This article originally appeared on VICE Sports UK.
Just as it has its own economy, a swirling maelstrom of expenditure, wage offers, contracts and agents fees, so too does the transfer window have its own language. With rolling coverage over the summer and a massive media operation in tow, the vocabulary used to describe the business of football clubs has morphed into a distinct dialect with a select range of cliches. One day, in a future without football, linguists will study the arcane and mysterious language of the transfer window, with its 'swoops', its 'raids' and its sacrosanct 'come-and-get-me plea'. Until that day, however, the human race will have to make do with this semi-definitive guide to all the bullshit that supporters have to hear every year.
Prithee, look to the skies, ye football fans! Florentino Perez doth arrive on a winged griffin, come to 'swoop' down upon Kylian Mbappe, snatch him up in the beast's wicked talons and carry him off over the foaming seas. Putting our medieval stylings aside for a moment, the transfer swoop is one of the most ubiquitous cliches of the summer window, conjuring up a nightmarish dreamscape where players are stolen off in the night by gargantuan hawks trained by Ed Woodward, or some other such executive type, to do the evil bidding of their football club. Don't even get us started on the 'double swoop', which is like a normal swoop but twice as audacious. Lo, then, and beware swooping football clubs, lest thee lose thy star striker in a fluttering of deathly wings.
When a club's representatives aren't swooping from the heavens to steal away some unsuspecting footballer, they must sail over the oceans in their transfer longships, urged on by the ominous beating of drums. As well as snatching off each other's players in the night time, clubs can also launch a transfer 'raid' against their foes, 'plundering' smaller and less illustrious teams like marauding vikings dicking on a dark-age monastery somewhere. Should the raiding club decide to stump up for the transfer as opposed to just ransacking their rivals' stadium in a brutal show of force, they can open the infamous transfer 'war chest' and pour forth the treasure of its golden bowels. That's unless the raiding club is Arsenal, of course, in which case the mere suggestion of a transfer 'war chest' means that they have finished 5th and – intending only to make a couple of underwhelming signings on the penultimate day of the window – need a way of distracting angry fans.
Should the selling club prove to be tenacious negotiators, it is possible that the buying club will be forced to 'cough up' a fee far larger than they first expected. This brings to mind the disturbing image of a suited CEO hacking up phlegm-streaked £50 notes, choking on great wodges of cash in a literal representation of modern football's excess. It's possible that, having taken some sort of financial laxative, said CEO might actually be able to 'splash' out on a player, though we'll leave this toilet metaphor underdeveloped in the name of common decency. The club hierarchy also have to hope that they don't have a 'hiccup' at the last minute, with an ancient law of the transfer window dictating that an involuntary spasm of the diaphragm legally voids a sale.
PRICE TAGS, KITTIES AND CHEQUEBOOKS
Though a selling club may not want to admit it, every footballer has a 'price tag'. Look at any picture of Ross Barkley and there, on his ankle, is a little note that reads: "Young, English, one year left on his contract – reduced to £45million". In order to meet the price advertised, a manager must tip out his 'transfer kitty', a cliche which makes it sound as if clubs prefer to pay each other massive fees in low denominational coins. Should a club be looking to go on a 'splurge' or a 'spree' at the upper end of the market, it might be best for the manager to 'reach for the chequebook', despite the fact that cheques are basically obsolete at this point and he would probably be better off paying in bitcoin.
Google the word 'wantaway', and the definition reads thus: "Adjective – British – informal – denoting a soccer player who wants to move to another club." In other words, as far as the world's only omnipresent search engine is concerned, the term 'wantaway' was invented specifically as a transfer window cliche and has no other practical applications whatsoever. Most likely dreamt up sometime between the Bosman ruling and Pierre Van Hooijdonk going on strike at Nottingham Forest, 'wantaway' has absolutely no meaning outside of the world of football, and hence is the purest form of cliche, the truest platitude known to man. When a manager puts a wantaway footballer on his transfer 'wish list', then the selling club is in serious shite.
Some transfers are especially difficult to finalise, and require the application of enormous pressure to 'test the resolve' of the club being targeted. Certain clubs cling on to their players for grim death, holding them close in a contractually certified embrace. In these circumstances, the player becomes something like a barnacle on the bottom of a ship, and must be 'prised away' from the club by means of behind-the-scenes manoeuvring, a sustained media campaign or an improved financial offer. Failing that, a senior director from the buying club must arrive at the selling club's training ground with a crowbar, and literally lever the player out of his Range Rover and into the back of an unmarked van.
Just as the term 'swoop' makes a move between clubs seem entirely involuntary on the part of the player, so too does the idea of 'hijacking' a transfer. With football clubs analogous to kidnappers in this case, it's hard not to picture prospective signings being whisked off by a gang of board members in balaclavas, then imprisoned in some sort of makeshift dungeon until they agree personal terms. When Manchester City 'nabbed' Robinho from Chelsea, or when the transfer of Roy Keane in 1993 saw Manchester United 'snap up' a future star at the expense of Blackburn Rovers, we can presume the players were driving towards their intended destination before being forced off the road and swiftly chloroformed. Football is a ruthless game, see, and its deal brokers will do whatever it takes to 'get their man'.
Much like the morning megabus to an away day, clubs have to 'get the wheels in motion' before a transfer can be finalised. Roaring to life, clanking into action, the behemoths of European football tear towards their targets like maniacal motorway coaches, ready to plough through anyone who gets in their way. Depending on their desire to 'get the paperwork done', clubs can either 'put the brakes' on a deal or receive a 'boost' in their bid to sign a player. God forbid the driver has had a few pints before setting off, lest the transfer be boosted without due consideration and a club end up signing Moussa Sissoko for £30million.
Much like a libcuck who has left their safe space (amirite, VICE Facebook commenters?) release clauses in football are often 'triggered'. Just as clubs might 'baulk' at high asking prices and find themselves 'rebuffed' when their offers fall short, 'triggered' is a technical term which can only be applied to one aspect of the transfer window, namely the initiation of the buyout process. The 'triggering' of the clause makes it seem as if someone has pressed a comically oversized red button, setting off a warning siren and sending club officials scrambling for battle stations on a diving submarine, ready to whisk the player off and hide them away in the inky depths. Should the player be 'unsettled' by the attempts to keep him, however, chances are said submarine will be hit with a contractual depth charge before it can 'torpedo' his efforts to escape.
So here we are, then. We have come across the Holy Grail of transfer cliches, and we hold it to our lips so we may drink from the source of everlasting life. Following other footballers on Twitter; uploading an enigmatic Instagram post; claiming that a spouse has grown tired of the regional climate; investing in property overseas; taking lessons in a foreign language; posing in another club's home kit while on holiday; all of these things can be interpreted as a 'come-and-get-me plea'. The most sacred of commonplaces during the transfer window, the 'come-and-get-me plea' must be treated with the utmost reverence, for overuse can diminish its powers. Use it wisely, however, and the transfer window opens in a whole new direction, revealing the garden of inner enlightenment, or at least getting a lesser-known striker a move from the Portuguese league to West Ham.