With a mere seven weeks to go in the summer transfer window, things are beginning to hot up. The papers are full of potential and completed deals, managers’ targets, and failed bids. But all the while, the whole process has to be explained by Her Majesty’s press in a certain way. Teams don’t just enquire about players, bid for them and sign them. That would be far too boring. Instead, we get what were seemingly a random set of flowery descriptions to keep the reader awake. And there seems to be a common theme running throughout.
The one thing that happens most during a transfer window is that a lot of clubs are snubbed. Teams are always being snubbed. It’s just as well clubs have thick skins or they could really suffer a crisis of self-confidence. Often clubs are snubbed by a player they had never even enquired about, which seems like the cruellest of snubs. This has happened to “moneybags” Manchester City a lot recently. A rogue rumour is started up (by an agent) about their interest in someone (usually to get that player an improved contract), the player comes out to say he has no interest in joining Manchester City, and the press dutifully report it as “Player X Snubs Manchester City”, despite the fact Manchester City probably have no idea who he is.
Swooped. Football clubs on the look-out for players are for some reason compared to birds of prey. Clubs appear to sit on tree branches waiting for the right moment, before swooping in on their desired player, and carrying him away in their talons. What happened to the good old days of fax machines and a courtesy phone call?
All the while, the broadcasters are trying to keep up, and pretending they are the ones in the know. A lot of the time Sky Sports News understands, which basically means Sky Sports News has been surfing the internet or reading newspapers. The BBC do this a lot too – it seems a key component of sports broadcasters is the capacity to understand stuff. Empathy, basically. Only today the BBC has published an article on the Carlos Tevez situation in which they understand a whole swathe of things.
Occasionally a team has stolen a march, which sounds like a pretty horrible thing to do, personally (and a logistical nightmare). Manchester City last week stole a march on the race to sign Samir Nasri, but as Nasri has since jetted off on Arsenal’s pre-season tour, it seems the march escaped and is back where it belongs.
Players meanwhile are keen to demand “assurances”. Their written contract is no longer sufficient. They want to know where the club is heading, who they are signing, and the weather for the next two years, otherwise they will have a strop and go on hunger strike until they have forced through a move to Real Madrid.
And most players seem to be described as an ACE. Or if young, they may be a STARLET (especially prevalent with young Belgian players it seems). Wigan lined to Cameroon ACE. Scunthorpe ACE joins Millwall on loan. Belgian STARLET linked with move to Chelsea. You get the idea.
Not everyone can be an ACE or a STARLET though. Some players are described as flops. Football is full of flops. Football players don’t fail, they flop. Flops are not attractive propositions in the transfer market, but flops can be resurrected, so a bargain could be had from buying a flop. Don’t write off flops.
Back to the jungle, and teams are in the hunt for new players. Manchester United can sign Ashley Young, but only if they can find him. Armed with nothing more than a spear, some camouflage gear and a large net, the hunt begins….and as time passes, Sky Sports News will understand them to be closing in on their target. They make audacious moves (break-dancing?) for players they have been on the trail of, having tracked them for a while (with GPS, presumably).
Most of the news though is nothing more than speculation, normally wild (of course). Again, nature helps us out. Wild speculation is different to your common house-trained domestic speculation, as it is unpredictable, can be aggressive towards humans, and lives in a privet hedge on the outskirts of the Black Forest. Approach with caution.
Clubs eye other teams’ players (across a crowded dance floor?). They pursue players (across fields in little buggies). We hear of price tags, as if players are items of clothing. Can get 20% off with your loyalty card? Clubs are known to be lining up a player (sounds like a firing squad). Or weighing up a move. Negotiations break down (hope the club are with the AA). Teams are alerted by problems with players. Players are poised to sign (try and picture the Karate Kid when he had hurt his foot so fought on one leg). Moves are hijacked by other clubs – players are presumably held on isolated airport runways until the club gets what it wants. In fact, this isn’t far off what Alex Ferguson did when signing Dimitar Berbatov.
Mostly though, players are approached. I imagine a dark alleyway, long coats, and a man smoking a cheroot (or a Gauloises if in France) sidling up to the designated player under a lamppost with a secret password. Then negotiations can begin.
Unsettled, want-away players are offered an escape route away from clubs, presumably via a secret underground tunnel. That’s after issuing come-and-get-me pleas of course. This leads to a battle for the player, who edges towards a move, before finally sealing a new club.
The rest knuckle down, travel the world and post pictures on Twitter of them planking. But soon, thankfully, it will all be over, for now. Deals will be finalised, players will slip through the grasp of clubs, some players will be captured and we can all get back to watching some football and moaning about Alan Shearer on Match Of The Day. Hallelujah.