Mediawatch: How to build a transfer rumour

Date published: Wednesday 27th July 2016 12:17

You know it’s a slow news day when…
‘Andy Carroll takes a break from pre-season training as he celebrates koi carp catch’ – MailOnline.

This is the big one.


Sensitivity, with The Sun
Quick note to The Sun’s headline writers: If the story is Henrikh Mkhitaryan discussing how the death of his father when he was seven spurred him on to try and succeed, you don’t need to crowbar a sh*tty pun into the headline.

Especially when that headline (‘Making the Mkhi’) is a pun on a phrase about taking the p*ss out of someone.


How a transfer rumour builds
There are many in the industry happy to insist that nobody just makes up transfer rumours; there has to be a truth somewhere. While Mediawatch is happy to accept that at face value, it is interesting to see how a rumour can gain traction with very little evidence.

Take the example of Romelu Lukaku, for example:

1) In the early hours of Tuesday morning, spurious Italian transfer website claims that Romelu Lukaku could leave Everton for £40m.

‘According to latest rumours gathered through TMW sources, Belgian international striker Romelu Lukaku (23) is getting more and more likely to leave Everton for good and join Chelsea back.

Still tracked by Atletico Madrid, Napoli, AS Roma and Manchester City as well, Toffees star will be moving on an about €48/£40m offer.’

That website handily shows the number of views of each story. On that short piece, there have been 1,672 hits.

2) Later on Tuesday morning, somebody at the Daily Star had seen that story, probably via an aggregator like

‘Chelsea close in on £40m deal for in-demand Premier League ace – reports,’ is the Star’s headline.

‘Lukaku has emerged as one of the Premier League’s top strikers since Chelsea allowed him to join the Toffees for £28m two summers ago.

‘They are said to have beaten off competition from a number of top European clubs, including Manchester City and Atletico Madrid.’

Already, ‘getting more likely’ has become ‘closes in on deal’, and ‘still tracked by’ (present tense) has become ‘Chelsea have beaten off competition’ (past tense).

Again the fee is mentioned at £40m, despite there being no way on this earth that Everton will sell Lukaku at that price.

Finally, the story is written by Jamie Styles. The same Jamie Styles reported five days earlier that Chelsea had made an ‘opening bid’ of £50m for Lukaku. They’re probably not going to accept £40m now.


3) By Tuesday afternoon, the Daily Telegraph are all over the story.

‘Another forward on Chelsea’s radar is Romelu Lukaku, who, according to the Daily Star, is edging closer to a Stamford Bridge return after Chelsea launched a £40m bid for him over the weekenf (sic),’ that story reads.

Crucially, the Telegraph don’t want to quote, so instead credit the Daily Star as the source. This is needed to give the story more kudos.

In addition, the Telegraph have added a detail about Chelsea ‘launching a bid’ for Lukaku ‘over the weekend’, despite neither the Star nor TMW mentioning a bid of any sort, let alone one made at a particular time. Has that merely been added for effect?

From a story on a website that got 1,672 hits to a website that in March released figures indicating daily traffic of 4.3m, all because nobody really cares if a story is true just so long as it gets clicks.

Finally, Mediawatch cannot stress this enough: Romelu Lukaku will not be moving to Chelsea for £40m this summer.


Orange is the new black
‘Gael: Guardiola is new Wenger,’ shouts out the headline in The Sun.

‘Gael Clichy expects Pep Guardiola to revolutionise English football – just like Arsene Wenger 20 years ago,’ the piece by Martin Blackburn begins.

Actual quotes from Clichy:

“I’ve trained only a few weeks with Guardiola and I was eight years with Wenger. There are similarities but also differences. Guardiola was one of the first to bring the full-backs really high, to put a midfield player as a centre-back.

“Wenger also changed the way people see football. The two of them are just great managers, but you could say the same for Ferguson and Mourinho. Every manager has their own philosophy and he’s coming with his ideas. It’s refreshing.”

Clichy definitely said Guardiola is the new Wenger. He also definitely said he’s going to revolutionise English football. Definitely.


Have we got news for you

‘Manchester City fans, we’ve got some news for you,’ read Sky Sports’ transfer centre at 9.40am on Wednesday morning. ‘We understand that City are in talks to sign Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus and Marlos Moreno.’

Cheers chaps, appreciated. With the Manchester Evening News and Daily Telegraph reporting the Sane and Jesus news 21 hours earlier and the Guardian reporting the Moreno news 11 hours earlier, we were waiting on someone combining those two stories into one and selling it as a new ‘triple swoop’.


Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me!
Short of enough actual news, on Wednesday The Sun give a two-page spread to that most obvious of issues in English football, the lack of English managers in top jobs. They’ve noticed that there aren’t many in the Premier League.

As part of their coverage, they allow Bryan Robson to moan about why he wasn’t given a big job. Yes, really.

‘I don’t blame anyone for being a pundit rather than putting themselves through the strain of trying to be a top manager. As I know, a career with Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson, 90 caps and being England captain 65 times only takes you so far!

‘Foreign owners, especially, refuse to take a chance on younger, English managers and it doesn’t surprise me that someone like Eddie Howe at Bournemouth is almost one of a kind.’

We can see where this is going Bryan, and we don’t like it.

‘My own experience is a case in point. I was given the chance to jump straight in by chairman Steve Gibson at Middlesbrough and I think I made a pretty good fist of it. We went five straight seasons in the Premier League and got to three cup finals. People said Steve gave me plenty of money to spend but I more than balanced the books.

‘At West Brom, my first club as a player, I spent almost two years in charge and became the first manager in Prem history to keep up a top-flight club that was bottom at Christmas.

‘I had spells at Bradford and Sheffield United — good clubs — but for all my so–called pedigree and having worked my way into management, no major club ever came in for me.’

Now Bryan. Bryan, Bryan, Bryan. There are one-eyed assessments of managerial careers, and there is this.

You did indeed do well at Middlesbrough, until the point you started doing less well, the club appointed Terry Venables to help you and then eventually moved you on. Whatever you say about ‘balancing the books’, you were allowed to spend an awful lot of money on wages. You didn’t get another job for two years until you went to Bradford, took 22 points from 27 games, got relegated and then got sacked.

Despite that failure, West Brom made you a Premier League manager. Having kept them up on the final day in your first season, you were relegated in your second and were then sacked after leaving them mid-table in the Championship. Your only jobs since were a disastrous spell at Sheffield United and a brief, unsuccessful spell as Thailand manager.

For Robson to bemoan his lack of opportunity at a ‘major club’ is laughable, but also really unhelpful. There may be a point about a lack of faith in young, English managers when clubs can easily look abroad for a more polished option, but that point gets utterly lost underneath a blanket of one-eyed guff and individual self-promotion.


Nailed it
‘Bruce may quit game’ – Daily Star back page, July 26.

“I’ve got no intention of retiring. I’m far too young for that. I’ll have a bit of holiday and then have a look around” – Steve Bruce, July 27.

Keep up the good work.


‘Set your stall out early’ headline of the day
‘Raiola is the scruffy pizza chef cooking up that £100m Pogba deal… and Ibrahimovic’s pal will rake in £20m for himself from it’ – Daily Mail.

‘Scruffy pizza chef’ and ‘Ibrahimovic’s pal’. He is also Paul Pogba’s agent, guys.


Recommended reading of the day
Oliver Bullough on AFC Wimbledon 

Gab Marcotti with Antonio Conte

Michael Lewis on William Cox

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