Social media reveals more than it hides. Or at least that seems to be the case with the unfolding of the events on the current football transfer market.
While the online platform allows for direct discourse between football clubs, players and their fans,the openness of social media might be proving to be much more than initially bargained for.
Many clubs have been using social media as the new go-to media for public announcements and this was clearly seen when Manchester City and Manchester United ditched the conventional press conferences and stadium unveilings to announce the signings of Ilkay Gundogan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The curious case of the Gundogan signing was that the midfielder’s transfer to the Manchester club took weeks to be confirmed during which time fans repeatedly questioned the club’s official Twitter account for clarity on whether the German was actually joining. Gundogan ended all speculation himself when he tweeted to the club’s account saying, “ANNOUNCE GUNDOGAN!” as a joke to end the speculation. City went ahead with confirming the news on Twitter followed by uploading a video in which Gundogan directly addressed the city fans saying: “Hello City fans, you’ve been tweeting me for a long time, and now I officially announce that I am a Manchester City player. Hope to see you soon.”
Ibrahimovic was also the subject of constant rumours having run out his contract at Paris Saint-Germain at the end of last season. The Swede was repeatedly questioned in press conferences about which club he would join next but refused to confirm anything, only hinting towards wanting to work with Jose Mourinho once again. Mourinho of course, had recently been announced as the new United manager at the time which sparked rumours of Ibrahimovic joining the red club of Manchester. Once again the player was the focal point of the big announcement as Ibrahimovic took to Instagram to post: "Time to let the world know. My next destination is Manchester United. #IAmComing," which was accompanied by an image of the club’s crest.
Paul Pogba’s impending world record transfer to Manchester United is the current hot topic doing the rounds and social media has added more fuel to the fire than ever before. While plenty of discussion has taken place, Pogba decided to go out of his way and request fans to let him have peace while on his holiday. “Guys I hear all of you. I'm on annual leave, chilling a bit, let's enjoy some summer before it ends,” he posted on Instagram on July 21, along with a video of himself playing a game of one-on-one basketball against Romelu Lukaku while on holiday in United States. However, the request top end rumours only assisted in sparking further speculation as three United players — Daley Blind, Axel Tuanzebe and Timothy Fosu-Mensah — liked the post which prompted fans to think he was being supported by his new teammates.
In addition, Pogba’s barber made a major faux pas the same day as he used his Instagram profile criztofferson to upload an image of himself cutting the midfielder’s hair with the caption: "Had to change up Pogba's hair colour for his new team. #manchesterunited #lyfebrand."
While the announcements and the speculation thus far has been geared towards entertaining the supporters and keeping them engaged, intentions may turn the other way and cause problems among the ranks.
With the addition of Eric Bailly, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ibrahimovic to their ranks, United announced their squad numbers for the upcoming season on July 21. Bailly was given No 3, Mkhitaryan received No 22 and Ibrahimovic got No 9.
Incidentally, United’s teenage world record signing Anthony Martial had been given the No 9 jersey last season but it was taken away from him to be given to Ibrahimovic. The No 9 shirt is traditionally seen as the one worn by the team’s most prime goal scorer and the move might have disappointed Martial which seemed apparent. Later that day, the young forward changed the cover photo and profile photo of his Facebook page which seemed to hit back at United for taking away his preferred number. His cover photo was an image of himself running onto the Old Trafford pitch with the background in greyscale while Martial and his jersey (with the No 9) were in colour. His profile picture was much more evident at showing his displeasure as he posed in a sweatshirt with the letters “am9” — representing Anthony Martial 9 — sprawled across his photo.
Social media may be a boon for communication but there are drawbacks to its usage as well. Whether it is a gift or curse will ultimately be decided on the pitch and in the books of checks and balances.