Let us dismantle the rumour mill?

Imagine an article which included the following, ‘There’s a chance that Justin Timberlake might include a song about his love for tennis in a new album’. Ridiculous isn’t it?

It’s agreed the content is ridiculous in itself but I mostly want to draw attention to the fact that it’s boring, lacking in any fact, highly unlikely and ultimately pointless all at the same time. So consider this as content in another article, ‘Cesc Fabregas and Mario Balotelli in possible swap deal’. Again, lacking in any fact, highly unlikely, and ultimately pointless journalism. The difference between the two? The latter is a headline from a genuine article appearing on a genuine, well-respected, football website.

The Timberlake example is really to illustrate a point. In no other industry, apart from football, is the perpetuation of such ridiculous rumour tolerated and so common. Football transfers rumours are unhelpful, mostly untrue and frankly, I don’t understand why they engage the slightest bit of interest from football fans. I’d like to see the back of them. Would you read articles under the headline ‘Weather Rumours’ or ‘Political Rumours’?

The summer transfer window is the worst. Far away from the football action, June and July’s sports pages are laced with transfer rumours. To what purpose do these ‘articles’ serve? They deliver no form of news or intrigue, and rarely are they accurate or correct. Say what you like about how this reflects journalism in general, but the point remains.

The winter window is slightly more bearable in England, because of the lack of winter break journalists are pre-occupied with football news on the pitch. However, I’m guessing in the countries of major European leagues with winter breaks, it’s like summer all over again. Football is so diverse, so interesting and so multi-faceted that is really seems completely misplaced to talk about the highly improbable transfer of Sergio Aguero to Real Madrid this January for example, instead of Quique Sanchez Flores’ impact at Atletico, or Los colchoneros dismal league position.

I’m not saying I do not want to hear about actual football transfers that have taken place, to be honest, nothing interests me more, but in regards to football transfers, I just don’t think it constitutes as news if it hasn’t taken place yet. Given the track record of most transfer rumours reliability, I think they constitute as a simple waste of time, and column inches.

It’s almost unbelievable how wrong these rumours are. If you’re still sitting there thinking transfer rumour provides an important and accurate source of news then let me explain how some of them get there. Many of the rumours are simply plants by football agents. Players who would love a pay rise, but haven’t quite got the leverage to do so will simply have their agent’s plant rumours in the press about a club being interested in their services.

Suddenly the player has a bargaining chip. ‘You need to offer me a new contract or I’m going to X, you’ve no doubt read it in the papers that their interested’ says the player. Or, ‘we need to offer X a contract or he’ll go to Y’, says one board member to another. His club will then bend over backwards to ensure he stays. Agents have been doing it for their clients for years and it works. This process alone shows they are pure fabrication. Branislav Ivanovic, who was linked to Real Madrid recently, is being offered a new contract this summer. My case in point.

So this January I ask that you avoid reading these rumours, if only as an experiment to begin with, and then after January consider what you have lost. I doubt it will be much.

You really have to wonder about those who write the stories, and how much they really know about football. I saw today that Sebastien Frey has stated publically that he will not be leaving Fiorentina for Manchester United, contrary to recent reports. Contrary to recent reports! Who wrote such a stupid report? Which football journalist would happily accept that Manchester United are in the market for a new goalkeeper? Someone was obviously convinced of it enough to write it in an article regarding the matter and presumably was very happy to do so. If, as a football journalist, I heard that Frey was going to join Manchester United but that it was just a rumour then that last thing I’d do would be to run to my editor and get it included in a newspaper or magazine.

The logical thing to do would be to think – ‘Manchester United’s first choice goalkeeper is one of the best in the world, although he is currently quite old he is showing no signs of retirement, and is contracted to stay at United until summer 2010. This being said, although Kuszczak and Foster are not as good they are both well capable of replacing van der Sar if given a chance. Frey is 30 in March, so there are younger ‘keepers who would surely be looked at first, Fiorentina have no reason to sell Frey. I think I’ll hold back on this story as it doesn’t seem likely. If I published it, I could look a bit stupid when it doesn’t happen.’

This thought process didn’t take place for some reason. Presumably for the same reasons that simple logical thinking did not rule out the Fabregas Balotelli swap deal, and it made it to print.

I don’t think people should read or write these stories anymore. If a source of information is so often incorrect then it surely cannot be trusted. Let’s concern ourselves with transfers when they do happen, and let the football managers worry about the transfers that are only possible. As I have previously stated, I really don’t think we’re missing much by ignoring them.

But if you’re still craving a transfer rumour or two before you give them up altogether then here is some I made earlier. I assure you, they’re at least as accurate as the rumours you’ll read this January.

Tom Brady – New England Patriots -> Manchester City

Gary Cook hasn’t denied any links to Tom Brady, perhaps his silence speaks volumes. Manchester City need someone to organise their team slightly better on the pitch and Brady might just be their man. With money being no problem it’s hard to see the American turning down a move to Eastlands. A spokesperson (with no connections to either Manchester City or New England Patriots) said ‘Tom Brady plays football. So do Manchester City. It’s quite irrelevant that American football is a totally different sport – watch this space’.

It’s thought a fee in the region of £200 million should be enough to tempt Brady and if Manchester City can qualify for the Europa League (either through fair play or league position) and win the League Cup then, coupled with the reported 117 million they’ve already paid out, it will be money well spent.

Bargain player offered to Arsenal, plays the ‘Arsenal Way’.

It is thought that Arsene Wenger has been offered exactly the kind of player Arsenal need at a very reasonable price. Rumours are that Wenger will decline to make a bid however, he wants to do it his own way don’t you know. In other totally unrelated news, Felipe Melo is after a new club. He states he wants to play in England, more specifically London. ‘I’d love play for a club in North London, who wear red and white and match my style of play’, he said. No suitors come to mind.

Sol Campbell – Free Agent -> Notts County

You must be joking, that’s totally unbelievable. Oh, wait……

Jeroen Ketting – KVSK United -> Liverpool

I don’t know who he is either, but Rafael Benitez seems to think he’ll be great. In Rafa we trust….

Cristiano Ronaldo – Manchester United -> Real Madrid

It seems this one has already happened. Let’s hope Sir Alex uses that 80 million wisely and gets a great replacement. I hope he doesn’t just pretend it’ll all be fine and consistently blame referees for Manchester United defeats as opposed to the fact his squad is significantly weaker this year. Hold on, it seems that has already happened too.

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