The curious case of Eliaquim Mangala
The prolonged transfer saga of French international centre-back Eliaquim Mangala, which has been rumbling like a badly fed stomach since last December, made the biggest and rudest noise of all on Thursday when it suddenly became a hot piece of gossip on social media from Avignon to the Asturias.
Mangala -- let us get this straight from the off -- has been a clear and documented Manchester City target since the transfer window this past Christmas, when he nearly but not quite joined from FC Porto along with his midfield enforcer teammate Fernando. It was reported at the time the transfers had failed on a number of small technicalities and would more than likely be resurrected in the summer.
In the case of Fernando, this suddenly involved a transfer fee, as the Brazilian had in the meantime signed a new contract with Porto, in order "to reward them for aiding his career thus far." Despite missing out on the player originally, all at City will have been happy to wrap up a deal for an outstanding midfielder for a reasonable fee. All parties left the building content. Fernando has been a City player for weeks and can be seen in leg-striding action in the club's United States tour right now.
Mangala's situation has caused more confusion and as of Thursday, a veritable mountain of froth. It has been the lead story on a variety of websites as a result of the leaked video of his arrival in Manchester. The video, interpreted by many as depicting the Frenchman's sudden arrival in the north west of England, seems in fact to be almost two weeks old, dating from the player's earlier visit (fully reported as such in the Portuguese press) to have a medical and sign his contract. It would seem to be, therefore, pretty old news to make the lead story.
Anybody with meagre language skills and a computer will have been able to follow the unfolding transfer via the websites of three newspapers in particular, in order of likely proximity to the truth of the story: Portugal's O Jogo (the only one of three national football dailies that is printed in, and has a bias towards, FC Porto), France's excellent L'Equipe and that old friend dropping in, the Manchester Evening News.
On the Portuguese front, where you would expect most of the news to be emanating from, O Jogo has been reporting the deal as done for nearly two weeks. In their daily columns of players coming and going, Mangala has featured solidly in the "Players sold" list for FC Porto since July 13. Replacements in the shape of Bruno Martins Indi have been identified, sweet-talked and signed in the meantime. Time has moved on, grass has grown on the FC Porto forecourt and our attention has been diverted to strange sports between tiny nations in Scotland and a group of sweaty men chasing each other up and down mountains on bicycles in France.
Football comes under such microscopic attention these days that every half move and would-be act is surveyed with a magnifying glass and debated to within an inch of its life. In this case, it would seem minor hitches such as the player's holiday in Miami and small contractual details have delayed the club's official unveiling.
That the videos and the interviews are all shot and boxed and ready to go out suggests a move is, indeed, done. The fact that the video has escaped into the public domain before the club was ready seems small beer and will only be deemed more if it jeopardises the transfer itself.
If it transpires there is more amiss than these trifles, City will arrive at the tail end of preseason with egg on their face and a huge gap to fill in central defence. Now that would be a story to fill the back pages.