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Your Transfer Rumour is Bullshit: Andros Townsend Edition

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Liverpool were briefly linked with Newcastle winger Andros Townsend. It's a case that serves as a lesson in how to spot bullshit transfer rumours in the wild and nothing more.

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There are three main sources of transfer rumours. The good, the bad, and the laughably ridiculous. All mostly come from the same places. Some are from clubs, information fed to trusted journalists. Some are from players’ representatives looking to work the angles. And some are carefully crafted from nothing by monkeys throwing darts at a random number generator in the basement of The Daily Mail.

On the surface, a rumour like Andros Townsend to Liverpool—a rumour that, it should be stated up front, has no grounding in reality just in case you were a touch worried—might seem one crafted by those dart-throwing monkeys. The reality, though, is that it’s the work of an agent. An agent playing the angles and trying to drum up a little bit of interest in his client, who wants to get a move away from a relegated club.

Andros Townsend is a winger for Newcastle United. Newcastle United were relegated. Andros Townsend has since been mostly linked with Crystal Palace and Southampton and West Ham, though if their interest is real, he still doesn’t appear to be a pressing priority. Then, yesterday, the usually reliable Telegraph released into the wild that two new clubs had joined in the Townsend chase: Liverpool and Manchester City.

They didn’t say it because they made it up. They said it because Townsend’s agent—or at least somebody with a connection to the player claiming to represent him—told them there was interest. And even if the rumour didn’t much make sense or pass the smell test, and with all due respect to Crystal Palace, rumours involving the likes of Liverpool and City get more readers than rumours involving Crystal Palace.

Townsend’s agent—or at least somebody with a connection to the player claiming to represent him—will have told them in the hopes not that it would end up with a deal actually getting done with Liverpool or City. No, the goal will have been to induce the likes of Crystal Palace and Southampton and West Ham to press forward with their own bids. At least assuming their interest was and remains a real thing, of course.

This is how transfer rumours work. It’s just that it is rarely so obvious when an agent is feeding bullshit to the press in order to try and drum up interest in his client. Usually the names, the links, the rumours are kept at least somewhat believable; kept so that it’s harder to tell when they are in fact nothing but bullshit being fed to the press. Every now and then, though, one gets cases like Townsend where it’s beyond obvious.

For Liverpool fans, the case of Tom Ince should come to mind. A Liverpool prospect who didn’t look to have a first team future with the club and whose dad, Paul, for a time took over as his agent. During that time, Ince the younger was quite out of the blue linked with Real Madrid and Inter Milan. He has since played for Blackpool, Hull City, and Derby County. And not Real Madrid or Inter Milan, who were never interested.

Today, Liverpool have fed information to their connected journalists that the club isn’t interested in Townsend—that with only one flexible attacker on the shopping list and the top two names Mario Götze and Sadio Mane, Townsend isn’t a winger the club have the slightest interest in. But that should have been clear before. Because sometimes, it’s almost laughably obvious where a transfer rumour is coming from.