Ross Barkley’s antics in a Dubai nightclub recently ought to give all professional footballers pause for thought.
The Chelsea and England midfielder was videoed dancing topless in a nightclub at a time when he was taking time off to recover from an ankle injury.
It was his second black mark this season after apparently getting involved in an argument with a taxi driver over spilled chips in September.
Neither were the worst things in the world, just a little naïve, but it shows how careful modern footballers have to be away from the pitch.
Barkely’s club manager, Frank Lampard, described him as unprofessional, and I would hate it if my boss ever called me that.
When I was injured, the last thing I wanted to do was go out. I probably worked harder than when I was fit because I was just desperate to get back playing again as soon as possible.
Barkley is so high profile he must realise that whenever he is out, everybody’s going to be looking at him and getting their phones out.
You do not want to tell professional footballers they cannot have a life. There is nothing wrong with relaxing when you get the chance but it is all about doing it at the right time and in the right way.
It is a fine balance for managers who want their players to refresh every now and then, especially with such a busy fixture list in December, but not take it to the next level. They should be able to trust their players to do the right thing when they are given time off.
Despite the money they earn, footballers are human beings but they always have to remember they are role models, too. There will be children who want to be the next Ross Barkley, and you do not want them thinking that is an acceptable way to behave.
I would usually wait until the end of the season before I was eating chocolate or going out for a drink. At the same time, I could not understand people who came back from pre-season two-stone overweight.
Apart from anything else, it just made training that much harder, so while I would try to stay off my feet, I would be ticking over by going for a swim or a spin session.
I think Lampard has handled the situation quite well.
He backed Barkley after the first incident, moved on and put him back in the side, so I imagine he will be angry he has had to deal with him again. Barkley cannot afford to get into a situation where Lampard things he is no longer worth the aggravation.
The competition for midfield places is pretty stiff at Chelsea so Barkley should be doing everything he can to impress Lampard.
I would think the England manager, Gareth Southgate, would be concerned, too.
If I was playing for England and I behaved as Barkley did, I would be expecting a call from my international manager.
Barkley has become an important part of the side since the last World Cup and will not want to jeopardise that – especially with a major tournament next year. That makes it even more important than normal that you do everything you can to make the most of your ability.
We all make mistakes, and Barkley has made a couple recently. He just needs to learn from it so he can make the most his talent.
He must get his head down and get back into the Chelsea team, or at least make sure he is performing as well as he can if he has to settle for chances off the bench.
It is a short career and most of this off-field stuff is best left until it is over.