I actually gave serious consideration into giving up my season ticket. For the first time in years, Murray was faced with a proper challenge. He had to do something. He had less than a week before the next home game. We had already signed Bougherra (a much inferior player in my opinion), so a new centre half (to replace Cuellar) was not a priority. Contrary to Walter's thoughts, his boy 'Big Lee' couldn't cut it as a central midfielder. A proper Rangers class midfielder in Pedro Mendes was signed a couple of days later in time to make his debut against Hearts. Maurice Edu was paraded at the front door before the same game. News stories were spread about how Steven Davis was definitely signing, after lots of 'will he-won't he' in the summer, and that it was basically just a case of dotting the i's and crossing the t's. This, in turn satiated the fans and a lot of the heat was taken from Murray, the situation was completely defused.
So what can we take from this? I think that Murray was genuinely shocked by the fans response to the sale of Cuellar, and he would be wary to do something like it again. He seemed to think that a press release from Cuellar himself (which I'm certain Murray gave him a hand with) would be enough to make the fans accept it. I don't think it was a case of Murray wanting to have his cake and eat it (sell Cuellar and get into CL). I think it was gross mismanagement on behalf of Walter. Every man and his dog knew that we needed an attack-minded central midfielder, yet he chose to sign 3 strikers, spending nearly £7m in the process. As for Cuellar, he is struggling to get a game for Villa, and because of injuries is playing at right back. I don't get any pleasure seeing him in this position. I just think 'what a waste'.