At one time it was little more than a wicked whispers segment to fill up space between actual stories but in 2013 transfer gossip is centre stage.
Fans’ lust for transfer stories has accelerated such dubious tales from segment to star in any football media production you can think of.
The whole summer (granted, an almost football free season) becomes a ‘swoop’ swamp; an odd-numbered year only more so. The obvious question is, why?Why, despite the truth only making its way into a small percentage of these stories, do we allow ourselves to be dragged down the rabbit hole year after year?
Of course not all football fans approach this time with the same enthusiasm. Many have learnt their lesson – stung one too many times and are somewhat blasé about the whole circus. But many fail to function on that same ‘C’est la vie,’ mind-set. It is for this gossip-chasing group that every transfer window now follows its own pattern.
The first stage is inception. Each position of the team that requires strengthening results in a cluster bomb of players being mooted for a role that appears to logically fit the club’s requirements. The simple mathematics applied are ‘player availability’ + ‘position required’ = ‘piece of the jigsaw’. The equation is complicated somewhat by the club’s social standing and attraction. But the limitations only add to the challenge of mentally constructing the completed puzzle.
At this stage of transfer development, a keen follower develops his own Columbo-esque approach. A sea of suspects must be waded through as a vast scope of players are honed and fine-tuned into establishing any form of solidity in this, for now, tenuous link. At this level a detective’s only leads are in the overloaded world of social media.
In The Knows (ITKs) represent the low-level street informants in this case. Lies, guesswork and exaggeration lead to possible triple figure sums being bandied about without abandon – a shameful willingness to even entertain the stories that suit individual desires emerges.
Alongside 20 others, the midfielder that you think would fit perfectly into that problematic chasm has been ‘monitored’ by your team. That possibility starts to become a reality – in your head at least.
This leads to stage two in the process – imagination. The seed has been planted. Soon that seed will sprout and grow until it has evolved into a beautiful and natural, 34 goals in 53 games second striker. This photosynthesis is driven by YouTube and Wikipedia. Copy and paste becomes one of the most important advancements in I.T. as names like ‘Henrik’ emerge as a new leader in Google’s search engine. You never knew it before, but after a 4.17 minute video, this previously unknown quantity has become everything you need in your life.
This distant and vague possibility explodes into widescreen Technicolor if the stories leak to national papers. In this Twitter age, different levels of credibility have been afforded to journalists. Followers now have their own trusted circle. A red top story ignites excitement. A broadsheet carrying a story all but confirms it in some minds.
This leads to non-Twitter enthusiastic friends being regaled with stats, stories and skills of an enigmatic Moldovan with some stopping just shy of having his 16 lettered surname plastered on the rear of their new third kit.
In transfer time, months have passed. After a proverbial rollercoaster of flights, sightings and proposed medical appointments have exhausted all those with an insatiable interest.
Stimulation has turned to dejection 10 times over. In real time, of course, two weeks have passed. But finally that gleaming, new purchase emerges from his Range Rover at the training ground.
A familiar narrative evolves, depicting a man who has had life-long ties to the club. Sleep patterns are as predictable as ever with yet another player’s life shaped by dreams of playing for the club in question. Giving one’s own context on a particular night of glory for the club or (the pièce de résistance in evoking adoration), a hidden tattoo, elevates this stranger to legend. A ball has yet to be struck.
Even if Lionel Messi himself was signing that contract, opinions would be divided. Everything from alternative names, injury records and even nationality are weighed up and distributed across both sides, for and against.
Indignation and inspiration bellow from opposing sides of the divides but all the tweets, blogs, updates and opinions don’t change the fact that a manager and a team of scouts have decided that this man at that price were exactly what the club required.
All the layers that went before dissolve into irrelevance when the season starts. The final and most important part of the transfer is implementation. Whatever the price, whatever the reputation or however long the saga stretched out for, the player must now perform. The addition must assist in the progression of the team.
Ask any journalist which fans are the most carnivorous with regard to speculation during a window and the likelihood is that most will agree on Liverpool and Arsenal.
With Liverpool stuttering into their fourth season without Champions League football and Arsenal approaching almost a decade without an honour, they are arguably the two teams with most to gain from perfect expenditure in the transfer market.
A Russian oil tycoon changed the landscape of football when he decided he needed a London football club in his life. But Borussia Dortmund have dispelled the cold hard facts of finance to myth.
A small nation’s budget is no longer a necessary prerequisite to succeed in football. Now Liverpool need to be equally astute. It is not Liverpool’s God-given right to be challenging for honours every year. One year of adaptation for a manager does not mean that all room for leeway has been exhausted. Objectives must ultimately become reality, but only in a timely manner.
Liverpool must improve. But every team will have the same ethos. The transfer market can be the key to determining the battle of who improves the most. All the levels that build throughout any window are tedious, disorientating and even overwhelming. But if they all accumulate to upwardly augment the level of the football club, it was all worth it. Until the next window.