Football is a sport on which rumour and innuendo thrive, particularly in the close season. For the uninitiated it is what makes the months of June and July pass quickly when there is not an international tournament taking place. Speculation is passed around the pub or the office as if it is true, hopes are raised when your team is linked to a decent player, only to be dashed when you realise that the story was made up over the fifth pint in whichever bar happens to be the gathering place of the hacks in question.
Undoubtedly a number of those stories are plants; Player X wants to engineer a pay rise and needs to concoct some interest, the player may actually want a move and is putting out feelers for interest, a manager may want to offload a player and is testing the market or even an Agent may be down to their last Rolex and wants a payday. It’s there, it’s part of the game and we love it. In the days before the transfer windows became effective in England, the speculation started and never stopped, it did not respect the start or end of a season.
The various regulatory bodies all have rules about this type of behaviour and for years the rules have been flouted, sometimes quite brazenly. And yet there comes a point where questions have to be asked, ethics need to be enforced or else just do away with the rules of engagement. Make it open season on all players futures, any day of the week, any club officer can say what they want when they like. The Italians have been at it for years. Famously, Luca Moggi told Zlatan Ibrahimovich to create a fuss to engineer his move from Ajax. The Swede did by kicking lumps off of an Ajax teammate in an international fixture, to such an extent that the two fell out and the move duly went ahead.
The current trend seems to be from Spain. For years, Real Madrid and Barcelona have been masters of the outlandish statement, hoping to make it the truth. Each club have their favoured mouthpiece and their words are reported as the “Gospel Truth”. It first came to international notice when Florentino Perez was running his election campaign, noting that he had the signature of Figo wrapped up. He had nothing of the sort but waved a cheque in Barcelona’s direction with the sum of £30m on it and lo, he was a man of his word. Seeing the success of this, Laporta repeated the trick with Beckham in his election campaign. It was a done deal, Manchester United had agreed a fee with him, promising to deliver the player if Laporta won. He duly did. Except nobody had bothered to tell Beckham who promptly turned down the move. Still, Ronaldinho was not a bad second choice to have.
And so it goes. We go full circle to this year with Henry’s supposed defection to Barcelona, Wenger going to Real as manager. All presented as fact, the average punter having an inkling of the truth in each story but ultimately, they proved to be just that. A story. Calderon, the newly elected Real President, has claimed for weeks that he has agreed deals with Kaka, Robben and Fabregas. He’s delivered Capello as the manager so it is pretty fair to assume that he has been working behind the scenes, talking to the Players Representatives, promising them the earth and their clients a fair portion of the Universe as well. The media pick up on this and present it as the truth. Agents become involved and then promote the story at every given opportunity. The headlines from people such as myself and those of the Fourth Estate scream of “Imminent Moves” and extortionate fees being paid.
But at what point do these shenanigans become in breach of the rules. Kaka, Robben and Fabregas are all under reasonably long term contracts at their clubs. That the President of the Club should have tried to tap them up – Fabregas has all but admitted to talks with Real – as part of an election campaign is surely bringing the game into disrepute? Once the man takes office, it must be against the rules for him to pursue the deal having already tried to broker it. FIFA should step in now and bring him to heal otherwise yet again, Real ride roughshod over the laws that others try to obey, the Odious Ones From West London aside.
From an Arsenal perspective, Fabregas’ Agent hit the nail on the head when he noted that The Gunners would not sell his client “for all the Gold in the World”. However, it would not surprise me if the conversation quickly turned to Reyes who I think would leave given the opportunity and I am unconvinced that the chance to cash in would be turned down.
Todays Tunes continue the REM Week, these from a bootleg of Michael Stipes recordings outside of the Group entitled “Not Field Recordings”. The tracklisting is as follows:
Arms Of Love / Guilty By Association / Your Ghost / Full Moon / To Sir With Love / Trout / Alive And Living Now / Kid Fears / Future 40’s / Little April Showers / A Campfire Song / Boy (Go) / Clustering Train / Omaha / Hot Nights In Georgia / Treason / Meeting
Download it here