Luis Suarez to Manchester United: Journalistic Malpractice or the Telephone Game?

Alex Livesey

If you believe a few dodgy reports, Diego Forlan is trying to talk Luis Suarez into making the switch to Manchester United. You really, really shouldn't believe them.

If you're being unkind, it's blatant journalistic malpractice on the part of outlets like the Daily Mail and Metro. If you're in the mood to be a little gentler with your invective, it's just a spot of the telephone game for the internet age. Any way you come at it, though, suggestions that Diego Forlan has advised Luis Saurez to seek a transfer to Manchester United are the kind of hilarious you'd think might have supposed journalists double checking their sources before running with the story.

First things first: Diego Forlan did not advise Luis Suarez to quit Liverpool and head to United to further his career. However, he did tell Suarez he should head to United—back in 2011 when he was still at Ajax, Liverpool came calling, and Suarez was considering a move to England. Forlan also, no matter his United leanings, told Suarez some very positive things about Liverpool at the time, the sort of things that might well have helped to convince the striker to head to Anfield.

In Forlan's most recent column in FourFourTwo Magazine, in English, Suarez' Uruguayan compatriot wrote the following:

We’re close and we get on well. He’s polite and keen to learn, always asking me questions and for advice. I like how he feels he can turn to me in good and bad moments. 

Like when Liverpool made him an offer. Of course, I told him he should join Manchester United, but I also spoke well of Liverpool and their history. I told him how, after I’d scored for Atletico at Anfield to knock them out of the Europa League, their fans applauded me.

He loves playing at Liverpool. He likes the Premier League – and the fans love him because he’s a striker’s striker.

Then the fun begins. After quotes from Forlan's FourFourTwo column surface, Brazilian outlet Lancenet runs a story. It's about Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan and Manchester United. It's also in BrazilianBrazilian Portuguese (embarrassed HT: ignignokt) and, when turned back into English through the magic of Google Translate, it presents a narrative almost identical to Forlan's FourFourTwo column—with one important difference. Yet the content overlaps to a degree that makes it clear the Brazilian outlet is running with the FourFourTwo quotes.

Take it away, Google Translate:

We talked a few days ago. Asked me if I thought he should stay in Liverpool. I limited the tell you to consider going to Manchester United. I know he loves Liverpool, the fans and the city, but I think the best thing that could happen to the career Suarez would move to Old Trafford.

We are friends and neighbors for many years. Contrary to what many think, Suarez is a very educated person, someone who is always willing to learn new things and want to be better at it. We are in constant contact, in good times and bad times.

The telephone game, known in many parts of the world by the rather dubious-sounding name of Chinese whispers. One person tells another person something. That person tells a third. The third tells a fourth. And in the end, what you get out often barely recognisable sat next to what you put in. In the current zeitgeist, running an English column through Google Translate to get Portuguese and then running it back through to get English again is the rough equivalent.

Speaking of, here's the story as presented today in some of the sketchier sections of the English media:

‘We spoke a few days ago,’ said Forlan.

‘He asked me if I think he should stay at Liverpool. All I told him was to think about going to Manchester United.

‘I know he loves Liverpool, the fans and the city, but I think the best thing for his career would be to move to Old Trafford.’

So. Turns out Diego Forlan isn't actually crazy enough to suggest Luis Suarez should abandon Anfield in favour of being teammates with Patrice Evra. But you already knew that. Unless you worked for the Daily Mail, Metro, or one of the other half dozen outlets who are running with a rather hilariously stupid Google Translate of a Google Translate of a story that, in its original guise at least, actually made some kind of sense.

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