The Last Word: Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale's art of manipulation - News & Comment - Football - The Independent

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.

John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week