Swiss midfielder Valon Behrami played 63 times for West Ham between August 2008 and January 2011, scoring five goals, while Argentine forward Mauro Zarate scored seven times in 29 appearances between August 2014 and January 2016. Both players were embraced by the 'Boleyn' faithful, Behrami for his non stop running and work rate while Zarate was admired for his ability to be spectacular. Now 31, Behrami joined Watford from German side Hamburger SV in summer 2015 and is approaching 50 appearances for the Hornets, while 29-year-old Zarate moved to Hertfordshire from Italian club Fiorentina last month.
So we have established that both players were from overseas and that both were warmly accepted in to the 'Hammers' family, they were both good players whose abilities were not always fully appreciated by their managers and essentially they both left the club for that reason, and, this is the big and, they both had wives who found it nigh on impossible to settle in East London. Sounds familiar? It should do, to those looking from the outside in it beggars belief that a 'well run' multi-million pound business would invest the large amounts of money involved in transfer fees and wages for a player without ensuring an 'emotional safety net' for the player's spouse and family. There are those who would say that the players earn so much money how could their better halves possibly be unhappy, or that with their money they should be able to put things in to place that would keep everyone happy. But the reality is that people are people and the grass so often seems greener on the other side! Both Behrami and later Zarate cited their partners inability to settle as the main reason for them wanting to leave the club, whereas many believed the reason was just an excuse to secure a move to warmer climates, the fact that both players have ended up at the 'costa del Hertordshire' seems to disprove that notion, because last time we checked the temperature differential between east london and watford was not really that extreme!
So one could argue that Behrami and Zarate were both 'surrender monkees' using their spouses as the route out of the club, or maybe that despite the wealth they have that we mentioned earlier, they just couldn't cope! Perhaps on reflection the club could have done more to help integrate their new arrivals in the form of interpreters and 'safe' buddies from within the club. Would Dimitri Payet have left the club if such facilities had been in place? Probably, but his case was slightly different, but it is interesting to note that in his recent interview on the official club site www.whufc.com Pedro Obiang stated how vital the role played by none other than 'Mauro' Zarate was in helping him to settle!
Are full time sports interpreters so really expensive that a club the size of West Ham United cannot afford to have a small group of them available 24 Hrs a day, especially for the first few weeks to help foreign language players and their families settle? If you were settling out on a long european road trip in your car, you would probably take a spare fan belt and a few other things 'just in case', of course you hope they won't be needed, but it is a sensible precaution to be prepared. The powers that be at the club need to protect their player investments, and it would be a great surprise if they have not learnt from their past mistakes. The current "buy british" mode was clear during the january transfer window with the purchase of Fonte and Snodgrass, but nest season's influx will have more than a fair smattering of foreign faces and the club cannot afford to see 'disenchantment' take it's ugly grip! Happy smiley faces in training are all well and good, but if a player comes home to a 'moody missus' (we've all been there!) it doesn't take long for the rot to set in. It is to be hoped beyond hope that the penny has finally dropped at the club and that the correct support structures are finally in place to at least give new players families the chance to settle. Happy families anyone?