Published On: Wed, Aug 24th, 2016

Virtual Reality Transfers

Virtual Reality Transfers

Social media is taking over football. Or is it the other way round? It's hard to say. This summer there have been at least two market stories in which the Internet played a very significant role. One was the sale of Paul Pogba from Juventus to Manchester United, and the other was the renegotiation of Mauro Icardi's contract with Inter. Everybody knows everything there is to be known about Pogba, which funnily enough is only the social media version of the story, deliberately presented as a totalising narrative. By pouring all of their content online rather than, say, in a Press conference, Manchester United made it very clear that by connecting with their online feeds you'd get the big picture, the killer scoop – and before anyone else in the world. Hence their decision not just to announce but essentially to present, stage and broadcast Pogba's transfer on their social media feeds, including a specially-filmed rap video. The move took place at 00:35 in the UK, an hour precisely calculated to hit sensitive news-times in the USA and Asia. Take away the elaborate choreography set up by the Red Devils, and we're left with a relatively ordinary big transfer story, albeit one that again raises the bar in terms of transfer fees. Paul Pogba joined Juventus, had a few great seasons, his value went through the roof, and he was eventually signed by the Premier League for no special interest but money. There's certainly been a lot more genuine drama surrounding, say, the snatching of Gonzalo Higuain from Napoli, than there is in this gilded homecoming story. What's remarkable, then, is how the entire thing played out on social media, starting from the player's own teasing. At one point during his holidays in the USA, he posted a photo of himself on Instagram in black and white, with red cap and shoes highlighted, prefiguring – many claimed – the move to Manchester. Only days later came a photo in Universal Studios, with a humorous comment claiming that he was having his medicals at the amusement park. Almost simultaneously, his agent Mino Raiola blasted the entire world of journalism on his own Twitter account: “Journalists = parrots,” read his profile at the end of July. “No deal done between clubs. It's a game between [the] Italy press and UK press [at] who announces it first and who is worst.” This statement is foreboding, especially when you consider Manchester United's decision to favour social media over the Press when relaying information about the transfer. Traditional communication outlets are fast being restructured, repackaged or else becoming obsolete. How many of you follow various Twitter pundits to get the scoops on transfer stories and probably have a tab with their feed open right now? How many times have you been excited about a player linked with your club because they were good on the Football Manager video game? While this means new opportunities, it also presents a whole new set of problems. Inter, for instance, got scorched by the effects of a social media campaign orchestrated by Icardi's wife and agent Wanda. The couple were demanding a new contract with a higher salary, in spite of the fact that they'd already signed a raise and an extension only one year previous. Reluctant to hand out raises on a yearly basis, the Nerazzurri turned down the couple's requests. Enter the force of nature that is Wanda Nara/Icardi, now surely one of the most controversial agents in Italy alongside Pogba's own Raiola. Initially there were some interviews with a variety of media sources in Italy, making Icardi's requests explicit, but the battle soon moved onto the web. Not a stranger to inflammatory tweets, Wanda started out slow, claiming that the transfer was “the club's business, not mine.” She would be watching a television report and adjust their details in real time on Twitter. Then came the sad emoticons, with a message saying: “I don't want it, and Mauro doesn't either… the club needs to sell him.” And then more tweets, including cryptic suggestions such as an image with the caption: “If something is destined to happen, it will,…

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