Sometime over last summer I was speaking off-the-record with a Manchester City employee about the ongoing Alexis Sanchez transfer story. This is not me claiming to be an in-the-know incidentally; let’s make that clear off the bat. It’s just that by writing about City on a regular basis for various publications it occasionally affords me such an opportunity.
What I was told directly tallied with the narrative that was prevalent in the media namely that the player desperately wanted to come to the club – and was willing to turn down offers from elsewhere to achieve that aim – but there was a big disparity between what City were prepared to pay per week and Sanchez’s wage demands. As for Arsenal, they were playing hardball, procrastinating and putting up roadblocks, but it was clear they had reluctantly ceded to the inevitable. Regardless, they would absolutely not countenance letting their star talent go before a suitable replacement was secured.
That was last August and I’d love it if somebody could tell me what has changed up this this week’s developments bar the minutiae of each aspect. The answer, give or take the odd inconsequential detail here and there, is nothing.
Now for a follow-up query. Since September 1st when the high-profile switch fell through – or more accurately was postponed – how many articles have been written on the subject? How many slightly adjusted figures have been posted and rehashed variations on the same simple tale passed off as fresh and new before being regurgitated ad nauseum on one-man sites by those slightly strange folk who want strangers to think they have access to immensely private information. A thousand? Two thousand? What is certain is that virtually every day since (134 and counting) it is impossible to scroll down your Twitter timeline without encountering another luke-warm take or Wenger quote or a Chilean journalist being sought for his insider scoop (because he’s from the same country and they all know each other really well over there). All designed to get us to click, all telling us fundamentally nothing new.
There are transfers and then there are transfer sagas and though the latter directly focuses on the former it is necessary to separate these two things and view them as individual entities. The first propagates speculation, rumour and reportage. They’re quire fun in the main. Sagas however are an industry in their own right that takes a perfectly ordinary transfer, wrenches it from its moorings and repeatedly batters us about the head with it until we’re too jaded and dazed to realise that it is no different to the other numerous business transactions taking place throughout each and every window. Put another way, it is a storyteller with only one story and we listen over and over again just in case the phrasing is a little bit changed from the last time.
This is nothing new. There was Bale and Fabregas and John Stones – all three sapping our will to live before eventually concluding exactly how they were always going to – and that’s before we get to the drawn-out affairs that only waste our time such as the repeated suggestion that Ronaldo might return to Old Trafford.
It is a storyteller with only one story and we listen over and over again just in case the phrasing is a little bit changed from the last time.
Speaking of United, they too have now reportedly joined the chase for the Gunners’ chunky-thighed attacker and even as a City fan I am delighted at this turn of events. After all, a change is as good as a rest and this welcome twist momentarily recharged a modicum of interest in a straightforward plot that has now been recounted more times than a Top Gear special on Dave.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter, of course – I still firmly believe that by this summer at the latest Alexis Sanchez will be a Manchester City player – but yesterday’s alternative headline was, to us all, a brightly feathered bird landing on our prison cell windowsill.
By far the most frustrating aspect of transfer sagas is that the solution to ease our prolonged pain lies not in actually doing something but in doing less. Basic market forces dictate that the fewer clicks sagas receive the fewer articles will be written, and maybe then the countless other potential transfers that have intrigue and interest attached might get a look in too. It would be win-win for all concerned and should we ever reach a place and time where transfer news is not solely dominated by a singular player the media would be full of brightly feathered birds, so many that our eyes will widen with curiosity. And we would finally be free.
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