Transfers used to be a very simple business. A club would speak to its manager, decide upon a target, put in a bid and then negotiate with the selling club. The player would often be told of the interest, sounded out even, but then simply told that the club had accepted a bid for him. That was that; he should pack his bags.
The buying and selling of players is now an industry built on noise. Agents, players, supporters and clubs, all leaking, discussing and thriving upon whispers that grow in volume as the final days of the transfer window approach. This is a world where football clubs put transfer gossip on their own websites, presumably blissfully aware that large swathes of it will be hogwash.
Liverpool’s interest in Alex Teixeira is a case in point. On Wednesday, an update on the deal came not from his club, but from Teixeira himself.
“The team received one official offer from Liverpool. It was rejected, I don’t know why,” Alex Teixeira told Anfield HQ. “There’s only been one offer – €32m – and Shakhtar rejected it. I know my agent is still attempting everything possible to help get me to Liverpool. It was a great offer. It’s frustrating. But the manager and club president decided against it, so now I’m just waiting.”
Well, waiting and playing for your current club, with whom you signed a contract and by whom you are paid a presumably handsome sum.
Still, it is a crime to deny the desires of the heart, and there is no doubt that Teixeira loves Liverpool. We know that because he said as much – “It is a huge club and many great players have played there. It would be an honour to wear the Liverpool shirt” – and because he liked a photo on Instagram. Doesn’t modern coyness make you feel warm inside?
It must though be said that Teixeira has proven himself at least a little flirty with other European clubs. “What I’ve heard and what my agent has said is that Chelsea, Juventus and PSG have made offers,” he said in November. “Chelsea and Juventus have gone further in the negotiations. All three are big clubs. Wherever I’ll end up, I’ll be happy.” It’s almost as if he’s prepared to move to any big club, as long as it is over 1,000 miles west of Donetsk.
It’s easy to understand why Liverpool supporters are desperate for the deal to take place. Having been warned by Jurgen Klopp that progress will be slow, that prediction has been vindicated. Their top league scorer, Christian Benteke, has six league goals and seems unsuited to the manager’s style. Teixeira has scored league goals at a rate of 1.47 per game this season; Liverpool have scored league goals at a rate of 1.30.
So this is the perfect signing, then? He’s Brazilian, he’s expensive, he’s a strike… well no, actually, he isn’t a striker. Okay fine, well then he’s brillian… erm, well we don’t really know about that bit either.
For all Liverpool supporters insist that Teixeira may be the difference in securing fourth place, the club is right to be wary. Douglas Costa has been a revelation at Bayern Munich, but there are as many exceptions as rules.
Six months ago, Milan signed striker Luiz Adriano from Shakhtar for €8m. He is two years older than Teixeira, but had also scored nine times in the 2014/15 Champions League, a total beaten only by Lionel Messi, Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo (all of whom had played over 400 more minutes). Milan are currently trying to negotiate Luiz Adriano’s sale to China. He has scored three Serie A goals.
There is no such thing as a guarantee, of course. Angel di Maria didn’t work despite being a hugely exciting arrival, while Andrei Shevchenko arrived with a fabulous reputation and left a failure. The vice versa is also true: Few realised that Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy would be such fantastic value for a combined £1.5m. Teixeira may well prove to be a masterstroke signing, should Liverpool manage to complete the deal.
Yet it’s hard not to be alarmed about an asking price of £38m for an uncapped 26-year-old, six times what Milan paid for Luiz Adriano. Even if Liverpool negotiated down, Teixeira would become the second most expensive signing in the club’s history.
He would also become only the fourth player to be purchased by Jurgen Klopp for more than £10m. Of the previous three, one (Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – £11m) was a raging success, another (Ciro Immobile – £14m) an abject failure and the third (Henrikh Mkhitaryan – £21.5m) somewhere in between. Klopp is a manager who has relied on his coaching and tactical prowess more than expensive signings in the past. That’s becoming increasingly niche in Europe’s biggest clubs.
There is a wider point to be made here than just a yes/no decision on Teixeira. If this is an industry built on noise, it is fuelled by desperation. Performing this Twitter search at any time brings up hundreds of supporters, demanding news of signings. In a social media age where the three words nobody dares to say are “I don’t know”, hundreds of supporters are suddenly Ukrainian football experts. In their eyes, Teixeira has transformed from a player linked with Chelsea to one Liverpool desperately need.
Over the last few seasons, the number of transfer stories has increased multi-fold. There are many excellent journalists with reliable contacts, and they do a wonderful job. Yet there are more and more churners, spurious stories written to exploit the demand for transfer news. While the supply is infuriating, it is merely answering the demand.
Perhaps it passes comment on a society brainwashed into magpies, clambering to upgrade their new shiny object for an even newer shiny object, or maybe it simply describes a sport in which the sideshow has become the main attraction. “How can it have been a successful window if we haven’t spent £25m on a player?” is the genuine stance of many fans.
Alex Teixeira may move to Liverpool, or he may not. He may well improve Liverpool, or he may not not. Those two things are merely micro-issues. More worrying is the reaction of supporters who, in a period of ten days, have gone from knowing little about a player to deeming his signing a necessity in order for the club to move forward. It’s a situation replicated across the country.
‘Like that player’ becomes ‘want that player’ becomes ‘need that player’ increasingly quickly, all egged on by agents, players and clubs. You can mourn this New Football Order if you like, but the situation is irreversible. As the new broadcasting deal pushes more revenue into the pockets of Premier League clubs, the calls from supporters to spend, spend, spend will not cease.