The Last Word: Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale's art of manipulation

Briefings are off the record leading to transfer speculation which is merely a means to an end

What has greater worth in a world of instant gratification, relentless inanity and carefully constructed fantasy: 5,000 newly qualified nurses, 4,500 teachers, 4,200 police constables or a solitary footballer?

It's a trick question, of course. Each is valued at £105 million. The disproportionate importance placed on profitable frivolity, in the form of Gareth Bale's inevitable transfer to Real Madrid, is utterly indefensible, but a fact of modern life.

Bale, the man, is reassuringly ordinary. He dotes on his infant daughter and finds solace in the company of childhood friends and a supportive family. Without football, he would blend into the background.

Bale, the brand, is ingot-hot. It is not his fault that an obscene price has been placed on his services. The market is feverish and requires fresh meat of the highest quality. He has the right to resist being regarded as part of Tottenham's fixtures and fittings.

He's no innocent; players in his position never are. Convention merely demands his ambition is ambiguous until the money is down. The artful notion that he has reconnected with the child who once wore a Madrid shirt is not entirely convincing, but he, and those around him, have operated with a different degree of dignity to that of Luis Suarez and his learned friends.

The Uruguayan is no George Eastham fighting the tyranny of football's maximum wage. He is no Jackie Robinson dismantling baseball's colour bar. He has few redeeming features, other than an instinctive ability to score goals.

Yet the Liverpool to which he is brazenly ungrateful is not the Liverpool of Shankly, an institution based upon socialist principles, communal pride and a deep yearning for recognition. It is a mid-ranking business with expansionist ambitions.

The modern footballer is internet hit fodder. He is as much a caricature as a fading actress with a "toned bikini body" who just happens to be caught on the beach by a passing paparazzo, or a Z list celebrity whose "wardrobe malfunction" goes viral.

Transfer speculation is sport's soft porn, a guilty secret which is insidious, universal and a means to an end. It may consist of the promulgation of non-stories, mischief making and uneducated guesswork, but it is hugely popular. Millions share the guilty secret of a sly peek, and the plotlines are risible.

Will the shamelessness of Suarez's exit strategy from Liverpool be successful? Will Wayne Rooney's reinvention as a warrior with a poet's sensitivity lead to an equally lucrative departure from Manchester United? Will "friends" of Yaya Touré succeed in securing his return to Barcelona?

I made that last one up, by the way. But now that the notion is out there in cyberspace, someone somewhere will give it the credibility it does not deserve. There are lies, damned lies and rumours spread by adolescents who operate "in the know" Twitter accounts from their bedrooms.

No one particularly cares whether these stories are factual, reasonable or sincere. The agenda is driven by businessmen whispering into a megaphone. They know they will be heard, on an unattributable basis.

The art of the deal, which the Suarez camp appears to ignore, involves getting the message across in a strategic manner, without apparent artifice or aggression. Briefings are off the record, based on mutual trust and tend to massage the truth.

Clubs are hardly benevolent societies. If they want to get a player out, they have few scruples in indulging in emotional blackmail. Contracts are either sacred or a basis for negotiation, depending on the circumstances. Loyalty, perceived or otherwise, is used as a blunt instrument.

Bale's imminent departure to Madrid will merely accelerate the rush to franchise football. The elite clubs have no feel for, or affinity with, those wannabes in the Football League. They fail to understand the importance of community and a shared heritage.

Too many people in the game do not feel the need to care. They are transient, and will leave no trace.

Old Tiger returns – but will it last?

Reports of the demise of Tiger Woods have, apparently, been greatly exaggerated. It remains to be seen whether this is a cause for celebration.

His second-round 61 in the WGC event at Firestone sets the agenda going into the final major of the season, this week's PGA Championship at the Oak Hill Country Club in New York.

Woods is stuck on 14 major titles. The apparent inevitably of his overhauling Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 still seems as quaint and old fashioned as a Walkman.

Brilliance, in a preparatory event on a course on which he traditionally excels, proves little, apart from the authenticity of the talent which has been withered by age, injury and controversy.

He used to obliterate hope, intimidate his rivals. He was metronomic, mistake-free. Yet the questions have multiplied since he won the 2008 US Open on one leg.

Woods is a cumulative 24 shots over par for his weekend rounds in his last six majors. Consistent fallibility, in circumstances which should suit his mental strength, is ominous.

Golf has decided it needs him, warts and all. Yet the clock is ticking. It will not take much for the smile to be replaced by a sneer.

Sticky wicket

"There is a tradition of the sultry cricketer powering in from the boundary or effortlessly gliding a ball to the boundary, tousled hair blowing in the breeze, his whites signifying a purity of action — oops, I almost forgot myself. Better have a cup of tea."

Pippa Middleton on cricket, folks. No comment required.

Sport
formula oneLive lap-by-lap coverage of championship decider
News
Boxing promoter Kellie Maloney, formerly known as Frank Maloney, entered the 2014 Celebrity Big Brother house
people
Arts and Entertainment
tvStrictly presenter returns to screens after Halloween accident
News
video
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleFormer civil rights activist who was jailed for smoking crack cocaine has died aged 78
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin