The transfer window is, as you all know, a very strange thing. Strange things happen in it, and strange things are said. The whole concept of transfers is odd, really; placing an often arbitrary value on a person’s talent, then paying another bunch of people that sum to send not only the talent but the entire person your way like they’re a horse or something, tossing cash around like gold and silver tokens in the dome at the end of the Crystal Maze.
It is so strange that people will believe basically anything, because something weirder has almost certainly happened before. A few years ago Andi Thomas, formerly of this parish, wrote a brilliant piece in which he claimed, having consulted with various scouts and experts, that the transfer window had become sentient, that transfers were just…happening, without any human input. People believed it, because why wouldn’t they? Stranger things have happened than a concept developing a consciousness, so even the most outlandish becomes plausible.
Up there with the strangest is this Robin van Persie business. Van Persie, as you’re probably all aware, rocked up in Turkey this week to celebrate his move to Fenerbahce. The club announced the move, welcomed him with open arms and there was the traditional joyous scrum at the airport. He smiled, posed in the shirt, waved and kissed some babies. And of course he made some over-excited types who might do well to get a bit of fresh air soil themselves because he mentioned big Eddie Woodward in the press conference (oh, yeah, forgot about that – they held a press conference…) but NOT Louis van Gaal. Snub City. Snubarama. Snubby snubby snub snub.
All of which would lead one to believe, quite reasonably, that the transfer had gone through. Because, well, holding a press conference and posing in a new shirt and saying fare-thee-well is the sort of thing you do if a transfer had gone through. But it hasn’t.
At the time of writing, United and Fenerbahce are yet to agree a fee, quite an important thing in a transaction of this kind and which in the olden days was the first stage of a transfer, not the last. Who remembers when tapping up was a thing? When it was very naughty indeed to even think about talking to a player before you’d sorted out the necessaries with his club. Ashley Cole and Jose Mourinho were given an almighty smack on the botty for such diabolical chicanery, while most of the world shrugged and wondered why anyone gave enough of a toss to pick up the paddle, let alone apply it to Chelsea buttocks.
So have Fenerbahce and Van Persie forgotten about this minor detail? Do they not care? Are they just going to keep him and tell anyone who politely asks why that Manchester United player is running around in yellow and blue stripes to hop inside a cannon and be fired directly into the sun? Or is this all a confidence trick, a method of hurrying the move through by making everyone think it actually is done, so United might as well just give it up?
That last theory is of course the most logical, particularly if Van Persie and Fenerbahce president Aziz Yildirim are fans of ‘Yes Minister’, which they surely are. In one episode of that most excellent show, the put-upon titular minister Jim Hacker, hampered at every turn by his Civil Service handler Sir Humphrey Appleby, figures a method of pushing through some legislation resisted by Sir Humphrey by just announcing it on TV. That way, all the prevarication and mucking around would be swept aside, the theory that because it was in the public domain, it thus had to be done.
This certainly seems to be what Fenerbahce are doing here; if you look everyone square in the eye and say something with enough confidence and certainty, then the chances are everyone will believe it to the point of it being fact. Half the battle seems to be winning the bullshit and bluster game, and similar things are happening elsewhere in various forms, too.
Just this week we’ve had Mark Hughes trying to tip-toe around the fact that Xherdan Shaqiri apparently couldn’t think of anything worse than playing for Stoke, claiming he didn’t get the sense of ‘enthusiasm’ for the move he was after from the player. We’ve seen Tim Sherwood trying to psyche out Liverpool in their pursuit of Christian Benteke by noting the number of strikers in their squad and saying he’s “not sure how many they actually need.” Gonzalo Higuain’s agent claimed Napoli are hawking his man all around town, before such talk was flatly denied by the ever-loquacious Aurelio De Laurentiis. And then there was Nicolas Lombaerts saying his move to Sunderland collapsed because he called it off, and definitely not because he failed medical, honest guv.
It’s all about who’s the more plausible. If you’re not trying to convince someone of something, then you’re trying to save face. People think the transfer window is all about money, but it’s more about nerve. Whoever blinks first, loses. Fenerbahce and Van Persie are taking that to its inevitable conclusion, and it’s befitting of such a strange thing as the football transfer window.