By Tony Attwood
On Wednesday 19 May the Guardian ran a story by Sid Lowe. The Guardian, as you might have noted from my past comments, is my UK newspaper of choice. Far from perfect, but in my personal view, the best there is.
But it is, as I say, far from perfect.
Sid Lowe’s story was that “Barcelona expect to sign Cesc Fábregas from Arsenal before the weekend”.
Now that is not my précis – it is exactly, word for word, what the headline in the story said. You can check it – it is still on the web site.
I must be honest to say, having been in the journo trade myself for a little while, I am aware that Our Sid wouldn’t have written that headline. But it was a headline very similar to that which was used in all sorts of papers. A sub-editor (what journos call “a sub”) would have written it. That’s what subs do.
So, to be fair to El Cid, sorry, Sid, here’s his opening, word for individual word – the bit that he himself wrote.
“Barcelona believe they can conclude the signing of Cesc Fábregas before the weekend after agreeing the basis of a contract with the midfielder. Fábregas has informed Arsène Wenger of his desire to leave the Emirates and the Spanish champions are hopeful of swiftly tying up a deal, even though they admit that they face difficult negotiations with Arsenal.”
Although Sid wrote “believe” in the opening line, he did also say definitively that “the Spanish champions are hopeful of swiftly tying up a deal…”
That implies two things…
a) That Barca are in negotiations with Arsenal and can tie up the deal, and
b) a certain degree of inside knowledge on Sid’s part. A contact in the club. An interview with the man who handles the transfers. Something like that.
Here’s a bit more which again suggests activity going on, contact being made etc.
“Barcelona initially envisaged a fee in the region of 35m Euros (£30m) for the player but now privately accept that it will be difficult to close a deal at that price. With Arsenal demanding a minimum of £40m, Barcelona’s president, Joan Laporta, has said that he is prepared to pay more to make the deal happen. The Catalan club is also ready to offer players in part-exchange.”
It goes on to talk about how Fábregas “reluctantly agreed” to stay at Arsenal last summer.
So that was last week, and that was Sid Lowe.
At this point, before we go on to reflect that this business of transferring Cesc by last weekend, and how it didn’t happen, we might pause to think: who is Sid Lowe?
According to the Guardian our Sid (that is Sid Lowe, not Syd Barrett – a staggeringly brilliant and original composer who wrote the early great stuff for Pink Floyd, sang, spelt his name differently, tragically suffered from schizophrenia and died a year or three ago) “lives in Madrid and writes a weekly column for guardian.co.uk. He also writes regularly for the Guardian, World Soccer, FourFourTwo, and the Telegraph. He works as a commentator and panelist for Spanish, Asian and US television and has acted as translator for David Beckham, Michael Owen, and Thomas Gravesen.”
OK big time stuff. Ought to be au fait with the inside sources. Our main the Barca camp. Probably gets invited round to supper with El Presidente. (Which is also why he doesn’t mention all those awful debts that Barca have that we started to find this week. Over £300m worth secured on bugger all, and with very limited chance of ever finding a way to repay them. Still owing Arsenal money for Hleb and Henry. And with the Spanish economy about to fall apart. But that’s all dry stuff – not the sort of thing the man who translates for David Beckham would want to be involved in.)
There’s a full story of that situation at Bara here - that link should have been in Untold’s last piece about Spain (Barca’s unintended prophet of doom), but I got the page details wrong – my fault. Sorry. Worth reading now though.
Still, not Sid’s business. He’s more of your man who tells it like it isn’t.
So, I wonder what Sid made of it when the Guardian, (one of the infinite number of places for whom Sid writes) published this on 25 May.
Here once again is the complete and total headline so that you can’t accuse me of mucking about.
Barcelona confirm they have yet to make an offer for Cesc Fábregas
The source was not our Sid, but in fact Reuters. Sid doesn’t figure. In fact he seems to have left the plot rather suddenly. Here’s the opening of Reuters story…
“Barcelona have not yet made an offer for Cesc Fábregas, according to Joan Oliver, the club’s director general, but he did admit the player has expressed a desire to play for them next season.”
Now two things spring to mind here. First, how could Barca be hopeful of sorting out the deal by the weekend, as Sid said, when they hadn’t even made a bid?
Second, where’s the apology? Either by Sid, or by the Guardian.
Where’s the bit that says, “Actually guys that Sid Lowe fellow – bit of a wag – always having us on – he sent in this joke copy and stupidly we ran it. Terribly sorry, our mistake. Sid’s been boiled in oil, and won’t be here again, and well, you know, cock-ups happen.”
No, nothing like that. In fact I wouldn’t mind betting my mortgage that any day now Our Sid will be back on the pages of the Guardian with another cock and bull story from inside sources in Barcelona. General Franco isn’t dead at all, and in fact has been hiding inside a fishing boat hidden in the 3rd row of the upper tier and has been secretly passing messages to an Elvis lookalike who lives in Gibraltar and is a close friend of Lisbet Sullender…
“Ah,” you may well be saying, “ah!”
And I would reply, “Yes indeed!”
But supposing Reuters got it wrong and Sid (who was not, as I have pointed out a member of Pink Floyd, but may on the face of it have the occasional delusional tendency, which most of us get as journalists), may have been right. Why not? Sid Lowe, on the ball, Reuters, total screw up.
Well, having dated a Reuters lady for a while, and having watched how Reuters work, and the lengths they go to, to get stories right and to check their sources, I think I’m with Reuters on this one. Reuters check, and check the checks before they press the button. They live and breathe on a reputation of only releasing stories that are true. Which is why Reuters stories quote sources. Of course they do make mistakes, as everyone does, but they are mistakes, not made up stories, and they are fairly rare.
Besides the Reuters story goes like this…
“We have had first contacts with Arsenal in which we made known our intention to talk and that’s the situation,” Oliver was quoted as saying on the La Liga champions’ website. “There is no offer yet. But it’s true the player has expressed his wish to play for Barça, perhaps this coming season.”
And yes, it was on the web site. I am not that good at the old foreign language stuff, but I called up my language speaking pal and asked him to find the Barcaloony web site for me, and he found it somewhere and said that’s pretty much what it says.
Now I would like to direct your attention to this…
“But it’s true the player has expressed his wish to play for Barça, perhaps this coming season.”
And may I focus on one word? PERHAPS.
Now this is not the story we have been fed by the saliva dripping morons who run most of the UK press. They have been telling us that Cesc said he definitively wants to bugger off and play in foreign parts.
But the Barca web site said something rather different.
“Perhaps this coming season.” Which might mean, maybe August 2010, maybe August 2015, maybe at the start of the next Ice Age which New Scientist tells me is sometime in the next 10,000 years.
Here’s another goodie from the Reuters piece.
“Spanish media have reported that Barcelona want to conclude the purchase of Fábregas before the World Cup, with Arsenal believed to be holding out for close to £50m for their 23-year-old captain.”
“Spanish media.” “Believed”. Which is all a bit different from our our media turn the story around. “English media report that Peter Crouch is really a jellyfish. Untold Arsenal, a widely read British web site that comments on Arsenal matters reported today that Peter Crouch was really a mindless semi-transparent sea creature with a sting. ‘His mother was a hedgehog and his father was a sprout,’ said Tony Attwood, Head Honcho at the Untold Pyramid.”
Back in the real world Reuters went on to report a Spanish radio station, quoting a member of Family Cesc, which is a bit like getting Radio Caroline to comment on the finer points of the budget. Total drivel, but they gave us the source, so we can judge that.
So there you have it. Or not.
Cesc did not say he wanted to go this year, the “this weekend” story was totally made up by the press, and Mr Hill-Wood was quite right when he said that Arsenal had not received an offer.
In fact, as we guessed from the start – there was no Cesc story, it was invented by the media for the media. Which just leaves the question, “why?” Why do the media do this?
The answer is that it fills up the back pages of the papers without having to do any work. Dear old Sid Lowe can sit in Spain twiddling whatever he twiddles while employing an infinite number of monkeys to sit at computer keyboards, secure in the knowledge that every now and then (in between typing up the works of Shakespeare) they will also come up with another story.
As for why Arsenal, the fact is that if you count the number of stories that there are in the English speaking parts of the internet on various football clubs, Arsenal comes out on top. For whatever reason, our club gets talked about more than other clubs. So the monkeys write about us more.
Anyway, it was a transfer made up by the press, for the benefit of selling papers. As a result of it, Cesc might go in the end, but whatever happens we can be quite sure who it was that did it all. The media. Same old, same old.
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