Employment lessons from Robbie Keane and Liverpool FC

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009 - Blog, career change, career management, career transition, Employer, Employment, job relocation, professionalism


Employment lessons

As a Liverpool FC fan, it was disappointing but inevitable that Robbie Keane left Anfield yesterday. The papers today suggest it was a poor decision by manager Rafael Benitez, but a decision to move from one organisation to another is always a joint decision by both employer and employee – so 50/50 for that one.

However, as a recruiter there are some hard lessons to be learnt for the real employment world, where most of us are not paid £120,000 per week, that should be taken into account and learnt from:

  • Boyhood dreams versus reality: Keane was a boyhood LFC fan, but the reality of LFC in 2008/9 was different to that of the late 1970’s
  • Do you fit the company? Do some research first, but a good test is to find out how many of your friends have gone from the same organisation you currently work for to that one, or departed from it? Keane’s Irish colleague Steve Finnan had been squeezed out by Rafa in the same summer Keane signed-in
  • Do you fit the system? There were two major problems with Keane fitting into Liverpool’s system. The first was structural – that his support role to a striker in a classical 4-4-2 system didn’t fit in Rafa’s Christmas Tree 4-2-3-1 system. The second was tactical – Liverpool play few long balls to give strikers 1 on 1 situations with defenders, which is where Keane’s speed gives him the advantage
  • Who is your manager, and what is his style? Keane came from Spurs because he didn’t like the new system that Spanish manager Juande Ramos installed there. He signed for an equally stringent Spaniard, Rafael Benitez! The signs were written large on the wall of a no-fit situation
  • What is the manager/companies recent record? Good in terms of record, but – Benitez has a track record of liking hard working players and rotating them. Those that don’t fit in get squeezed out. Patterns generally repeat, and the number of players Rafa is squeezing out is (frighteningly for a fan, let alone a player considering working there) increasing
  • Be cautious of big money pressue: a large pay packet means they desperately need you, and will expect big things of you from day one. Even the best fail under instant pressure, and big pay makes it difficult for you to settle into the team
  • Make sure you have a great and secure contract: I am sure in six+ months time, some news will leak out over various clauses in various contracts between the four parties – the two clubs, Keane and his agent. Most players get at least a 10% signing on bonus to a club – one would hope any upfront fee’s are at least in part refundable. If you get offered a moving package, check the small print
  • You are not the only one in your “team.” It is fairly obvious from various comments made in the media today, that Keane’s wife didn’t settle in Liverpool/Cheshire. Having moved every 3years when my father was developing his career, he knew the importance of my mother specifically and us children liking the place BEFORE he agreed the move

Few of us may be paid £120,000 a week, but learn the lessons of Robbie and Liverpool to make sure you manage your own career!

Good Luck!

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One Response to “Employment lessons from Robbie Keane and Liverpool FC”

  1. Andy Headworth Says:

    Nicely put!

    While I think that drawing parallels with normal job seekers is a good idea, I do think that the world of Football – particularly The Premiership – is like recruiting Fantasy Island!!
    The concept of value has just gone straight out of the window, and as you say not many other people are on £120k a week!

    One thing you missed I think – personal pride and forsight.
    As a fellow lifelong Red, I thought Robbie signing would be a good thing, and he certainly tried his hardest every time he played (although we didn’t see the best of him for various reasons!) He played for pride and always gave 110%, but it became obvious that the manager decided that he no longer seemed to fit into his plans.
    So in his eyes he tried his hardest. He had the foresight to cut his losses and change jobs, when it became obvious that the club had changed their mind on him being part of the long term plans.
    This is something that every employee is entitled to do – make a bad career move. The skill is knowing that it is a bad move and getting yourself out of it respectfully.

    Done properly it will not effect your career, and it might actually provide you with the experience to advise others in the future.

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