How The Transfer Window Makes Us Joyless Football Manager Drones

If you're still irrationally hoping, praying that one or two of those impossibly tantalizing rumors—David Luiz to Barça? Cavani to Chelsea?—comes true to legitimize the hours you spent throughout the month mashing the refresh button on The Daily Mail's transfer gossip page just as soon as you had fully comprehended the pros, cons, tactical implications, and general value received for the supposedly imminent switch, I have some bad news for you: it's not going to happen. The window has officially closed. Thankfully.

All we really have to show for the monthlong spectacle of baseless speculation is Juan Mata to Manchester United and Nemanja Matić to Chelsea, plus a few squad players here and there that are interesting only if you've managed to avoid the more fantastic rumors that got so many fans frothy with anticipation. Lots of pomp, very little circumstance. But lest you sink into too deep a funk, realizing that everything you know and care about has been a lie, I can offer you a permanent fix for the transfer season blueballs. It may seem difficult at first, but you'll soon realize that it is easier than the alternative. Simply unplug.

The transfer rumor industry is one of the most insidiously fascinating aspects of European soccer. It can delight and arouse, but can never satisfy. It's empty calories that rot your teeth but still leave you hungry. And it's more troubling than it seems.

We sit up in our plush armchair GM recliners and cast about footballing pronouncements, all of the sudden equipped with developed opinions and knowledge about things we have zero experience with. (And I know Football Manager is realistic but little John Shipley from Leeds doesn't really have 4 stars hovering just above head.) To show off the breadth of our extensive soccer regimens, we talk like we've scouted the likes of Benfica's Rodrigo or Marc-André Ter Stegen of Borussia Mönchengladbach—guys we may have seen during a Europa League leg or two—and thus can tell how that player will actually fit into any given side. Not only that, but we quibble with the amount of cash bandied about, as if buying Nemanja Matic for £21M or £15M matters at all to either Chelsea or his potential as an actual player, let alone to us.

Even when transfers do happen, and are roundly praised or bashed by fans and media members, there is no telling how it will all turn out. Take Tottenham's summer business, for example. They turned the Gareth Bale transfer—itself a fait accompli—into the largest transfer fee of all time and a replenished squad of Paulinho, Christian Eriksen, Erik Lamela, Nacer Chadli, Étienne Capoue, and Roberto Soldado. It turned out that AVB didn't even want most of them, and today, barely past the halfway mark, only Paulinho and Eriksen have solidified a place in the first team, with at least three of them (reportedly) agitating for another move.

Right around the point we feel the need to have certain opinions to join in a conversation that is itself unreal—by my notes approximately 99 percent of transfer rumors do not pan out—is when a little part of the greatness of the actual sport is lost. When we distance ourselves from the pitch and start to look at the game from the perspective of some value-maximizing interleague expert, we alienate ourselves from the game and spend more time in an empty, ever-changing information repository. Why not enjoy what have become historically competitive Premier League and La Liga seasons for the sporting aspects instead of wondering if Manchester United should really give an arm and a leg to Atlético Madrid for Koke?

Sports video games are fun precisely because they grant you a different perspective on the game than that of the mere spectator. As everyone knows, the best part is sitting on a fat transfer kitty, all the world's players before you, seeking out that one future superstar that will turn your squad from good to great. And this perspective is tons of fun, which is why every year FIFA is the highest selling game worldwide, and why there are countless hours worth of tutorials teaching Football Manager players how to realize the potential of their wonderkids.

But save the god complex for the video games. That prism can augment, but shouldn't replace your love of the actual game on the pitch that made you a soccer fan to begin with. Knowing about the whos and the wheres puts you at risk of spending less time on the whys and hows. Let the real game be enough for you, because at some point in those video games, you eventually get bored of the individual matches and wish you could skip to the transfer window.

Photo via AP