By Tony Attwood
In the last few days we have been discussing the collapse of the transfer market – and would you believe it, just as I get ready for the final part in the series of articles on Vapour Transfers we find that Santi Cazorla has undergone his medical and is about to be signed for £16m from Málaga. The loan of Nuri Sahin from Real Mad is still under discussion, but could be on. As for Cazorla there is talk of him playing against FC Köln.
We covered the Cazorla and Sahin stories a while back in one of the regular updates on transfers that Untold does, and Málaga has been in our sites since we started the Billionaire files. If ever you wanted an example of something going seriously amiss – and if ever there was a warning to Chelsea, Man C, PSG and the rest, then this club is it.
The press, a little behind Untold on this, but gradually getting into the habit of reading our columns I see, are now saying that Málaga is like a soap opera. Maybe, or maybe it is a bit more serious than that.
Anyway assuming there are no last minute what-nots, Cazorla joins Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud but Cazorla looks even better. This could be a player we’ll love and love again.
(Incidentally there are moves the other way: Benik Afobe has gone to Bolton Wanderers for the whole season and there is talk of Ryo doing another loan spell.
So, transfers all the way round – just as I was saying that The transfer market is on the edge of collapse on the basis that prices had got out of control, and the Billionaire clubs were just buying more players than they could actually play. As a result some players were finding themselves at clubs and then unable to get games. I also referred back to the Flamini Effect in which players are tempted to move in the belief (talked up by their agent) that they will play every match and become stars. Given that this is the anniversary of Theirry Henry’s signing (see the Arsenal History Site article for more on that) it gave me the chance to point out that each time Henry played for Barca it cost them nearly half a million quid. What a shame.
Anyway in the second article in the series on transfers I talked about Vapour Transfers and noted three types of such moves:
1: The Distraction – in which a club seriously looking at buying a player will slip out a story that it is actually after someone quite different, just to keep the hounds at bay
2: The Deception – in which there is no deal. This is all an invention, set up to confuse the opposition clubs. A DC judge, on watching this happen in the IT industry described the process as “a practice that is deceitful on its face and everybody in the community knows it.”
It goes like this. Everton want to buy Peter Poppit. But Liverpool slip out the story that Chelsea looked at Poppit and decided he was ok, but had an injury problem (that is all lies – they never looked at all). So they turned their attention to Dirk Frog. They rate Frog, but Frog is concerned he won’t get enough games at Chelsea, so is hesitating in signing. Everton lose their focus and start chasing Frog. Eventually they find that Chelsea never looked at Poppit, and never looked at Frog. But by then the transfer window is coming to a close and Poppit, fearing that no one wants him, has gone to Wolverhampton, who are thrilled with the capture.
(This is of course a mythical example – but you see how it works).
3: The Destructive Expectation Here the story goes around that a big time operator (we’ll call them Fix FC) wants to buy a top player (we’ll call him Rip Van Pobble). The story is untrue but it creates an expectation. Rip, who was ready to sign a new contract, then stops because he thinks someone else is after him.
The top clubs really can’t be arsed with the player like Rip because he has had so many injuries, but the expectation builds, and the clubs know that if they don’t deal the press and bloggers will write that the club have no ambition, or that they are slipping backwards, or that like Malaga the money has gone.
But if Rip is injured all season the manager is in trouble, given that everyone knows of Rip’s injuries. If the manager doesn’t sign and doesn’t win the league, everyone will say he didn’t have the right vision. He’s in trouble however he moves.
So that’s all bad enough, but there is more…
Vapour Transfer 4: The Agent’s Game
These first three Vapour Transfers are created by clubs either to put stop rivals nosing around a deal about to happen, or to distract a club so that a deal that might happen doesn’t, or they try to tangle up a club thinking about signing someone they don’t want or need. The word “marquee” was devised to apply to transfers and players just to help Vapour Transfers along. Think back – we didn’t have “marquee” signings four years ago.
But clubs are not the only ones involved. The media, players agents and bloggers (some of whom are little more than the media’s lap dogs) also get involved – and that’s what we see here.
Imagine: The Daily Sniff is in financial trouble due to declining readership, several members of its journalist staff being arrested for phone tapping, a plethora of legal cases, and a decline in advertising. So, to fill pages at no expense they make up transfer stories.
Jack Dealmaker is an agent who like all agents get a fair old percentage of the salary of his players plus part of the signing on fee. He has a vested interest in his players moving around as much as possible – and if they can’t move then at least signing a new contract with a new loyalty fee. So Jack Dealmaker and the Daily Sniff have a good reason to talk to each other.
Now let’s take the famous Daily Mirror story that I quoted in the last article in which on 6 June 2008 it ran the headline “Arsenal line up shock move for Peter Crouch”
Everyone knew that this was tripe, but what it did do was make some of the not so bright directors and managers of smaller clubs think, “hey Crouch is available”. They were expected to guess that the story was nonsense, but to take the possibility of a move seriously and so start asking. If not now, then maybe in a year or two. A marquee signing for a little club. In doing this they were merely providing background defence should Revenue and Customs get involved – see below.
These stories can be spotted because of their language (“high alert”) and their repetition. Try this one in the Metro, “Reports from Italy have suggested Juventus are lining up a shock move for Liverpool striker Peter Crouch, as a replacement for David Trezeguet, who could be on his way out of the San Siro”.
It is similar to the Mirror story because it is vital in this business that those “in the game” know which game is being played.
But the question can be raised: why on earth go to such lengths as to persuade the Mirror and Metro to run this tripe when a phone call to various clubs would tip them off. OK there are rules that say that contacts about transfers have to be club to club, but these rules fell into disrepute long ago, and quite honestly among the clubs the FA is held in such disdain that no one cares a toss about them.
But by running unattributable stories in the press (which the papers like because it allows them to suggest they have their own “sources” inside each club feeding them info,) it is easy to beef up the story and get one club bidding against another. In effect what the agent wants is for clubs to come to him saying “will your man go for this?” The agent does not want to go to the clubs directly, because what he really wants is everyone involved in a bidding war.
Vapour Transfer 5: the fraud
However there is more. Let us suppose that somewhere out in the great wide world of football there is a manager or a club owner who is bent. Hard to believe I know, but just stay with me on this one. Maybe he is involved in money laundering. Maybe he is just involved in shipping drugs. Maybe its fake currency. Maybe he is running a far right wing political party. Maybe he’s a banker.
One of the ways he can do his deals, moving money around as he needs, is through football transfers. In such a case he needs transfers more than the club or the player need movement. Of course a sudden movement of a third rate player for far more money than he is worth looks highly suspicious – and that is exactly what our neo-fascist drug dealing banker wants. But supposing the agent, player, club and the rest can point to media speculation. “What do you mean, he’s not worth £10m – Arsenal were going to pay more than that. It said so in the Daily Prat.”
“Don’t talk tripe,” says our man at Customs and Excise. “Crouch would never go to Arsenal.”
“As it turns out, no,” says the criminal interest rate fixing banker with a penchant for Nazi regalia. “But the fact that they looked shows there is more to Crouch than meets the kneecap.”
And the Customs and Excise man, knowing little of the inner workings of football, lets the matter drop. It was in the papers after all (see above).
So this is the world of transfers. Santi Cazorla is moving because the billionaire owner of his club has suddenly failed to come up with enough money to allow the club to continue in the Spanish league. The owner is stunningly rich – rich beyond anything you or I could imagine. And we are asked by the press to believe that his failure to sort out the club is due to his eccentricity and lack of understanding of Uefa rules.
Welcome Santi Cazorla, assuming there is no last minute hitch. And hopefully welcome Nuri Sahin. Welcome to a world of sanity in an ocean of corruption.
All we have to do now is sort out the referees.
- How Arsenal survived in the Premier League last season
- Did a club win the Premier League because of ref bias? Manchester City
- Did a club win the Premier League because of ref bias? Manchester United
- So who is benefiting from all the strange referee decisions in the Premier League
- The Vapour Transfer: how the mechanisms of football have been corrupted
- The transfer market is on the edge of collapse – and the changes are working in Arsenal’s favour