|The fail whale|
On the bus home from the British Museum (the day spent looking at Mesopotamian clay tablets rather than the overly familiar Egyptian collection) I logged on to twitter and found my timeline lit up with talk of an imminent Guardian exclusive. At 3.30pm, Ian Prior, sports editor, said he was two hours away from unveiling a story that was, in his words, 'major - and boy do I mean it'. Speculation ranged from Jose Mourinho moving to Manchester City to Dulwich Hamlet signing Lionel Messi.
At 5.32pm Prior let the world know Inter Milan were going to bid £40m for Gareth Bale in the summer. That's not breaking news, that's a footnote in the Rumour Mill at best. I’m not questioning the reliability of their source, but it’s not much of a story until a bid is tabled.
The piece went on to say Real Madrid were also interested. Of course they are, he’s coming off the back of a tremendous year. He scores goals, he has lightning pace and he passes the ball superbly. He's done it in big games time and time again, scoring winning goals against Arsenal and Chelsea in a week and a hat-trick at the San Siro. A few weeks later, when Inter visited Spurs, Bale created two goals and made Douglas Maicon look like Paul Konchesky. And he’s only 21.
The Guardian is my football news outlet of choice. They have a raft of excellent writers, some superb features (the Joy of Six, On Second Thoughts, Said and Done and the Knowledge to name a few of my favourites), the essential chalkboards and they report honestly and responsibly.
The jewel in the crown is the unmissable Football Weekly podcast hosted by the puntastic italophile James Richardson and featuring the eloquent vocal talent of Sean Ingle, Paul Doyle, Raphael Honigstein, Kevin McCarra, James Dart, Paul MacInnes, Gregg Roughley, John Ashdown, David Conn, Owen Gibson, Phillipe Auclair, Amy Lawrence, Jacob Steinberg, Jonathan Wilson, Paolo Bandini, Marcela Mora Y Araujo, Sid Lowe, Fernando Duarte, Tom Lutz, Michael Cox and even the misanthropic Barney Ronay. A long list, but leaving any of them out would be criminal as they all contribute to what is an informative and genuinely funny podcast with a warm heart.
This was supposed to be a rebuke for misusing social media to overhype a non-story, but it's turned into a love letter to Football Weekly. Prior realised he overplayed the exclusive and was a good sport, retweeting much of the mockery he was subject to.
Back to Bale. I think there is enough good feeling about the future of the club and a sense that he owes us more than just one good year. If we fail to qualify for the Champions League then his loyalty (I use the word advisedly) will really be tested. One thing's certain, the huge figure in question is no exaggeration of his value. The current record transfer fee for a British player is Rio Ferdinand at £29m. If Bale goes in the summer he will, as Richard Keys might say, smash it.