A few weeks ago, Kate Middleton was due to give birth. On her due date, all of the main news and media outlets started to camp out outside the Lindo wing of St Mary’s Hospital in London where they were waiting for her to arrive. Despite there being nothing at all to report; she didn’t go into labour for another nine days, there were still hourly updates and countless stories on that nothingness.
After it was announced that the Duchess was in labour, all of the news channels in the UK immediately started live coverage outside of the hospital. That coverage lasted about 14 and a half hours, and for the majority of it, there was no news to speak of.
With that much air time to fill, and nothing really to fill it, the media got creative by creating stories based on nothing but pure speculation and discussing the potential outcomes of events happening in the hospital, events that in all probability never happened.
This coverage of ‘no news’ news is pretty much what’s happening in the Premier League at the moment.
The three biggest stories of the off-season here in England have involved the potential transfer of three of the Premier League’s biggest stars, Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, Luis Suarez to Arsenal and Wayne Rooney to Chelsea. There have been countless stories about all three transfers this summer, but, as of yet, none of them has actually happened.
The lack of any real information to report has left an information gap, which journalists have been trying to fill with increasing desperation. It’s nothing new for the actions of certain players to be studied to the tiniest detail, but what’s happened this summer is that journalists have had to speculate on what might happen, and then discuss that speculation to the tiniest detail.
The transfer of Gareth Bale has been dominating the headlines and columns. Bale had a superb season, once again for Spurs last season and his performances over the past few years have caught the eye of Real Madrid.
Real Madrid are offering an eye-watering amount of money for Bale, money, which despite Bale being a truly special footballer, is far more than he is worth, and more than Spurs can afford to turn down. For his part, it seems that Bale is ready to take on the challenges of moving to a foreign country, joining a team of superstars, and coping with the pressure that comes with a huge price tag and playing for the world’s biggest club.
It seems inevitable that this transfer will happen; even the most optimistic Spurs fan is resigned to losing Bale, but at the moment it’s in a holding pattern as Spurs chairman Daniel Levy negotiates the best deal he can for the club. That isn’t helpful for the press though. They want stories and they want them now. To try and fill the gap until Bale actually goes, the press have instead settled on a pattern of analysing Bale’s movements and trying to attach some sort of meaning to them, no matter how innocuous.
Which is why we end up with ‘stories’ like this from Sky Sports News, the UK’s only dedicated sports news channel.
Gareth Bale arrives at Tottenham training ground - more on the developing story on #SSN
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) July 31, 2013
Man arrives for work isn’t much of a story is it? What developments could there be? Bale goes home after he finishes? This follows the story that they broke a week earlier, when Bale flying back with the Spurs squad from their tour of the Far East, rather than being left behind, was deemed newsworthy.
The potential transfer of Luis Suarez continues to occupy a lot of media attention. This story is relatively simple. Suarez wants to leave Liverpool. Liverpool don’t really want to sell him, but probably will if the price is right. Suarez was hoping Real Madrid would bid for him. They haven’t. Arsenal have made two bids, both have been rejected. Suarez is interested in moving to Arsenal, but until Arsenal meet Liverpool’s asking price, Suarez isn’t going anywhere.
As with Bale, the lack of any real news to report about this transfer hasn’t stopped lots of things being reported. In this case, the press has come up with the novel solution of writing about things that Suarez could do, then writing about how he hasn’t done any of them.
So far there have been stories about how Suarez could hand in a transfer request, go on strike, or take legal action against Liverpool in order to force a move; In 2007, Suarez took one of his former clubs, FC Groningen, to court over then turning down an offer from Ajax for him (Suarez lost, but he got his move anyway).
At the time of writing, none of the above has happened yet. The only real ‘stories’ to report have happened in the past few days, where Suarez has learnt that the clause in his contract that led Arsenal to bid £40,000,001, in the belief that Liverpool would have to sell at that price, actually only compels Liverpool to inform Suarez of a bid (which makes this the most pointless clause in the history of contracts and probably means Suarez won’t be using the lawyer who looked at that contract again) and doesn’t mean they have to accept it. The other ‘story’ is that Suarez is now no longer training with the first-team.
That hasn’t bothered the press though, as Suarez not taking Liverpool to court, or going on strike or anything else gets its own story. That’s not to mention the many ex-Arsenal and Liverpool players, who despite having no real information to offer, have been weighing in with their opinions on whether or not this move will happen.
For what it’s worth, the amount of time left on Suarez’s contract means that I don’t think Liverpool will fold and accept what they consider to be a lowball bid for Suarez, and equally, I think it’s unlikely that Arsenal will bid the kind of money that will cause Liverpool to reverse their stance on selling to a side they believe will compete for a top-4 place with this season, the £40m bid is already more than twice their current transfer record, and I’m not convinced they’ll be prepared to go much higher. So, unless a foreign club puts in a satisfactory bid for him (which is the ideal situation for Liverpool), he’s going nowhere, so it’s up to Suarez then to decide whether he wants to make the best of things, or continue throwing a tantrum.
Similarly, the potential transfer of Wayne Rooney has been talked about all summer. The retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson at the end of last season overshadowed the fact that his and Rooney’s relationship had fallen apart and Rooney was left out of the final day squad because Ferguson didn’t believe he was in the right frame of mind to play.
The arrival of David Moyes as manager brought a fresh wave of speculation about Rooney’s future. When they were at Everton together, their relationship also fell apart, to the extent that it ended up with Rooney settling out of court with Moyes over comments he made in his autobiography.
During Man United’s preseason tour of Thailand, Moyes said the following comment that was interpreted to suggest he sees Rooney as a backup “Overall, my thought on Wayne is that if for any reason we had an injury to Robin (van Persie) we are going to need him. I want as many options as possible”
This let to comments from Rooney (or more likely his PR team), stating that he was “angry and confused” by Moyes’ comments. This led to a raft of stories about how Rooney wanted out of Old Trafford.
On the face of it, you could maybe see why. Rooney’s been an important player for Man United for the past few seasons now, so it’s got to be a big blow to his pride to suddenly learn he’s only regarded as a backup to van Persie, so it’s only natural that he might be thinking of leaving.
However, Moyes actually said:
“I think he's got a major role to play because we need to try and get as many goals as we possibly can. I think Wayne can play up top. He can play dropped in. Overall my thought on Wayne is he'll be key, if, for any reason, we had an injury to Robin, we are going to need him. I want to be able to play the two of them. I want to be able to use Danny Welbeck, Chicharito as well."
Not quite as damning, is it?
It didn’t take too long for Chelsea to test the water by making a bid, a bid which was quickly rejected. However, things got a bit messy as it was reported all over the media that Chelsea had made an offer of a substantial amount of cash, plus a choice of either David Luiz or Juan Mata.
This led to the slightly strange situation of both United and Chelsea confirming that a bid had been rejected but that bid didn’t include any players potentially moving to Old Trafford. Man United denied it, mostly because people thought they were stupid for not taking it, as many, me included; believe Mata to be a far superior player. Chelsea denied it because Chelsea’s fans weren’t amused to hear that Mata could be leaving.
This week Chelsea did make another bid, reported to be £25m with another £5m in add-ons, but that too was rejected. This has led to a host of stories about Rooney getting ready to submit a transfer request and possibly looking to move abroad, giving no thought to the fact that there isn’t an obvious taker for him outside of England and stories about how Rooney is being shunned by team-mates, who are fed up with their pleas for him to stay falling on deaf ears (another story that I would be amazed if it was true). However, as it stands, Rooney is still a Man United player until something gives.
There’s been plenty of transfer activity to talk about, with nearly 90 players having been signed by Premier League clubs this summer, and with more to come. Several teams have really strengthened over the offseason; which indicates next season could be really exciting. So it seems a little sad that the majority of the transfer coverage is on three transfers that have yet to happen.