In normal circumstances, Manchester City fans might be fairly excited about the capture of Ilkay Gundogan. Long touted for a move to these shores, highly regarded in Germany and a crucial part of Borussia Dortmund's success over the last five years, his signing represents a statement of intent. At only 25 years of age, he has plenty of time to develop into one of the foremost midfielders in the Premier League. Pep Guardiola has had more than enough opportunity to track Gundogan's development during his three seasons in the Bundesliga, and clearly thinks that he's got what it takes to survive the rigours of English football.
All in all, Gundogan is the sort of signing that should leave supporters with renewed enthusiasm for the season ahead. Unfortunately, Manchester City have managed to announce the deal in a manner that not only dampens enthusiasm for football in general, but also makes fans question their will to live.
For some unfathomable reason, City decided to announce the signing via the medium of social media banter. In an exchange that makes us cringe with every fibre of our being, Ilkay Gundogan (read: Ilkay Gundogan's social media team) asked the club (read: the club's social media team) to "ANNOUNCE GUNDOGAN". The request was accompanied by the obligatory winky face emoji, because no attempt at social media banter is complete without one.
Picture it now: two browbeaten social media guys – one employed by Ilkay Gundogan, the other by Manchester City – tweeting pre-rehearsed banter at each other from across a laminate table in some dark and neglected basement-level office in the Etihad. Their respective line managers shout at them to up the emoji usage, to get a fucking hashtag going for Christ's sake. They slump further into their timeworn swivel chairs, utterly demoralised by the incessant pressure of keeping up with Twitter's ever-changing zeitgeist. Somewhere high above them, Ilkay Gundogan is being introduced to his new teammates, completely oblivious to their thankless toil.
Manchester City have set a worrying precedent here, one that could change the face of football as we know it. When the announcement of significant news is reduced to painfully unspontaneous Twitter bants, the beautiful game is lost to us forevermore. Will managerial sackings now be disclosed via a series of pre-prepared GIFs? Will news of long-term injuries be delivered via a sequence of hilarious memes? Will club statements be reduced to a garbled mess of emojis, each of them a cryptic cipher that a modern day Alan Turing would struggle to understand?
Soon enough, football itself will be reduced to an exercise in relentless emoji usage, with the world's best players asked to live tweet their in-game experience. Every misplaced pass will be accompanied by a sad face, every sweet cross field ball with a double thumbs up, every goal with a trio of aubergines and every refereeing error with that precise combination of droplet emojis and closed first emojis that has come to represent the word "wanker".
This will be the true legacy of the Ilkay Gundogan signing, no matter how well he performs on the pitch. Manchester City have ushered in the next phase in football's inexorable decline, and they've done it for the absolute bants.