As Manchester United’s captain Harry Maguire is set to appear in court in Greece today, reportedly accused of aggravated assault and bribery of an official, questions are being asked throughout the football world as to what it will mean for club and country if he is found guilty.
‘At the very least it is certainly not a good look for Harry Maguire to be spending a second night in Greek police cells on the day he had hoped to lead his club, Manchester United, in the Europa League Final’ The Telegraph’s chief football correspondent James Blurt writes:
‘The alleged behaviour of his main defender is certainly something that [England manager Gareth] Southgate will not appreciate.
‘United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer also [has] a big call to make on how he treats his most senior player.
‘For club and country Maguire has caused an unnecessary problem. He may have been an innocent, unwitting victim, unfairly caught up in something simply because of his fame, or it may be a defining moment his career. Either way it has to be a sobering incident.’
The Guardian’s David Hytner writes: ‘When Maguire was in the process of joining United, he told them that he wanted to become their captain; he wanted to be a role model and figurehead.
‘It played well and the reason that the centre-half nicknamed “Slabhead” has subsequently been named as the club captain is partly because of his solidity and dependability, his status as a safe pair of hands.
‘One mad night and a wholesale loss of trademark composure has meant that the discussion around him is rather different and he will have to face the consequences.
‘On the football front, it remains to be seen whether Ole Gunnar Solskjær, the United manager, retains him as his captain, although he is normally hugely supportive of his players.’
There have of course been many incidents of footballers being involved in ugly drunken incidents over the years. Only recently, England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford was involved in a fight outside a bar in Sunderland and the result was a ‘six figure fine’ from his club, Everton.
However, Pickford was not arrested. Maguire, it would appear, has been.
Furthermore, it is hard to recall a worse set of accusations than those that Maguire allegedly faces. This is not simply a pub fight. It is that plus resisting arrest, verbally abusing, punching, pushing over and kicking police officers on the ground and attempted bribery – one might assume, to try to make the situation go away.
There is no precedent in living memory for what a football club would do with a player who had committed such acts, let alone a captain. So if they are proven to be true, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the Manchester United board have some serious decisions to make.
There is also a huge difference between being arrested on suspicion of such crimes and being convicted of them. If as is reported, the arrest has already taken place, that alone will likely be acted upon by United. If there is a conviction, the punishment would presumably have to be more severe.
The men in the corridors of power at Old Trafford are businessmen first and foremost and in Maguire they have the world’s most expensive defender, an £85 million asset that they would be highly unlikely to simply sack or give a lengthy suspension to, as might be the case otherwise if found guilty.
There is still hope of course that the situation is not as serious as it appears and that it will be cleared up quickly, but all eyes will be on Syros court house today to see what happens next.
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