Remember when Diego Maradona signed for Tottenham in the late 1980s?
No neither do I, but I do remember the tabloid newspaper back page claiming the deal was done.
And I remember the same reporter coming up with transfer stories a few desks away that led me to the simple conclusion; he was dealing in fiction.
Transfer trash talk has got a much bigger audience now. The combined weight of football and social media has turned millions – journalists or not – into supposed transfer gurus, trying to seem like big movers and shakers ‘in the know’ (taps nose). They are actually trading gossip in the manner of pensioners at a bus stop.
Rooney to Madrid. Rooney to Chelsea. Rooney to (stay at) Manchester United. Cavani to Chelsea. Suarez to Arsenal. Pele to Chelsea. Only one of these hasn’t been presented as reality in recent weeks.
What is worse is the confident language around transfer used on twitter – yes twitter again – by some well respected football writers and broadcasters.
The phrase that offends me most is ‘done deal’. To my mind, and indeed the Oxford English Dictionary, done and deal mean done and deal. If it’s not done and you say it is you are, to put it politely, getting ahead of yourself. To put it more accurately, lying. And yet Higuain to Arsenal was a ‘done deal’, so was Beckham to PSG supposedly a YEAR before it happened. I remember the tweeting very clearly. Done and dusted apparently. If you can’t be entirely accurate, perhaps you should mind your language. Fact is sacred, comment is free.
So how much appetite is there for this nonsense? Well, a massive appetite. Transfers make the football world go round. And fans are desperate to know who’s coming and going. They want that starting XI forming, the squad shaped, they want the club villain out and to be booed elsewhere. They want to know who’s got hold of who to indulge in a bit of jealousy. Or denial; “We didn’t want him anyway.”
Even for those who don’t need constant tittle-tattle there are times when a transfer really can stir the blood. Ronaldo to Real, Torres to Chelsea, Robinho to Manchester City, the bigger the shock and the fee the better. I’m talking about done deals of course.
Some transfers produce a level of astonishment – the Torres to Chelsea, Carroll to Liverpool deals and the figures involved had an element of that, but others transcend football. None more controversial than Mo Johnston, the Catholic Celtic hero moving from Nantes to Rangers, crossing the great Glasgow divide in 1989. It is STILL being talked about in the Scottish city and has never lost its shock factor.
Less controversial but certainly a big moment in my childhood was Kevin Keegan leaving Liverpool for Hamburg in 1977, the heartbreak for Liverpool fans immediately eased by the arrival of the peerless Kenny Dalglish
There was no consolation last summer for Arsenal fans when Van Persie joined Manchester United. Yes a move of RVP level is a big deal in every sense. They can be seismic, changing the direction of clubs. We all know full well that Manchester United would not have finished so many points clear of their rivals last season if he was still at Arsenal, or at least we think we do. The talk shows and message boards are rammed with opinion. Football matters and football matters.
But for all those millions who love the chase, there are some who prefer to know where they stand. Is he our player or not? While the agents and representatives do their best and worst to finalise the deals and get the contracts signed do we really need to know every in and out of what might be going on. Do we really need the fuss over the transfer window, reporters standing in empty car parks speculating? Well as long as there is a demand I suppose the answer has to be yes.
I’ll be as excited as anyone if there is a really big transfer story or two between now and the end of August, particularly if they are a surprise, with no long and painful process of will he/won’t he. But as I type Wayne Rooney is a Manchester United player and not one of the people who covered David Moyes first press conference seemed to know what’s really going on behind the scenes.
So let’s all speculate instead. Rooney back to Everton.
Lee Wellings is the Sports Correspondent for Al Jazeera English based in London. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Lee on twitter @LeeW_Sport