I’m admittedly not a big fan of transfer rumors. During most silly seasons (the winter and summer), I prefer napping to blogging about soccer. In a recent Bleacher Report article, a journalist describes his methodical process in trying to pin down, unearth, and then break a soccer transfer. They key appears to be building contacts with agents, players, and clubs (“sources” in journalism) but then keeping your mouth shut until the last possible minute. As Balague notes, when a transfer does happen, it can occur in breathtaking speed.
But that’s different from “transfer speculation”, the well-known practice of tossing big clubs and big player names into the same article and basically daydreaming. Still, transfer speculation is an art-form into itself. I’ve articulated a few rules for said craft, and have a nice example courtesy of ESPNFC.
1) Name a big club and a big player
Nobody wants to speculate about the transfer of bad players to mediocre clubs. Sure, diehards will care about Alex Song and his general well-being, but the rest of us didn’t even know Keita had signed for Barcelona before he left. Barcelona is not a mediocre club, clearly, but neither Keita nor Song are elite players. Thus, this ESPNFC article linking Falcao to Real Madrid hits the nail on the head: a great player and a very large club.
2) Use verbs that are misleading but not factually incorrect.
This where the artistry enters the equation. A true wordsmith knows that clubs cannot technically approach players, who are the assets of another club. Thus, rather than saying a club is “interested” or “seeking to buy” a player, one must use vaguer terms. ESPNFC masterfully used the phrase “re-activate interest.”
3) Cite a foreign publication of questionable quality rather than fact-checking yourself with sources.
Rather than develop sources through mutual respect, meetings, and honest journalism, it’s easier to cite a foreign publication of dubious quality. Many readers will not have heard of this publication. You can also blame said publication’s “lack of journalistic integrity” if the deal never happens. The ESPNFC article cited a French paper and a Spanish paper. That makes it twice as likely to be true.
4) Disregard the player’s quotes to the contrary.
We all know that players only ever say what their agent tells them to. They either say “I am happy where I’m at”, or they refuse to train with the club. Neither means anything. A true transfer speculation article will dismiss the scripted “I’m content” nonsense uttered by players. Take nothing at face value. Even this advice.
5) Make strong inferences based on the thinnest of threads
This is another area where the artistry and cunning crops up. We all can agree on a certain set of facts, but what can be inferred from those facts? Whatever the fuck you want. That’s what.
For example, in the ESPNFC article, a player (Falcao) and his agent (Mendes) dined together.
Because they dined together, we must infer that they talked about the blockbuster transfer we want to happen. What else would they discuss? Men’s fashion? The situation in Ukraine? Don’t be so naive. Only this transfer (and maybe some menu chitchat). World Soccer Talk also noted that Real Madrid’s President ate a meal with Falcao’s agent weeks ago, which, ergo, means a deal must happen. Let’s just forget that Falcao’s agent also has clients that already play for Madrid and with whom salary talks/squabbles are ongoing.
Still, this particular ESPNFC article takes inferences to the next step: future possible meeting speculation.
The owners/Presidents of the two clubs will be at the same place in the future for a Champions League draw. Ergo, they must discuss this deal. Of course, all the top European clubs will be at that draw. Will every possible transfer happen? I hope so!
Whala. The recipe for writing your own future transfer speculation prose! Does my takedown mean I don’t think Falcao will end up at Real Madrid? No. Money burns holes in Perez’s pockets and he has wet dreams of new player jersey sales. If you’re a Madrid fan, anything and everything is possible. But that doesn’t make it likely. Or even probable.