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The Great Escapism

Does anybody really believe the guff they read online about transfer rumours on a daily basis? If so, what kind of Matrix are they living in and just how do I get to use bullet-time, because that looks cool.

You're sitting there thinking, 'I wonder what the cap looks like in red?' aren't you?
You're sitting there thinking, 'I wonder what the cap looks like in red?' aren't you?
Clint Hughes/Getty Images

"A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."

Mark Twain

"You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes."

Morpheus, The Matrix

Today, the website of a major tabloid is emblazoned with the legend Jurgen Klopp: I want to manage Liverpool, beneath which is a 'story' which has approximately sod all to do with the meaning most would derive from that particular sequence of italicised words. You see, Klopp has said nothing of the sort. The bearded mentalist of Dortmund has not even intimated it to a friend, who has since betrayed his trust to a source, who then told the journalist in question. No, no. That would be at least tangentially related to reality.

In fact, the putrescent meat on the the crumbling bones of this report is made up of revisionist supposition, based on quotes given a month ago, in which Klopp merely insisted he was not tired and would not be taking a sabbatical. So clearly, when filtered through the red top algorithm, that means Anfield will almost certainly be the new home of Tony Pulis' ball-cap chum. Welcome, friends, to the rabbit hole. One at a time please. We have all summer.

Let's be honest. This type of thing is not a shock and none of us are getting our first spin around the ballroom. The days when folk clicked on such a headline with the innocence and expectation of a guileless ingénue are long gone. The majority who routed their online presence to that particular piece of fiction fully assumed it would be a fabrication based on very little. This is the point. We absolutely expect that we will be lied to all the time, but something makes us look. 'Maybe this will be the magic link,' we reason -- the one which confirms our dream or validates our suspicion. It never is.

There's a wider question that arises here. It's not difficult to understand the motive for trying to drive cyber traffic towards a given site. The worship of Mammon is the oldest devotion known to man. Why though, do we allow ourselves to be seduced by the fabulists? It comes back to the idea of why we read this type of balderdash.

It is the regretful opinion of this Irishman that the reason we are drawn to the patently fallacious piffle spewed out daily is because we are treating reality as though it's a soap-opera. These half hour servings of melodramatic nonsense are popular because they present their viewers with escapism on a small scale. They're engaging because they are rooted in reality but do not reflect it. I mean, where would the fun be in that?

Similarly, the summer transfer season is based around a set of tangible personalities and entities that could, in theory, do the things that the nice men and women of the media suggest. Clearly, they mostly WON'T do those things but this does not stop us from treating the world of summer football shenanigans as if it were our very own telenovela full of histrionic drama and over-the-top characters plotting their next move.

In such a world, Liverpool Football Club is a potential destination for the stellar likes of Edinson Cavani and Gonzalo Higuain, instead of the more prosaic arrivals of Danny Ings and Christian Benteke. In that fantastical land, FSG abandon their policies of fiscal rectitude and their emphasis on youthful recruitment and instead, embark on a spree of unparalleled proportions, securing the likes of Mats Hummels, Dani Alves and Bastian Schweinsteiger, despite their comparative decrepitude.

See? Fun, isn't it? And the best part is that you can guarantee at least one story about each of the players mentioned will actually surface before window closes. Nothing is off limits. There might even be a Messi story. Why not? You know you'll click on it. And so do they. In an interesting twist on the old saw, the fictional realm of the transfer rumour isn't a particularly nice place to visit, but we would like to live there, because then all the codswallop might be true.

So, what are we to do when presented with with such a relentless conveyer belt of bunkum passing under our noses for three months? Personally, being a jaundiced old curmudgeon, I counsel wariness and the blue pill. If you treat each headline as the likely imposter it is, you may build up enough protective cynicism to survive, waking up safe in your bed in September. If, however, you take the red pill Morpheus is offering and jump headlong down the rabbit hole, I wish you godspeed, dear reader. Oh, and you're going to need to learn Kung Fu.

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