A new season has begun, and as with all seasons, the transfer market preceding it has set the course for the tabloid frenzy that fuels the fanatic freaks of the game like us. As fans, do we just follow what rumors are stirred up by journalists or are we able to make our own inferences about squad depth and player unsettlement? This is an interesting question.
Much of our debates are based on the rumors that are spread by journalists across many leagues and countries. How can we make our own judgments on teams from so far away without the rumour mill? How much of this can we believe? Well, the point of this post is not to question the legitimacy of the journalists. I’ve read a book that has given me a lot of insight when reading the tabloids – one small lesson was that a fair portion of these rumours are pure bull****. I don’t think this was a revolutionary concept to me, but to see it in hard writing in a book definitely shut the door to the “if’s and but’s” of it all (Soccernomics, by Simon Kuiper and Stefan Szymanski). Journalists need stuff to write and they need to make a living somehow. The clubs have to work hard to keep up appearances because a small move can go a long way in fueling fans’ beliefs.
While thinking about how the soccer (or football, for those who still make the archaic soccer vs. football argument) world works I realized that soccer news can be identical in nature to stock market news. News about companies come out and investor confidence changes accordingly, driving the prices up or down. If we want to relate this to our majestic world of soccer, we can pretend that the prices going up or down concept can be applied to our perception of whether or not a club is in deep s**t. Let’s stop beating around the bush now, even as I am writing this article I feel the burning desire to get to the point and skip through the formalities of an introduction….appearances go a long way it seems.
I took a course on game theory in school. I highly recommend that anybody with a remotely observant mind take a course on this because it will put the system into context for you. The football transfer market could be a whole course on game theory in itself, and I envy whoever gets the chance to study that. Simply explained: There are payoffs for every move made for every outcome, good or bad. Here’s an example or two:
When Chelsea makes multiple bids for Wayne Rooney with ridiculous wage offerings for the player in a public manner, Manchester United is left with 2 choices: accept the bid since this is probably the highest amount they will get for Rooney and favor the business element of things and look smart, caving into the pressure of Chelsea’s mammoth offer, or reject the offer and keep their unsettled and disgruntled striker, looking silly from a business perspective but good in the eyes of the sentimentalists (the fans) and keeping a potent goal threat out of their rival’s hands.There is no right or wrong answer, there are only outcomes. Which outcome is the best is the million dollar question (or tens of millions of dollars actually).
Mourinho’s public pursuit of Rooney has largely been aimed at unsettling the striker and the club, but Chelsea also know that if they actually get their man, this would go a long way to winning the title and probably more trophies. This pursuit is a win-win situation for them. Ferguson had claimed that Rooney had handed in a transfer request, which wasn’t true. Now look where Manchester United are in this whole mess. Ferguson’s ego has given Mourinho the opportunity to make this play, and David Moyes has to deal with the backlash. United are in a difficult situation in which they will have to face the choice of acting in the best interests of their business or the best interest of their team stability and fan sentiment. Losing Rooney would weaken the strength of the attack and also hurt the fans, who have believed so much in him over the years. Keeping him would raise the question about whether or not he is bigger than the club.
Another example would be United’s pursuit of Fabregas. It was a disaster for the club’s short term image. The chance that Fabregas would leave Barcelona was always very slim and unrealistic. Three public bids were rejected and this was shortly after another transfer target in Thiago Alcantara had also snubbed the club at the eleventh hour. United have looked wobbly in this transfer market and it has affected their image (investor confidence) and whether or not they can attract top talent. Whether or not they have always actively pursued top talent is an entirely different can of worms however, but that’s not what the tabloids tell us now is it? People have been questioning their ability to challenge for honours from Tahiti to Timbuktu and don’t see the big picture.
Real Madrid’s pursuit of Bale with a world record bid is another example. Arsenal’s pursuit of Suarez is also another example. In both situations, the clubs receiving the bids are faced with the choice of acting in the best interests of their business and cashing in on their players, or keeping their unhappy players and showing grit in the transfer market and acting in the best interests of their respective teams. Perhaps we can understand the dilemma that Daniel Levy faces when Real Madrid come knocking on his door for Gareth Bale.
As with almost any tough choice, somebody is bound to lose out. Whether a club decides to sell its prized assets or keep the players against their wishes is a tough conundrum to be in. It is important for clubs to have a solid strategy to stick to for the long term. Arsenal have continually sold their best players over the years and still managed to finish in the top 4, and as a result, have created an incredible profit margin from their transfers. Teams like Tottenham, Liverpool or Manchester United hold a hard line and only sell when they can limit the impact of their losses.
One way or the other, decisions need to be made, and until they are, the rumor mill will keep on turning indefinitely and force clubs into making tough choices. Perhaps we should give people like Daniel Levy a little bit more respect.
Categories: Football Funnies