Traversing the Transfer Season
Posted on June 2, 2011 6:16 pm
We have entered the transfer season. The window officially opens on July 1st, but negotiations and deals are already being made. The rumour mill is turning. We are already starting to see the steady flow of transfer stories and speculation.
It can be an exciting time as our teams are linked with all-and-sundry. Transfer sagas twist and turn as players tweet that rumours of their departure are untrue, that they are happy at Birmingham City and intend to see out the next three years of their contract, while all the time their freehand is signing a deal with Aston Villa. Fans will look on in awe as an eccentric trillionaire buys their club and immediately brings in a huge name who instantly declares that it has “always been my greatest dream to play for Scunthorpe”.
Online, people will embark on wild fantasies about having Messi, Aguero and Hamsik in their team’s changing room. Elsewhere, people will post on forums about how great it would be if their team signed those players.
For this cynical blogger however, the diamonds of the transfer season lost their luster a long time ago. Don’t get me wrong; it would be nice to see my club sign Modric or Sneider. However, after spending numerous seasons in my youth getting overexcited about the players that the tabloids had linked to my team, all for it to repeatedly be baseless, I stopped investing too much interest in the rumours.
I think it was the Summer of ’97 that killed it for me. A certain Eric Cantona had announced his retirement out of the blue and as a result, Manchester United were linked with every forward they could conceivably have the slightest chance of signing. I believe it was while reading about Hristo Stoichkov being an imminent United signing on Ceefax that I finally reached for a pinch of salt.
Since then, I’ve developed a few loose rules about reading such transfer speculation. Here, for the first time in print, is Barroldinho’s Guide To Transfer Speculation:
The first thing to look for are quotes. It’s a common practice for a journalist to think up a loose, somewhat probable concept and dress it up as a story. Take the Stoichkov situation above. Did United need a forward? Yes. Would they have liked Stoichkov? Yes. Now he’s got his bare bones, he just needs to write a speculative article and give it a dramatic headline. Something like “UNITED LOOK IN STOICHKOV’S GENERAL DIRECTION”. However, if nobody is quoted in the article, there’s a pretty good chance that nobody has actually verified any firm, or realistic interest. Likewise, quotes by an unnamed “source” usually suggests the writer spent an evening rummaging around in either his imagination or more likely, his posterior, to come up with this piece. “A source close to Old Trafford” for example, could be anybody from David Gill to somebody taking their dog for a walk down Sir Matt Busby Way.
If there is a quote, then we’re on to stage two – who are they and to a varying degree, what are they saying? If it’s an agent, then that’s a red flag. Unless the guy is pretty much confirming that a deal has been done, he’s probably working an angle. There’s nothing that improves a players position at the negotiating table than the idea that he’s getting offers and interest from elsewhere. Also, should the agent be quoted at any point as using the phrase “Monster Monster”, you should probably find him and hit him with a brick.
If it’s the player and he’s issuing a denial, it’s 50/50. If he’s suggesting he wants to go somewhere, wait till the team in question flutters it’s eyelids back before thinking it’s a done deal. One thing to watch here though, is who the team is. You won’t get many players flat out denying they have interest in playing for the world’s top teams. Landon Donovan will not respond to speculated interest from Barcelona by saying “No. No intention of ever going there. I’m a Galaxy, MLS man and this where I’m staying”. This is because if Barca are actually taking some minor interest in him behind the scenes, such a comment might make them cross him off their immediate list, blowing a major opportunity for the player. However, if David Beckham gets linked with a fish supper in Islington the day of a key LA Galaxy fixture, take it as gospel, no matter what anybody says.
Another thing is to consider the identity of the player. If you support Chelsea or Man City and they’re being linked with Cristiano Ronaldo, it’s probably not true. Ronaldo is a pretty easy name to come up with and again, theoretically, any team that had the money is likely to have some interest in him. If it’s a lesser-known player whose name isn’t likely to cause you to buy a paper or click a link, then it’s probably got some truth behind it. For example, if United get linked with Arjen Robben (again), I’ll wait till the deal’s done before allowing it to affect my heart rate. If they get linked with some little-known up-and-comer from Peru, I’m sold. Chances are he’ll arrive and be put in the reserves for five years, before being sold on to a team in Finland, but I’ll give the transfer speculation some credence.
Normally, stuff from the club can be taken at face value, though shenanigans do take place. Some LUHG Conspiracy Theorists have suggested that United’s stated interest in Karim Benzema was PR to make it look like there was money to spend, when they knew all along he would go to Real Madrid. I don’t believe that one myself, largely because the same outfit recently spent 12m on a kid that nobody had ever heard of. However, I’m sure such maneuvering does take place. I mean, look at all the posturing that preceded Ronaldo going to Real Madrid.
So in conclusion, enjoy the rollercoaster ride that is the transfer season, but be careful what you read and who you listen to.