THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Tuesday 1 July ~

And so it begins. With Euro 2008 safely tied up and exhausted of Viva España puns the papers can devote their sports pages to real event of the summer, transfer gossip. Won’t it be a relief when Andy Murray is out of Wimbledon and they can really explore the ins and outs of Peter Crouch’s impending Liverpool exit with the column inches it deserves? The thought that it’s just the tabloids indulging in the coverage, as is often perpetrated by broadsheets and websites when printing rumours under the guise of tabloid-mocking round-up columns, can be discounted from the start.

A quick scan of today’s quality press and you will find news of 20-plus transfers, only one of which has actually been confirmed, that of Deco to Chelsea. An £8 million signing – anchored to a picture of Peter Kenyon joyfully shaking his hand like a fan meeting Tom Cruise at a movie premiere – that itself is overshadowed in coverage by what it may or may not mean about the future of Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack et al. Gossip breeds gossip and before you know it your mind is computing a chain of potential dealing that even the dodgiest estate agent would advise you is unwise.

Inevitably the gossip league is dominated by the Big Four, who begin the summer as they mean to go on with at least one potential deal each in today’s press. Rumour is often based on the presumption that the teams below the big four will kowtow to their every whim without batting an eyelid. But would Spurs really want to begin rebuilding their squad for their attempt to reach Champions League football by trading in their captain Robbie Keane for Peter Crouch and a bit of cash? Or indeed their best player Dimitar Berbatov to Manchester United? Of course, the truth is that a well placed transfer rumour can be self-fulfilling, once it is out there and the player smells the Champions League, the clubs probably won’t have a choice.

But for all the cynicism towards these articles only the most curmudgeonly would deny that there is a voyeuristic pleasure in following the salacious details of the transfer market. A brief flick through any club messageboard shows that fans are as complicit as the papers in spreading and discussing every possible transfer permutation. And, no, I haven’t missed the irony of feeding it with a further article that, while acting as media commentary, is probably more concerned with who will be playing up front for Spurs next season. Josh Widdicombe

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