It’s confession time. I feel sorry for a professional footballer who earns £95,000 a week for doing next to nothing.
It’s silly I know. I’m being too soft. Yet Arsenal outcast Andrey Arshavin has my sympathy all the same.
Out of favour, out of the side, out of the squad, soon to be out of contract, the lesser-spotted Russian’s days as a ‘Gooner’ are slowly, agonisingly, drawing to a close.
The club is moving on without him. He’s yesterday’s man.
With sky high wages and a (some might say fair) reputation for lacking industry, the former golden boy of Russian football suddenly finds himself in a strange, unfamiliar position.
The man who inspired Zenit St Petersburg to the most golden period in the club’s history, the man who lit up Euro 2008, the man that scored that astonishing four-goal salvo at Anfield, the man who was loved by fans of club and country; is fast becoming forgotten and friendless.
Offered to other clubs on cut-price deals, there have been no takers. Less than three months away from a Bosman free transfer, the phone remains deathly quiet.
And if reports are to be believed the 31-year-old has grown so unhappy and disillusioned with his situation, that he’s now seriously considering hanging up his boots when that bumper contract of his expires in June.
That’s a shock to many, but I can understand why he feels at the end of his tether.
I’ve been there. Life as an outcast at a football club is just about dispiriting as it gets.
A loss of form, a drop in confidence, poor results, an injury, a change in manager, or a new signing in your position can all be the catalyst for a swift and dramatic fall that ends up leaving you stranded and helpless.
It won’t matter how hard you train, how many goals you score, how good your attitude is. If you’re no longer in the manager’s plans you’ll barely be noticed.
And it’s a serious mind-f***.
You’ll run your socks off from Monday to Friday. You’ll impress, you’ll brush off the fact you’re being ignored, you’ll lark around with your team-mates, and you’ll foolishly build yourself up for that recall. But it won’t come.
This daily, weekly process will continue, and each weekend that’s spent without football will crush your spirit further; until you break.
To the outside world, low profile outcasts like I was, are merely forgotten. Few people notice or care.
In Andrey Arshavin’s case, he’s that fella that’s earning an obscene fortune for doing bugger all. The guy who’s picked up £30,000 for every minute of first team football he’s played in 2013. The waste of money, the £15million flop.
Sympathy will be in scant supply, and I understand why.
In truth, Arsene Wenger is probably right to be dispensing with the Russian’s services this summer. His younger rivals for an attacking spot do appear to be more reliable bets.
Yet the fact remains Arshavin hasn’t ever been utilised regularly in his best position for Arsenal. His, is a maverick talent that’s all about what he does with the ball. Playing out wide where high energy levels and defensive nous are required, has highlighted his flaws rather showcased his strengths.
Strengths we saw in his only two starts this season - against Coventry City and Reading in the Capital One Cup – where he excelled in a floating role behind the front man. However, as I’ve explained, that was never going to matter. His time was up.
Don’t get me wrong, being a professional footballer is awesome; the best job in the world.
But it can also be a cruel and fickle livelihood which chews you up and spits you out when it’s done with you. And whether you have £10,000 or £10million in the bank when that happens, it still hurts like hell. The short memories, the ruthlessness, sting. It’s easy to fall out of love with the sport.
I’m not asking you to feel sorry for a 31-year-old that’s got so much money he never needs to do a day’s work again, but if Andrey Arshavin does walk away from the game don’t for a moment believe it’s because he wants to; it will be because it’s broken him.
And that makes me sad.
Read more opinions from the former professional footballer Adrian Clarke