Yakkity Yak: Transfer Talk Is Complex Code

YAKUBU is happy at Boro, definitely not for sale – “he is very much part of my plans,â€? has been the Southgate Summer mantra – has not put in a transfer request and has not been the subject of a single transfer bid.
So why then is the national football media making merry with constant speculation that he is on his way? Why has ‘expert’ pundit Alan Hansen analysed Yakubu’s potential as an aerial threat alongside Andy Johnson? And why have the Everton club shop staff ordered an extra consignment of iron-on ‘U’s?


Officially he is very much a Boro player happy to see out the last three years of his contract and every public statement by the club and, more rarely, by the player, underline this diplomatic detente.
Yet nevertheless it is widely understood that he is available for the right price and has his bags packed ready to go, pacing his room and waiting for the Scouse Cabs taxi.
As one story is knocked down with a carefully crafted denial another flares up immediately. There’s no smoke without fire and in this case you definitely need breathing apparatus.
The Summer speculation over Boro’s deadly August-to-February goal-getter has been frustrating for fans who may believe they’ve been left in the dark, bamboozled by the leaks and counter-leaks or even lied to over the striker’s future and what firepower they’ll get for the season ticket money.
With rumours flying round of showdown meetings, the obligatory lurid tales of dressing room bust-ups and widespread anger over lack-lustre performances where it matters – and with the transfer deadline looming – there is a clamour to have the situation resolved one way or the other and for the club to make a definitive statement.
But far from telling porkies the club have been methodically honest all along. The language and psychology of transfer dealings is complex and precise and the industry-standard spin from the club throughout the whole will-he, won’t-he saga has been an object lesson in how to play the game.
Gareth Southgate’s measured media comments on the subject have been consistent and have maintained the club’s public stance of being unwilling to sell a contracted player – thus pushing up the price.
To admit that Yakubu – or any player – was unsettled and wanted to leave or that the club were looking to upload him would immediately chop £2-£3m off the price and while Chelsea can take those losses a club like Boro surely can’t.
Also, footballers are athletic egos fuelled by confidence and for the manager to admit that he did not want the player would leave a massive motivation problem should any mooted transfer fall through, which is always possible.
Hence Boro have stressed at every opportunity that “we want to keep him… he is part of our plans… we are not in the business of selling our best players… he is not for sale and we’ll fight to keep him .â€? “Until that changes.”
But the language is full of code words too that send out subtle signals to the striker’s suitors that the door is still open. Along with the assertions that he is part of Southgate’s squad have come the careful modifiers: “we don’t want to BUT every player has his price… IF we get offered silly money…â€? These are carefully selected phrases again intended to prop up the price. They scream a player IS for sale – but only if you pay over the odds.
This position has the added advantage of allowing the club to sincerely climb down from the “don’t want to sellâ€? stance because there will come a point where the money triggers a move and the club can truthfully argue “we couldn’t turn that kind of cash down.â€?
So has there been a bid? With Portsmouth and West Ham strongly linked early on then Manchester City seeming set to sign him before the current spate of stories linking the Yak with a £10m switch to Everton surely the club are pulling the wool over our eyes when they say there hasn’t been a single offer?
Again, the club are telling the truth. You have to read not between the lines but what exactly is said and there has not been a single quote from any manager about a bid. Of course, that is not to say there has not been firm interest that the club and the player are well aware of.
There are various levels of interest that fall short of a bid: a formal inquiry, usually from the would-be buyers’ suits, asking their counter-parts if a player is available and at what price; the informal inquiry when a manager will ring up his fellow boss and tentatively ask if there was any chance; or more discreet arms-length feelers being put out, through agents or mutual friends asking if the player would move to club X and how much he would want in wages, contacts just this side of tapping-up. That’s how it works in football. Plausible deniability.
Likewise the club can honestly say that Yakubu has not ‘slapped’ in a transfer request. Players never do because if they move to terminate their contract then they forfeit all ‘loyalty bonuses’ due whereas if the club agrees to sell them then they strike the jackpot twice, a pay-off and a signing on fee at the new club.
That is why there are tabloid wars of words between clubs and players as they try to manoeuvre each other into a contractual checkmate with millions up for grabs either way.
Besides, if a player ask for a transfer and it falls through they will be roasted by the fans for their lack of loyalty.
So he’s not for sale and there’s been no bids. That’s official.
**This is a sneak preview of Tuesday’s Big Picture column in the low tech paper Evening Gazette

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51 thoughts on “Yakkity Yak: Transfer Talk Is Complex Code

  1. Ian Gill
    The most devious deals in football are talked about for months.
    A certain section of people behind the scenes are well aware of the goings on, but why fire fuel. It’s bad enough watching someone playing for the team you love, who you damn well know has a furniture van on order.
    Sports writers in the National press fuel speculation, because that comes with the job criteria and 99.99% of it is complete and utter garbage of printed dreams.
    A local paper such as the Gazette may be well aware of such happenings. However,concrete evidence is far better than a silly captions like “ Yakabu to join South Bank Rangers” for instance.
    It is oceans deeper than much National rubbish, because the exclusives are all I ask for and more so fully expect, because it’s my doorstep.
    Even though a member of my family buys a National comic everyday, I very seldom bother to pick the joke up, because I have the Disney Channel on Sky Television.
    Wherever I wander I always buy their local paper because that satisfies 100&. However, I will be very disappointed if the Gazette Sports team do not put their personal stamp on the Yak’s suitcases and transfer him over to their distasteful archives’.
    So c’mon Mr Tallantire let’s up our flag and lower someone else’s.

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