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July 2021

How agents create transfer myths and use the press to advertise their players

By Tony Attwood

Distraction, Deception and Destructive Expectation.  Three ways in which the transfer market is run – I mentioned them a year ago during the crazy transfer window expectations, and hoped that maybe the situation was getting so out of control that maybe in the end the whole system would fall apart.

It didn’t it just got wilder.  Which I why I am back talking about it again.The problem we have is that the blogs fall for distraction, deception and destructive expectation all the time.  Transfer stories are invented to put other clubs off, to mislead clubs and indeed to get supporters of one club excited, only to have them let down, and turn on their own management.That is all bad enough, but if only it were all.

 The Agent’s Game

Clubs are not the only ones involved in this game.  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.  In case you have the deja vu thing all over again, below is what I wrote a year ago.  I’m running it now because nothing has changed but I think a brief reminder of what I think is really happening, is worthwhile.

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 love to quote.  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”.

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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.

Actually this is becoming so commonplace in the media that it is now known as Native Advertising.  (Native Advertising is more than that – I am aware of this since I work in advertising – but my point is that agents are using the fastest growing element in digital advertising now, to place their players.  Better still they don’t have to pay any advertising fees since the media and blogs lap up the stories).

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).



14 comments to How agents create transfer myths and use the press to advertise their players

  • nicky

    The sole purpose of newspapers is circulation, regardless of whether what they print is strictly true or not.
    If there is no real news, then the reporter or journalist will concoct an item likely to titillate the reader.
    Football fans, as an example, have the difficult if not impossible task of separating wheat from chaff, when reading news about their favourite team. Particularly during the two transfer Windows each year.
    Professional football, especially since the advent of global TV and advertising, has long moved into big business with sharp practice bordering on crime and corruption as the norm. The love of money has overtaken the love of the game and the media must accept its part in the demise of a once honest test of skills.

  • uk

    tony, that is clear to all thinking humans. you might say then why do fans(AAA if you like) use that stick to beat the club? its simple, fans want quality additions to their teams especially in weak positions. majority ofbfans also know who the quality players are. eg, lets say this business about higuain was made up, fans would care less if they were wrong, but arsenal was actually working hard to get lets say lewandowski, or neymar, or cavani. the only scenario that would worry the fans is where they feel the team needs a striker, higuain would do nicely, but after all that buzz, only sanogo came, and then you tell them that was the best player available, worst still if in that period, the likes of higuain,rooney,soldado,neymar,cavani all found new clubs..

  • WalterBroeckx

    so uk you are already on september 2?
    If this would happen as you say now on September 2: fine then complain and cry. But not now on the 3rd of July.

    By the way we announced 3 players today

    If you hear a noise now it will be uk banging his head against the wall 😉

  • Arvind

    @Uk: What is clear to all thinking humans? Do elaborate.

    Oh and by the way. Even if no one comes in, I think we have a good squad of players who will challenge next year.

    I stopped reading the newspapers a long time ago wrt transfers. I go on to transfer thread for the sensational opinions and day to day gossip : ). That apart I beleive and the BBC. ALl the rest I dismiss.

  • Goona Gal

    @ Tony – I agree with all that. There is a lot more than meets the eye. It’s not simple ‘jumpers for goal posts’ football any more.

  • Pat

    uk – it looks as if the only players you think are good are the ones who DON’T play for Arsenal.

    Strange point of view.

    Wouldn’t it give you more fun if you enjoyed watching the players who DO play for Arsenal?

  • Goona Gal

    Below link is a classic example. Barry is out on his ear and needs a mid table/newly promoted team to make a bid. The player is past his prime and shouldn’t be worried about making the World Cup squad, but finding other employment as I reckon he has been told he is surplus to requirements. As far from the truth and as ridiculous as it is a link himself to Arsenal it could well do the trick.^headlines

  • Gooner Murphy

    Maybe It’s just me getting to old, to understand why Any person! with an ounce of common sense could believe anything that’s written In these so called News papers . Personally I wouldn’t even believe the date they print on them.

  • Red-Man

    If you believe the Barry one, The Fail’ll tell you another – “bookies have stopped taking bets” on us signing the BTR (borrowed from Arseblog):


  • uk

    @walter, you do speak english, so i guess theres no point asking you to point out where i said arsenal wont sign quality players(they probably wouldnt, but i didnt say that). you do understand that my comment was highlighting a scenario where the team needed quality, ‘and’ got sanogo. now if you are very certain the quality will come, i wonder what you’re AKBing about.

  • uk

    @arvind, the whole article is stating the obvious. or sid you learn something new?

  • uk

    every player is good. if your grandma was a footballer, she’d be good. so arsenal do have good players. but for the purpose of comparison, we have words like better and best. in 2004, man utd had a good team, but arsenal’s was the best in the league. im sure i never said in my comment that we didnt have good players, but since you brought that up, let me say in years gone by, we’ve had great players, players who could favorably compete with the best in the world in their positions. i dont think we have those type of players currently, but we do have a good squad, all teams do

  • Goona Gal