Thursday 24 April ~
The football press has been brimful of information this week. There has been plenty to report on: gossip over John Arne Riise's “shame”, laments over Cristiano Ronaldo's missed penalty and admiration of Lionel Messi's “magical feet”. But there there has also been the return of a mainstay of newspaper sports reporting – the transfer rumour. The transfer window has clearly had little effect on speculation, as these stories are appearing earlier than ever and long before the major issues of the season have been resolved. These rumours range from the predictable to the surreal. David Bentley (or his agent) seems to have been angling to a move to a “big four” club all season so it is no surprise to learn that Chelsea and Liverpool are “set to battle” for his signature.
On the other hand, the news that Benfica are chasing a former Newcastle and Bolton manager conjures up odd images of “Big Sam” enjoying Lisbon street theatre. A large proportion of the space-filler stories are structured around particular clubs, often those in the Champions League looking to sign players from other clubs in the Champions League. So Arsenal may lose Matthieu Flamini and Alexander Hleb to big Italian clubs while they may buy Lyon winger Hatem Ben Arfa and Valencia striker David Villa. On the other side of London many are predicting an “exodus” from Chelsea.
Outside of the “big four” certain things are expected of certain clubs. It is assumed, with some justification, that Manchester City will throw money around in a cavalier fashion this summer. The Ronaldinho story will not go away and they are reportedly close to breaking their transfer record by signing a 21-year-old, 6ft 2in, dreadlocked Brazilian called Jo. Tottenham are apparently also after Ronaldinho and, allegedly, El-Hadji Diouf. However, the Bolton player is also wanted by Valencia, Atletico Madrid, Everton, Portsmouth, Roma and Sevilla. Modern football is so interlinked that Valencia, having sacked Ronald Koeman, are now “eyeing” Rafael Benítez and Sven-Göran Eriksson.
Others rumours start up around an individual having a good season, with the interested clubs added later, Gareth Barry's move to Liverpool or Chelsea being a perfect example. But transfer rumours must be self-sustaining, so in the event of Barry's move from Villa, Steve Sidwell may replace him. Finally, the least glamorous rumours appear in glorious isolation: Paul Jewell is weighing up a plunge for Everton midfielder Lee Carsley and Paul Dickov, currently on loan with Blackpool, is in talks with Toronto. Many will wonder what a front two of Dickov and current star striker Danny Dichio could do for the MLS club. Whatever the reason for their earliness and proliferation of such stories this year – be it season ticket renewal deadlines or the papers needing to fill space – there are widespread rumours that there will be plenty more rumours to come.