YAKUBU is happy at Boro, definitely not for sale – Ã¢ÂÂhe is very much part of my plans,Ã¢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 Ã¢ÂÂexpertÃ¢ÂÂ 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 Ã¢ÂÂUÃ¢ÂÂs?
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. ThereÃ¢ÂÂs no smoke without fire and in this case you definitely need breathing apparatus.
The Summer speculation over BoroÃ¢ÂÂs deadly August-to-February goal-getter has been frustrating for fans who may believe theyÃ¢ÂÂve been left in the dark, bamboozled by the leaks and counter-leaks or even lied to over the strikerÃ¢ÂÂs future and what firepower theyÃ¢ÂÂll 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, wonÃ¢ÂÂt-he saga has been an object lesson in how to play the game.
Gareth SouthgateÃ¢ÂÂs measured media comments on the subject have been consistent and have maintained the clubÃ¢ÂÂs 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 ÃÂ£2-ÃÂ£3m off the price and while Chelsea can take those losses a club like Boro surely canÃ¢ÂÂt.
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 .Ã¢Â? “Until that changes.”
But the language is full of code words too that send out subtle signals to the strikerÃ¢ÂÂs suitors that the door is still open. Along with the assertions that he is part of SouthgateÃ¢ÂÂs squad have come the careful modifiers: Ã¢ÂÂwe donÃ¢ÂÂt want to BUT every player has his price… IF we get offered silly money…Ã¢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 Ã¢ÂÂdonÃ¢ÂÂt want to sellÃ¢Â? stance because there will come a point where the money triggers a move and the club can truthfully argue Ã¢ÂÂwe couldnÃ¢ÂÂt turn that kind of cash down.Ã¢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 ÃÂ£10m switch to Everton surely the club are pulling the wool over our eyes when they say there hasnÃ¢ÂÂt 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 buyersÃ¢ÂÂ 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 Ã¢ÂÂslappedÃ¢ÂÂ in a transfer request. Players never do because if they move to terminate their contract then they forfeit all Ã¢ÂÂloyalty bonusesÃ¢ÂÂ 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 heÃ¢ÂÂs not for sale and thereÃ¢ÂÂs been no bids. ThatÃ¢ÂÂs official.
**This is a sneak preview of Tuesday’s Big Picture column in the low tech paper Evening Gazette