There was a good article by Nick Miller last week on football365.com about the fevered sense of hope/anticipation/expectation from Manchester United fans over the possible signing of Thiago Alcantara from Barcelona. A footballer with relatively little top-level experience and thus still a developing player, Thiago has been built up by many as the answer to all of United fans’ prayers, the missing link in their troublesome midfield and a statement of intent for the coming seasons.
As Miller pointed out: “Thiago could be just what United need, and at the price mentioned it’s potentially superb business, but it’s tricky to escape the feeling that he is being built up far too much by a fan base who desperately need something to cling onto.”
He does after all look to be an excellent player, who should only get better, but let’s not compare him to Iniesta, Maradona and Pele just yet.
But this is a natural cycle for any football fan when linked to a well-regarded player, and more so when a subsequent transfer saga spreads out over many weeks.
We’ve all been here. Manchester City fans have been to this special place this summer, the place of clicking refresh every thirty seconds on a football message board eagerly awaiting the latest piece of idle speculation that may tip the balance in your club’s favour. This was the summer of the 2000-page* thread on Isco on Bluemoon. Last year it was Hazard et al.
(* a rough estimate)
But the process of time and the process of waiting and waiting for a player to decide his future can have a strange effect on us all. When I first heard about City’s alleged interest in Pepe, I was mortified. I even had to sit down to take in the news. However, as time has progressed, the rumours have persisted and the saga has rumbled on, I have warmed to the idea more and more with each passing day. Then I found out that he actually has an excellent disciplinary record over the past couple of years and suddenly in my world that youtube clip of him kicking Getafe captain Francisco Casquero then stamping on him before trying to fight the whole of the opposition team and referee can now be dismissed in my mind as merely a “momentary loss of composure”. I crave the positive reports on what he could bring to my club, whilst turning my nose up at anything remotely negative. The desire to snap him up grows with every passing day.
The Robbie Fowler transfer was another saga that towards its end I was offering limbs in exchange for the completion of his move to City. The move was a disastrous idea of course as David Bernstein foresaw quite clearly, resulting in his exit from the club, but it rumbled on for so long that I slowly became achingly desperate for it to go through, blinded to the folly of it all, and convinced that he could recreate past glories and drive City to a better place. In the end that place was almost administration.
A few years back, Benjani Mwaruwari had been banging them in for Portsmouth, so it seemed like a good purchase for City and their modest ambitions at that time as they swooped for the Zimbabwean hitman. I also liked his goal celebration, not that it made much sense. The fact that Harry Redknapp didn’t seem too bothered in letting him go should have raised a few alarm bells, but never mind, he was probably getting a cut (that is of course sarcasm on my part – perish the thought). Further alarm bells should have given City’s hierarchy tinnitus when said player managed to fall asleep in an airport and miss his flight (twice), but City ploughed on like a club who once made Paul Lake “run off” his cruciate ligament injury. When the transfer was eventually completed some days after the transfer window had slammed shut, I was ecstatic. What a coup. City had strengthened their squad at the last minute, and the future was bright once more.
It’s the psychology of a transfer saga. City have long been linked with Osvaldo, Negredo, Jovetic, Pepe, Ronaldo, Di Maria, Rooney, Pizarro, Marquinhos, Falcao, Soldado, Higuain and many more, and I want City to sign them all. Thankfully, City’s Spanish executive team like to think a little differently, and won’t bung millions to an agent or father to get a deal done. And despite the fans’ aching desire to get some big name signings completed, that’s probably for the best. City could have had Hazard, Martinez and De Rossi, but they could also have broken the bank for Kaka, Terry and more. It all evens out in the end.
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