Watching football fans watching the football
There's something rotten this summer that goes right to the top of the nation's media. Something ugly; something that provokes a breed of contempt reserved for only the most reprehensible behaviour; something the world and his squeeze feels it must say something about.
Yes, folks, it’s the Great British summer tradition: the transfer saga. And no, Murdoch, your hands aren’t clean on this one, either.
Ladies and gentlemen, this year's runners and riders...
Weighing in at 11st 8lb, devoted father and the world's itchiest feet, Carlos ‘Wherever I lay my hat’ Tevez.
Next up, kidnapping victim and Spanish (friendly) international, Cesc ‘The Sufferer’ Fabregas.
Then there's a poor little Croatian for whom the prospect of another campaign under Harry “It's not about tactics; it's about players” Redknapp is just too much to bear.
Their names' narcoleptic qualities render counting sheep positively archaic. The lullaby? Cliché! Nytol? superfluous. These players’ monikers, repeatedly endlessly in moderately different contexts, are all you need to sleep a thousand sleeps.
Throw Samir Nasri, Alexis Sanchez and Neymar into this unhappy pot and you have your sporting headlines going into August. Aren't we lucky to have such curious and imaginative sports journalists on Fleet Street?
In this summer's latest (admittedly less significant) failure to gauge public interest, the newspapers splash these headlines across the back pages claiming to have some insider knowledge or at least, Heaven forbid, new information.
“FABREGAS’ FUTURE TO BE DECIDED BY TUESDAY,” they scream.
“TEVEZ WILL DEPART FOR JUVENTUS IN £35m/£40m/£50m DEAL,” they cry.
“MODRIC WILL HAND IN WRITTEN TRANSFER REQUEST TODAY,” they wail.
Back in June, the Manchester Evening News launched a petition to keep Carlos Tevez at Manchester City. It was greeted with widespread ridicule, primarily from Manchester City supporters of the same mindset: ‘Thanks, Carlos, it’s been great – but you’re more trouble than you’re worth.’
In a survey posted on the same paper's website this weekend, 85 per cent of City fans have stated a preference for another Argentine, Sergio Aguero, to carry the lion's share of City's attacking charge in the next campaign.
Arsenal fans, slightly more grudgingly, have accepted Fabregas' inevitable departure and are already looking to Aaron Ramsey or A. N. Other to fill the void. Is he gone yet? Just tell us when he's gone.
Modric's departure is arguably the only one of the three that looks less than a formality, but with transfers' increasingly clandestine, red tape-ensnared nature, there's clearly nothing to report. When these deals are actually negotiated, Andy Burton and his ilk are, funnily enough, not on the invite list. Garry Cook isn't texting your average hack over Tevez's shoulder as he hugs him goodbye. There are no DMs being sent from Fabregas' anodyne Twitter account to Phil McNulty.
Still, the ink. The tweets. Shots of expressionless footballers driving cars. Photoshopped pictures of players in other team's shirts. And always, always, Sky Sports understands...
These stories become daily sagas as deadlocks are reported as fresh news. To say things progress at the speed of a tortoise would be generous; more, that of a housebound eating machine inching inexorably towards the finish line – a joyless money shot of “This is a dream move” press conferences.
“GOT HIM,” the same papers will bellow, presumably to wake up anybody who is still interested.
So this is my message to those dastardly news-hounds: we love football – truly we do. But we also accept that it stops for a bit. It's OK. Anticipation is one seductive little sausage, and hey, if you must fill the back page with football, you could do it with, y'know, actual football that's happening, like, now.
The Copa America, for example. Argentina got knocked out – Tevez missed a penner. Yeah? No. Corinthians are on the brink of clinching a £39m deal for him – could be sorted by tomorrow, it says here...
And on, and on, and on and Ariston...
Yeah, it's quite boring reading the same nonsence every day. The whole Sneijder thing was made-up by the media, too. And if anyone is stupid enough to believe tabloid quotes from insiders, friends, onlookers, club officials, the player's gardener, the cat's fifth kitten etc.etc.etc., then they are even more gullible than I thought.
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