Don't get too attached to Robert Pires. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Robert Pires has made it clear that he wants to stick around at Aston Villa, saying that he loves the club and enjoys helping out the younger players. Fine, nothing wrong with that. I'll even concede that Pires ended up doing well against Blackburn, despite looking off the pace for the first twenty minutes or so. And while I've watched Sunday's match in which Udinese score seven at Palermo, featuring 33-year-old Antonio Di Natale, twice thus far, and 37-year-old Ryan Giggs celebrates twenty years in first-team football tomorrow, I can't help thinking that there's no reason to give this particular old man another contract.
This was just a gut reaction, of course, based partly on a desire not to continue keeping around guys that play just a few matches per year, and partly due to my all-consuming love for Barry Bannan. But then news about Aston Villa's revenues and wage bills broke, and now it seems practically unthinkable for Pires to stick around. See, previously Villa had been paying out about 60% of their revenue in wages. Now, it's more like 88%. Randy Lerner's investing millions of pounds, he's got no trophies to show for it, and he's starting to get frustrated.
(For a more indepth post on Villa's financial picture, see Jason Chalifour's post. For more of my ranting, see below the jump)
And so it's time to cut the nonessentials. That includes Pires and his chauffeured Mercedes taking him back and forth between London and Birmingham. That means finding someone to take Luke Young off Villa's hands, and making sure Stephen Ireland and John Carew don't come back. It likely means selling off Richard Dunne while there's still a team that will take him -- and there should be, because when he's on he's a beast. What it means, in short, is concentrating on young players that don't command a huge wage bill.
The Villa have been smart. They locked down many of the youngsters, including Marc Albrighton, Barry Bannan, Ciaran Clark, Jonathan Hogg and Eric Lichaj, with new contracts this year. But to keep the wage bill in check, and to keep from spending millions in the transfer market, these players need to be used. They need first team experience now so that when the veterans are sold off, they'll be able to step in. Ciaran Clark certainly appears ready to be a defensive replacement. Others are off gaining experience at Championship sides. Marc Albrighton is touch and go with the first team. Baz, well, if Gerard Houllier would unground him we could see what he might do.
It's up to Houllier to manage the books now. He has to make the smart decisions, and in some instances, it seems as though he is (using Ciaran Clark and Nathan Baker, signing Jean Makoun). But just a couple mistakes, like extending Pires' contract, could lead to his name being spoken in the same hiss we use when talking about Martin O'Neill.