The 10 stages of forcing a transfer, starring Manchester United's Paul Pogba
So I hear you're looking for a move. Here's how you get one, in 10 easy steps
You think it's time to move on. Good. We all need to spread our wings and fly to pastures new at some point. When it doesn't work out it doesn't work out. There's nothing anyone can do. That's life. But if you've never previously forced through a nine-figure transfer that has permanently left a sour taste in the mouths of football supporters everywhere and broken the hearts of millions that had previously worshipped you like a god, and I'll assume you haven't, then know this. It's actually really, really easy. Unbelievably easy. A child could do it. An actual child. Or at least a 16-year-old Brazilian lad who has scored 40 goals in 24 games for Gremio.
Stage 1 - Turn in a season showcasing your best and worst, but make sure to end on a sour note
Stage 1 is arguably the most difficult of the steps, but hey, you know what they say: nothing good ever comes easy. Don't think that you can wait until the start of the summer transfer window before you start forcing through a move. Oh no. The journey starts at the beginning of the season.
The trick here is to play well, so people know you are worth buying, but crucially not too well. You want your club's own fans to turn against you but not anyone else. You want to impress and disappoint simultaneously. How you ask? Here's how.
Have one unbelievable spell midway through the season, bookended by a few months where you play at about 50%. Turn it on for a few weeks around January time, right when the midseason transfer window opens, just to get people talking. Score a bagful of goals (it always helps if you are the club's penalty taker but even if you're not, just start taking the ball off the actual designated taker and insist you have the spot-kick just to create a bit more tension in the dressing room) and play as many highlight reel passes as possible.
In fact, every time, every single time you get the ball, hit a no-look 50-yard cross field ball. It doesn't matter if it finds anyone, it will annoy the fuck out of the fans watching inside Old Trafford (good - they start calling you a luxury player and want you gone) and impress those that matter the most: all the teenagers that run the football banter accounts who get 10k retweets off a video of one of your passes, shakily filmed on an iPhone, with a caption like 'Pogba is actually a joke looool'.
These are the people that really run football. These are the people that will start the rumours and spread the rumours and believe the rumours. These are the people you want on your side. You want them mocking your teammates and worshipping you. That's how you get the bigger cogs whirring. It starts with Pogbaology69, it ends with Duncan Castles declaring that his 'sources' tell him a move is imminent.
The last game of the season is always a good opportunity to reboil any piss, too. If it's a meaningless fixture against an already-relegated Cardiff, make sure to strut about for the entirety of the game and let your inferior teammates do the heavy lifting. This, obviously, will mean you lose. Make a big show of asking Sol Bamba to swap shirts after the game. Failing that, find the most virulently angry section of the supporters, jog over making the 'I'm very sorry for my performance today, please forgive me' gesture with your hands in a praying position and chuck your shirt in.
Actually just pray they just throw it straight back so you can get in an angry exchange with a man in a flat cap in the front row. Shout at him in French.
Stage 2 - If you are one of the approximately 16 players in the entirety of football that doesn't hire Mino Raiola, hire him
If there is a man in football you want by your side when you're trying to move clubs, it's Mino Raiola. The superagent has brokered some of the biggest deals in the history of football, including moving Angel Di Maria, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United, taking a juicy, juicy fee for his work, and then immediately helping them move back out again. So simply put: hire him.
If you do already hire him, which obviously you do, and if Zlatan Ibrahimovic's autobiography is anything to go by, which obviously it is, the next bit is a simple as giving him a text. His phone will buzz, he will lick the pasta sauce off his bejewelled Italian fingers, and he will say ok. Let me work.
God knows what he does next to make things happen but I, personally, like to imagine it like this: him slowly packing a suitcase that contains several suits cut from the finest Italian cloth, boarding an aeroplane, drinking a martini on the flight, and also stroking a cat for some reason, he has managed to get a cat onto a flight somehow, before getting to Hotel Football in Manchester and then just lying on a bed in a room opposite Old Trafford with a Bluetooth headset on and a box of Krispy Kremes phoning Ed Woodward every five minutes from a withheld number saying "I can see you, Ed. Ed, I can see you. I am watching you. You have one month to sell Paul Pogba." and hanging up.
I, personally, reckon that's exactly how he does it.
Stage 3 - Head off on a solo tour of a Far East country to promote your personal brand
Whilst Mino is doing his thing, you need to go and do yours. Book your own flight to Japan, South Korea or China. All three if possible. It's time to promote that personal brand of yours. How, exactly, do you promote your personal brand?
Again, it's simple. You literally just have to go to Asia, create a hashtag for your trip, take some photos of you doing things and watch the likes roll in. That's all it is. Better yet, get someone to film a mini-documentary about the tour - you're calling it a tour now - throw in some climate change activism, a rock concert, a few nutmegs on small Asian schoolchildren and a trick shot of you kicking a ball through a basketball hoop and you've absolutely knocked it out the park.
The most populous continent on the earth loves you. You can pretty much do whatever the fuck you like now. Manchester United, who famously possess a 4.8 star rating on their official mobile app - as sure a sign as any that a club is being run efficiently - are now in awe of your star power. You hold all the cards now. And it's a fucking Royal Flush.
— Paul Pogba (@paulpogba) June 17, 2019
Stage 4 - Tell the press it might be time to move on
Now you've had your fun it's time to get serious. You need to face the reporters. Better yet, you can do this whilst you're in Asia as there is the language barrier to cross and should things all go pear-shaped (which is likely), you can always claim you were mistranslated.
The key when dropping hints is that you want to be quite vague and leave things open to interpretation. Just kidding. You want to be as blunt as possible. You literally want to say something as close to "I really want to leave this team, I cannot play in centre midfield with Fred for a single moment longer" as possible, without actually saying it like that.
"I think for me it could be a good time to have a new challenge somewhere different", for example, is pretty much mealy-mouthed perfection.
'I think' - hey, it's just my opinion, you can't criticise a guy for having an opinion.
'It could' - nothing is certain in this crazy, crazy world of football.
'A new challenge' - an absolute classic of genre, suggests that it is nothing to do with Manchester United even though it is quite clearly all to do with Manchester United.
'Somewhere different' - literally just making the 'call me' hand signal to every other major club in Europe.
— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) June 17, 2019
Stage 5 - Go hard on the social media antics until somebody notices (somebody will notice)
Hopefully, the mainstream press will be running riot with that story and a few opinion pieces will pop up on why the time is right for Manchester United to let you go. In the meantime, you can get to work bringing your 35.2 million Instagram followers into play. Here's what you do.
1. Find any photoshop of you in a Real Madrid kit someone has knocked up and give it a like. Leave it an hour. Unlike it. Repeat as many times as necessary.
2. You also need to like every single photograph of Eden Hazard's Bernabeu unveiling and comment underneath his own post with the heart eyes emoji (x3).
3. Unfollow every Real Madrid player you already have and then follow the entire squad in unison so that when someone checks your followers, they are all right at the top. Send Sergio Ramos a DM saying "See you soon bro *eyes emoji*" and hope he screenshots it and adds it to his story.
4. Block Alexis Sanchez. This won't help the move as such but you are just fucking sick of all those posts about his dogs.
Stage 6 - Go on strike with Phil Jones
Those dark, Satanic rumour mills will be billowing smoke by now, if not completely aflame, so it's time to get serious. You are going on strike. Unfortunately, you need an ally with you for this to cause maximum dressing room disruption and create a real chasmic divide for the relatively inexperienced Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to have to deal with.
Once you get in preseason training, put some feelers out. Who is unhappy? He won't be top of your shortlist originally, but Phil Jones could become a very powerful comrade. As a Manchester United player, Phil Jones should probably be extremely happy at the club. He should be extremely grateful to be there. He should just be glad he is here, faceplanting on the hallowed Old Trafford turf and gurning his way through Europa League games rather than playing as a right-back in a Pulis back-four halfway up the Championship. If you can disgruntle him, a man who would be happy with nothing more than some open space and an old tennis ball, then it would really show how influential you are.
Get in his ear. Tell him he deserves better. That it's an insult the club are being linked to centre backs every other week. That he should be playing Champions League football. Tell him he'd suit Serie A football. That the Milan clubs love throwing big contracts at unworthy players even more than United do. That your pal Mino can sort him out.
In truth, you know that it won't even take that much, such is Phil Jone's spaniel-like enthusiasm and loyalty to you, an actual good football player. Go on strike together and just wait for the rest to join you. Martial. Lukaku. De Gea... Andreas Pereira. Actually, tell Pereira he should probably keep training. You can't go on strike and still get picked every week because Solskjaer's most forward-thinking alternative in CM is Scott McTominay.
Stage 7 - Investigate the property market
Put your house up for sale with an asking price nobody will ever pay. Get in touch with an estate agent in Madrid. Book a flight there. Make sure you get photographed at the airport when you land, but whilst wearing sunglasses and turning away from the camera. Bonus points if you can get a hand in the way so it's not 100% clear it's actually you. Go and view some houses. Maybe Iker Casillas's old gaff. Maybe the mansion next to Marcelo's house. Maybe Gareth Bale's place, also currently up for sale. It has a par 3 in the garden that you could turn into a basketball court. Put in an offer lower than asking price that will immediately get rejected. Return to Manchester. Repeat every few weeks.
Stage 8 - Publicly issue a statement thanking United fans for their support
You're as good as gone at this point so it's just a case of hammering in the final nails in the coffin. The best way to do this is to turn about face and come out thanking all the United fans - who all hate you by this point, who despise you - for their endless support. Do it on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook: a picture of you when you were in the academy, one of you resigning for the club, one of you scoring a goal, one of you when you dyed your hair red. Say something in the caption about it being an 'incredible journey' and that 'you couldn't have done it without them' and that 'you'll meet again'.
That's it, there's no going back now.
Stage 9 - Hand in a transfer request
Real Madrid finally submit an official transfer bid that is immediately rejected by Ed Woodward. No bother. You hand in a transfer request in the form of a single, crisply folded sheet of paper with the single word: "#PogGone". Good. You have branded your own transfer request. That helps.
Ed Woodward will call you into your office and explain that he is ignoring your request. He can't sell you. You say nothing. You pull out your phone. You hit speed-dial and loudspeaker. You turn the screen around so he can see who you're calling. It's Mino, and it's ringing. He begs for you to stop. You just look at him. It's still ringing. He clearly can't take it. He is fidgeting uncontrollably. He is sweating.
Just as the receiver on the other end clicks on he shouts "FINE. DONE. OK.". You hang up the phone, stand up and turn to leave Woodward's office. You reach the door and touch the handle but remember there is something you must do first. You spin back round to face Ed, who is now slumped forward on the desk with his hands massaging his temples.
You perform a single, exquisite dab. And with that you are gone.
Stage 10 - Sign for Madrid, do four kick-ups max in front of 60,000 fans at your unveiling, kiss the badge
You did it. You forced the move and finally got what you wanted. Now it's time to put on a show for your new supporters, all 60,000 crammed into the historic Bernabeu to see what you can do it. As you are Paul Pogba you can probably do a million kick ups with your eyes close, instead, honour tradition and endear yourself to your new fans by doing four kick-ups, exactly four, before cocking up a round the world and smashing the ball into the lower tier. Aim to hit an old woman so you can then run over and your shirt and a big hug. Repeatedly and excessively kiss the badge. When you are handed the microphone tell everyone that this is a dream come true and that you can't wait to play for a club as big as this - simultaneously getting everyone inside the ground all loved up AND shithousing Manchester United supporters whilst you do so. Perfection.
After a long day, and with your eyes still ringing from all the cheers, you will get back to Gareth Bale's house, which is now your house, with some bulldozers already going to town on his par 3 in the garden, and finally rest. You'll get out your phone and think about texting Phil Jones to tell him he can stop his strike now. He is getting fined a week's wages... every single week. He hasn't been paid in two months. New signing Issa Diop and Axel Tuanzebe, having returned a loan at Villa, are both now above him in the pecking order. Even Marcos Rojo is occasionally starting to get some game time again in his absence. His career is in tatters. The only interest he has received is from Sheffield United, who couldn't afford him in the end after spunking half their wage bill on Francky Ribery.
Next week. You'll text him next week. As long as you don't forget, you'll text him next week.