The World Cup has reached the quarterfinals, which means 24 teams have returned home and those players are almost assuredly heading to their clubs to gear up for the preseason. That also means that Silly Season and all of its ludicrous rumors will be in full swing soon enough.
Speaking of which... there’s this little matter of a certain United States international midfielder that Tottenham Hotspur are supposedly interested in, so we thought this would be a perfect time on how we break down transfer rumors and rate them from “Done Deal” to “Bat Country Bullsh—t”.
Yesterday, @HotspurRelated, one of the most prominent aggregator Spurs news accounts on Twitter, posted up a rumor stating that Spurs had placed a €50m bid for Borussia Dortmund winger Christian Pulisic. Hotspur Related posts everything, which makes it useful. However, they don’t link to original sources, which can be infuriating. Turns out, the original source was German paper Kicker.
Kicker isn’t a bad outlet! In fact, they’re pretty much the gold standard when it comes to football reporting in Germany. That’s good! The problem is that they have both online and print versions of their stories, and sometimes they leave the juiciest stories for their print in order to sell copies. Naturally, we went hunting but could not locate the initial story, as it was not on Kicker’s website. The timing of the rumor was also weird — it’s not uncommon for outlets like Kicker or L’Equipe in France to pre-release teasers of stories that appear in print only, but generally those rumors come out later in the day, and are leaked by the outlet themselves, not a third party aggregator.
Our skepticism of the rumor spiked, and we decided NOT to write it ourselves.
Yes, we're aware of the Pulisic rumors. We also have some serious doubts about the veracity of the source.— Cartilage Free Captain (@cartilagefree) July 4, 2018
We're gonna let that breathe a bit.
However, this is how stupid rumors, what we call Bat Country, gets rolling. Within hours of the rumor breaking on Twitter, it was all over various news sites and aggregator blogs. All of the stories either reference Kicker without a link (because it doesn’t exist) or link to other sources that themselves reference Kicker. But nobody seems to have found the original article.
This has peaked today as SB Nation partner NBC Sports decided that this was enough to run a story on the Pulisic to Spurs rumor, stating that the bid had been made! A quick read of their article leads us to their source: The S—n. Great.
The S—n story says that the bid is for £44m and will likely attract other suitors (duh) but where did they get their story from? Surprise, surprise: Kicker, which still doesn’t have a main link to the story.
A general search of “Spurs Christian Pulisic” suddenly has everyone from the Daily Mail to Bleacher Report running with the story, even though there is literally no primary link to the story whatsoever.
After carefully breaking this down, we have to ask ourselves a few questions:
- Do we have a primary source?
- Does the source have quotes from a player or coach or owner?
- Does the article use buzzwords like “shocking” to grab your attention?
Basically, you are asking yourself these questions to determine if this is a rumor that’s worth following or if it’s bogus. Our friends over at the Spurs subreddit, /r/coys, have a list of sources that are generally trustworthy. There are certain names that, if they report it, we have to take it seriously.
Kristof Terreur, who works for HLN, is a surefire source for anything with Belgian football. If he says it’s happening, it’s pretty much gospel. Matt Law, Dan Kilpatrick, and Alasdair Gold all have sources inside of Tottenham Hotspur along with Lyall Thomas, though Thomas has pulled back from his general Spurs coverage since getting his promotion to editor over at Sky.
In the case of this story, it really comes down to whether or not the Pulisic to Spurs bid actually does appear in the print edition of Kicker. So we reached out on Twitter, and found a Carty Free reader living in Germany who said he’d pick up a copy of Kicker on his way home from work.
Turns out: nope!
Picked up today’s issue, nothing in there. I saw the Kicker “news” were brought forward by calcio mercato?— Sören Börner (@Rundfunk_West) July 5, 2018
Now, to be fair — this doesn’t mean that the rumor isn’t true. It could be! The original source might be someone who knows someone connected to Kicker, or the actual Kicker article hasn’t been released yet. A Spurs bid for Pulisic is certainly something that would make a lot of American Tottenham supporters super happy, and this could yet be borne out. But it is most certainly NOT borne out by the available evidence.
We like to think that we are helping to train an intelligent, critical Tottenham Hotspur fanbase. Transfer rumors are fun, but they’re not fun when people take them too seriously, or believe every rumor that flashes across their screens. If you are a football fan, you SHOULD be taking a critical reading of every transfer rumor. It never hurts to start with the assumption that a transfer rumor is NOT true, and see if the body of evidence convinces you otherwise.
The bottom line is this: Take everything with a grain of salt unless you see one of the big names such as The Guardian, BBC, or one of the beat writers for the club. Everything else? Chances are good you’re feeding clickbait.