Mitten om alle overgangsryktene

Andy Mitten skriver om alt som har å gjøre med overgangsrykter i sin nyeste spalte. Les den her.

Andy Mittens column in english is at the bottom of this page

The Daily Telegraph skrev denne uka at Manchester United hadde inngått en avtale som sikret dem Benficas argentinske landslagsving, Nicolas Gaitan. Samme dag skrev James Ducker i The Times at Gaitan-avtalen ikke blir noe av. Han understreket – og gjentok – at Gaitan ikke kommer til United. The Telegraph og The Times er de to mestselgende, seriøse avisene i Storbritannia. Begge journalistene er respekterte, men én av dem tar feil.

Fotballoverganger er omgitt av rykter og bedrageri, og avisenes ønske om økte oppslagstall og fansen umettelige ønske om spennende nyheter gir det hele fart. Tenk på hvilken effekt en tittel om at «United vil kjøpe Messi» kunne ha hvis den stod i morgen.

Klubbene liker å kontrollere media, men de vil ikke bekrefte en overgangssak før den virkelig skjer. Derfor er det avisene og journalistene med gode kilder som styrer showet.

Fans er, og det med rette, kyniske i forhold til spekulasjonene og stoler gjerne mer på noen kilder enn de gjør på andre. Samtidig later fans ofte som de vet mer enn de faktisk gjør, og de forteller ofte videre informasjon som selv ikke de verste avisene vil ta en sjanse på å kreditere.

Samtidig er noen fans også modige nok til å ignorere det hele – helt til en spiller står på Old Trafford-matta med et United-skjerf rundt halsen sin. Ellers kan det bli en lang sommer – full av falskt håp og mye bortkastet energi.

Nettsteder som og IM scouting regnes ikke som pålitelige. Man ser aldri journalistene derfra, som også kan være studenter under opplæring, på kamper, middager eller med folkene som tar avgjørelsene innen fotballen.

Alt handler nemlig om journalistens forhold til nøkkelpersoner, selv om det heller ikke behøver å være nok.

Daily Mails Bob Cass har lenge stått Alex Ferguson nær, men jeg så selv Ferguson si «Fuck Off» til ham i Washington i juli – fordi Cass´ avis hadde sitert Ferguson på ting han mente var off the record.

(Se hendelsen i videovinduet. Saken fortsetter under)

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Andy Mittens column in english:

The Daily Telegraph this week reported that Manchester United had done a deal to sign Benfica’s Argentine international winger Nicolas Gaitan. On the same day, James Ducker of The Times described the Gaitan deal as a non-starter, repeating for emphasis that he is NOT going to United.

The Telegraph and The Times are the two best-selling broadsheet newspapers in Britain; both journalists are well respected, but one must be wrong.

Football transfers are surrounded by rumour and deception, fanned by newspaper circulation wars and an insatiable desire for exciting news from fans. Think of the impact of a headline that United are to sign Lionel Messi tomorrow?

Clubs like to control their media, but they are hardly going break a transfer story ahead of it happening and so newspapers and their well connected journalists run the show.

Fans are rightly cynical about speculation and trust some sources over others, though fans often pretend to be more in the know that they actually are and would pass off information the biggest chancer of a journalist wouldn’t credit.

Conversely, some fans are brave enough to ignore it all until the player is on the Old Trafford pitch with a United scarf around his neck. It can be a long summer of false hopes and wasted emotional energy otherwise.

Websites like and IM scouting are not viewed as credible. Their journalists, which include inexperienced interns, are not seen at games, dinners or with the decision makers. Crucial is the journalist’s relationship with key people – but even this isn’t reliable. Bob Cass of The Daily Mail has long been close to Sir Alex Ferguson, but I saw Ferguson tell Cass to “fuck off” in Washington last July because Cass’s newspaper had printed comments which Ferguson considered to be off the record.

United, chiefly David Gill and Sir Alex Ferguson, leak almost no information. In the 1980s and early 90s, Ferguson and his chairman Martin Edwards were partial to tipping off the press, or, in the words of Edwards “helping out those who were good to the club.”

That doesn’t happen now and Ferguson and Gill are gleeful when they unveil a signing and trump the (non-club) media. Just two journalists have Gill’s mobile number, while Ferguson had a triumphant tone when he told the media, post Glazer takeover, that they now got nothing from them. It was a them and us mentality.

Yet despite all the modern forms of communication, the camera phones spotting Gill at Manchester Airport and the websites with incidental pieces of information, surprises happen. Nobody knew that United were signing Anderson, Nani, Javier Hernandez or Bebe until the club announced it. United negotiated on the condition of secrecy and in the case of Hernandez, whose own grandfather did not even know that he’d gone to Manchester, the reward was a lucrative friendly game against his former club Chivas.

United jealously guard information because it can cost millions and mean losing a player if rivals butt in. Phil Jones was considering a move to Liverpool when United got wind and made a move. Ashley Young also had a straight choice between the two.

United signed Bebe because they got wind that Real Madrid were about to make an offer. That all sounds laughable now, but some mischievous scamp played up interest between the clubs and the result was a €9 million flop who was never good enough to play top level.

Proud friends and family can let slip details inadvertently (that’s how I found out about Jones on Twitter and within minutes three national journalists had called). As can agents, players and even the tightlipped Gill and Ferguson. An agent might offer his player to United to be told, “No thanks, we’ve already identified someone in that position.” That scrap of information can be fitted into a jigsaw by a canny journalist.

Ferguson is not adverse to bending the truth, either. He was adamant that Juan Sebastian Veron was not for sale, yet at the same time an agent had been instructed to sell him and the Argentine promptly left for Chelsea.

Potential future signings excite fans most. United’s scouts watch hundreds of players each season – and that’s just for first team level. I’ve seen Martin Ferguson at countless games around Europe. He doesn’t go in disguise, but then nor does he publicise his every move. Why should he? He might go to watch one player – let’s say Thiago Alcantara of Barcelona – but then spot another who is a more realistic signing.

The scouts will have regular meetings with the boss and Gill and by this time of the year United will have worked down to a short list of around a dozen players – with the knowledge that three or four might be signed. But its not always in United’s hands. Karim Benzema was at the top of that short list in 2009 and United were prepared to pay top money – but Madrid were determined to blow anyone out of the water. Alexis Sanchez was close to being a done deal last summer – Sanchez had even told United officials that he was a fan – until Barca offered €10 million more and he decided that he’d rather play for Barça. Similar happened with Samir Nasri before he joined City.

Journalists can be bang on the money or well wide of the mark. It depends on their sources. Some are guided by agents, but what an agent wants to happen and what actually transpires can be completely different. So Paul Pogba’s agent might want him to sign for Juventus because he stands to make a healthy cut, but Ferguson wants him to stay at United. Until nothing is signed, it’s not a deal. I spoke to Blackburn defender Scott Dann last month. He was about to move from Birmingham to Arsenal last season. He’d even played in a specially arranged trial game by Arsenal. Financial terms had been agreed. Then Arsene Wenger changed his mind.

Deals can break down for many reasons – hence the high number of transfer stories which turn out to be erroneous. Money, injury, change of personnel or mind. They all happen. Or a manager may be going for two players in the hope that one comes off.

One thing’s certain. When someone tells you that a transfer is a “done deal” months before it’s supposed to happen then it’s not. So who are Manchester United definitely signing this summer?

There’s not a single person who can answer that, not even Sir Alex Ferguson.