Have you ever wondered how long Richarlison’s legs are? It’s something I confess to spending very little time considering until this week, when Spurs tweeted out a five-minute video of the Brazilian’s first day at the club.
We begin with him walking into the training ground flanked by an entourage of three. He gets a half-hearted welcome from Ivan Perisic and we’re into the physio room for his medical. Is this his real medical or his show medical? A man checks his legs can bend at the knee and goes full shipping forecast, “45 internal, approaching 90 external”. It cuts away before he presumably continues: “Low, Hebrides 9 9 4, moving rapidly south-east.”
Back to the big reveal – a tape measure is placed at the top of his hips. It clicks through the 40s, the 50s, into the 60s, the 70s, the 80s, into the 90s as we approach the ankle. It’s extraordinary stuff.
Someone holds a clipboard. They show an ultrasound; for a second it appears he’s having a baby. They print out a lot of 1980s computer paper.
And he is free to go. He stares at the training ground. It looks like a training ground. A warm hug from Lucas Moura and we’re in the canteen.
Lunch. A close-up of a bowl of broccoli. He is handed what looks like an omelette. Emerson Royal makes chicken noises at him. They embrace. Matt Doherty says hello. Giovani Lo Celso too. He hugs Cristian Romero. Everyone claps. Fraser Forster sits on his own at the back.
And suddenly Richarlison is skipping on the pitch. Running with a bungee cord around his waist. He kicks the ball. He kicks it again. And one last time. There’s a close up of a football to finish.
How did we live without this forensic blow-by-blow account of every part of player transfers in the good old days? If you weren’t brave enough to spend your parents’ phone bill on ClubCall, then it was Ceefax or nothing.
I vividly remember hearing out of the blue on the radio that Spurs had signed Jürgen Klinsmann while I was playing Championship Manager on the Amiga in my bedroom. No rumours, no live medicals, no reporters forced to spend all day at Finch Farm. It was one line and that was that – a genuinely mind-blowing moment. Jürgen Klinsmann!
Now the summer is an endless content machine of conjecture, rumour and fluff. It was ‘“breaking news” that Jan Bednarek was considering moving from Southampton to Leicester, a transfer that for about 15 minutes I was convinced happened last summer. My apologies to Jannik Vestergaard. Quite whether it constitutes “breaking news” if a reasonably competent centre-back is trying to decide whether to play for a team who finish eighth instead of 15th is another question. Could there be different tiers? Robinho to Manchester City at least deserves a louder swoosh, and a bigger font on the ticker.
It would be wonderful if the football family could organise an amnesty on the word “understand” from journalists with sources explaining the likely destination of William Carvalho. I understand that N’Golo Kanté is considering a move away from Stamford Bridge. Entire organisations understand things now. Sky Sports News understands Cameron Jerome is happy at Luton. Can’t we leave understanding to things that require understanding? Thermodynamics or Serbo-Croatian or space travel?
Below the top-level “here we go” transfer sagas lies the hidden gem of lower-league social media signing announcements. It catches me out repeatedly. Cambridge United send the “eyes looking that way” emoji and a clock. Announcement at 5pm. Who will it be?
The clock strikes, the club post a video. Someone is holding a scarf, the camera pans up, it’s a man’s face. It’s Brandon Haunstrup. Of course, I haven’t been following loaned-out Portsmouth left-backs over the past three years. I know not of Brandon Haunstrup – it’s my own fault. Yet I’m excited nonetheless – a hit of dopamine staring at the face of someone I have never seen before. I trust Cambridge’s manager, Mark Bonner, with my life, so I also trust him with full-backs.
And the tiny community of lower league fans frantically messaging each other over such moves is a rather pleasant section of the internet full of very short cordial exchanges. Whenever a Cambridge player moves on, I get tweets from rival fans. “Is Jack Iredale [now Bolton] any good?” “Yes”. “Ah great. Thank you”. “That’s OK”.
Of course all we really care about is the biannual anticlimax of transfer deadline day. One year I spent three hours on the radio hyping up the loan deal of Graham Dorrans from West Brom to Norwich. Nothing else happened.
As my jaded colleague Barry Glendenning has suggested, do we need any of this stuff? Can’t we just wait until the first day of the season, pick up a programme, or just look at the pitch and see who’s there? What a surprise it would be.
What is the point of deciding who’s won the window? As yet there’s no trophy. We won’t know until the season is over. New signings don’t always work. Your current players can improve.
Yet there are so many ways to be a proper football fan – its definition largely dependent on how football was to you when you were 10 years old. It’s easier to just succumb – spend your summer hitting the refresh button, watching eventless videos of your players wandering around training grounds.
And as someone who spent the summer recreating that video of a man slapping a stool and then taking that video to theatres and watching people watch it, I’m perhaps not in a position to judge what has a point. Not everything has to have one. We’re all just filling time.
Richarlison’s left leg is 96 centimetres long. We never find out the about his right leg, one of football’s mysteries. What I’m hearing, and what my sources are telling me, and what my understanding is, is that it’s a similar length.