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Insight

Transfer talk

It’s already been a summer of frenetic comings and goings, with plenty more to come. We speak to two Italian journalists whose finger is always on the transfer pulse

WORDS Sheridan Bird

Fans logging on or opening a newspaper every morning to check their club’s transfer activity is a ritual across the world. Club games are over by early June so those summer weeks are a key time to swoon over (or groan about) rumoured new recruits. Aside from actually watching matches, it’s some of the most fun you can have supporting a professional team – and it’s as addictive as catnip. 

Italy is particularly passionate about the calcio mercato, and several transfer gurus from the peninsula have made a pan-European impact in recent years. But how do they survive and thrive in this high-pressure arena? Nicolò Schira is a journalist with more than a decade’s experience in the field. “We work very hard to create and develop relationships over a period of years,” he says. “You create a network of contacts so that you can speak to people that matter: a sporting director, a coach, a player, an agent, an intermediary or club president. Some of those people have no intention of revealing secrets, but others want to let you know they are involved in something major, and that’s how some scoops escape.

Pulisic joins AC Milan

“It allows fans to dream,” he adds. “If the season is going badly and all hope is lost, you suddenly hear your team is linked with a new high-profile manager or player, and the enthusiasm bubbles back up. The transfer market is a playground of dreams. People come up to you on the train, in bars – even waiters at restaurants – and ask you who their team is going to sign. I don’t begrudge it because those people are the reason our jobs exist.”

There is a lot more competition among the specialists these days, and the holy grail is announcing a blockbuster signing before any of your rivals. Is that exciting or stressful? For Gianluca Di Marzio, legendary transfer expert at Sky Sport Ita

lia, “It’s both, because I have very close relationships with the real protagonists of football. I talk to huge personalities who most people would dream of having a selfie with. But if you do it properly, like I do, it’s also stressful because it’s a 24-hour job. If I am at the beach playing with my son in the sea, I have got one hand throwing a ball to him and the other is holding my phone, monitoring any moves. When I haven’t got my phone on me – if I am in the shower, or I am on a flight – I worry about missing a story.”

Insight
On the move

Jude Bellingham and Harry Kane will be under the microscope after high-profile transfers in a market now shaken up by Saudi clubs

The list of clubs lining up for the 2023/24 Champions League contains plenty of familiar names, with holders Manchester City taking their place alongside fellow perennials such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern München, Benfica and Paris Saint-Germain. As for the players who will be wearing those famous shirts… well, that’s a different story.

Come rain or shine, economic downturn or global pandemic, the summer transfer market always delivers intrigue aplenty. Take 14-time European champions Madrid, for example, who will be starting a new campaign and perhaps a new age altogether. For the first time since 2008/09, the Spanish giants will supply a squad list missing the name Karim Benzema, the French forward having racked up 354 goals for the club before joining Saudi Arabian side Al-Ittihad in June.

Absent too will be Marco Asensio, one of several new faces in the Paris roster. Not that it has all been one-way traffic, of course, and one of the most tantalising questions this season will be how Jude Bellingham fits in at the Bernabéu. The 20-year-old England international admitted his “heart was close to stopping” when he heard Madrid wanted to snap him up from Dortmund, and he will wear the No5 shirt in homage to club great Zinédine Zidane. Can he make anything like the same impact?

Bayern signing Harry Kane

Another new arrival under the spotlight will be Harry Kane. The England captain recently joined Bayern in one of the longest-running transfer sagas of the summer, having struck 280 goals for Tottenham Hotspur before the move. The German champions, who have also recruited Napoli centre-back Minjae Kim, will be hoping Kane can prove the missing link up front.

Arsenal are one team giving the Champions League a different look this term, the Gunners returning for the first time since 2016/17. They too have dug deep to snare an England regular, bringing Declan Rice on board to seize midfield control. Fans will also keep a close eye on Kai Havertz, a Champions League winner with Chelsea in 2020/21, though fellow new-boy, former Ajax defender Jurriën Timber, has already sadly picked up a serious injury.

Everywhere you look, fascinating moves have heightened expectations, such as Sandro Tonali becoming the most expensive Italian player of all time following his switch from AC Milan to Newcastle. However, there is no denying the story of the summer, and that has been the newfound financial power wielded by the Saudi Pro League. The Arab nation’s Public Investment Fund has invested huge sums to attract some of football’s banner names, and after Cristiano Ronaldo blazed the trail in January, many more have followed – Benzema being joined by fellow Champions League victors including Neymar, Riyad Mahrez, Sadio Mané, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino and N’Golo Kanté.

Still, not everyone has succumbed to the Saudi lure, with Lionel Messi notably preferring to join David Beckham’s Inter Miami. Crucially, though, he too has left the European stage, having made his Champions League debut in the 2004/05 season. Truly, his departure spells the end of an era – and the dawn of a new one, as Europe’s heavyweight sides set off down the road to Wembley with shuffled packs all round.

Fans logging on or opening a newspaper every morning to check their club’s transfer activity is a ritual across the world. Club games are over by early June so those summer weeks are a key time to swoon over (or groan about) rumoured new recruits. Aside from actually watching matches, it’s some of the most fun you can have supporting a professional team – and it’s as addictive as catnip. 

Italy is particularly passionate about the calcio mercato, and several transfer gurus from the peninsula have made a pan-European impact in recent years. But how do they survive and thrive in this high-pressure arena? Nicolò Schira is a journalist with more than a decade’s experience in the field. “We work very hard to create and develop relationships over a period of years,” he says. “You create a network of contacts so that you can speak to people that matter: a sporting director, a coach, a player, an agent, an intermediary or club president. Some of those people have no intention of revealing secrets, but others want to let you know they are involved in something major, and that’s how some scoops escape.

Pulisic joins AC Milan

“It allows fans to dream,” he adds. “If the season is going badly and all hope is lost, you suddenly hear your team is linked with a new high-profile manager or player, and the enthusiasm bubbles back up. The transfer market is a playground of dreams. People come up to you on the train, in bars – even waiters at restaurants – and ask you who their team is going to sign. I don’t begrudge it because those people are the reason our jobs exist.”

There is a lot more competition among the specialists these days, and the holy grail is announcing a blockbuster signing before any of your rivals. Is that exciting or stressful? For Gianluca Di Marzio, legendary transfer expert at Sky Sport Ita

lia, “It’s both, because I have very close relationships with the real protagonists of football. I talk to huge personalities who most people would dream of having a selfie with. But if you do it properly, like I do, it’s also stressful because it’s a 24-hour job. If I am at the beach playing with my son in the sea, I have got one hand throwing a ball to him and the other is holding my phone, monitoring any moves. When I haven’t got my phone on me – if I am in the shower, or I am on a flight – I worry about missing a story.”

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

The difference between those at the top and the chancers is seeking verification, firstly because it’s responsible journalism and secondly because it’s the way to build up a following. “I make sure what I am writing is true,” says Di Marzio. “I don’t decide if a transfer eventually goes through or not, but I can verify everything I report, like preliminary or advanced discussions. I don’t want to mislead my followers. I only talk about negotiations or deals in progress if they really are in motion.”

Both Schira and Di Marzio acknowledge that social media has widened their industry, to the point of being a tool. “I receive lots of direct messages on my various social media accounts,” Di Marzio explains. “It’s people telling me things they have heard, or if they have seen a famous football face on a plane to a certain city. I have all kinds of different sources and they all know how to contact me.”

The joy of being first, meanwhile, never goes away. “It’s always there!” adds a smiling Di Marzio. “Otherwise, I would have changed jobs. Over the years, I have had a lot of offers to be an agent, head of communications, scout, sporting director – but I have always turned them down. I am a reference point for those who follow me, and I love the adrenaline of being first to a story.” Of course, things don’t always go your way: “I also get very angry when I am not first or if I get something wrong.”  

Just as players have got favourite goals or matches, these reporters are proud of certain revelations. Di Marzio recounts a tale. “During Pep Guardiola’s year-long sabbatical, everyone wondered where he would manage next. Around Christmas 2012 a friend called and said, ‘I have got a Christmas gift for you: Guardiola is talking to Bayern in New York about next season.’ I wrote the story, even though the Germans were flying towards an eventual treble under boss Jupp Heynckes. 

“Everyone questioned how an Italian journalist knew about the affairs of a German club and Spanish manager; I didn’t have a huge international profile. Bild and Marca made fun of me, Bayern released a statement calling it nonsense. I was a bit worried. Then, in early January, Bayern publicly confirmed Pep was coming. It was a great moment – and, I believe, the birth of the concept of an international transfer expert.” 

Insight
On the move

Jude Bellingham and Harry Kane will be under the microscope after high-profile transfers in a market now shaken up by Saudi clubs

The list of clubs lining up for the 2023/24 Champions League contains plenty of familiar names, with holders Manchester City taking their place alongside fellow perennials such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern München, Benfica and Paris Saint-Germain. As for the players who will be wearing those famous shirts… well, that’s a different story.

Come rain or shine, economic downturn or global pandemic, the summer transfer market always delivers intrigue aplenty. Take 14-time European champions Madrid, for example, who will be starting a new campaign and perhaps a new age altogether. For the first time since 2008/09, the Spanish giants will supply a squad list missing the name Karim Benzema, the French forward having racked up 354 goals for the club before joining Saudi Arabian side Al-Ittihad in June.

Absent too will be Marco Asensio, one of several new faces in the Paris roster. Not that it has all been one-way traffic, of course, and one of the most tantalising questions this season will be how Jude Bellingham fits in at the Bernabéu. The 20-year-old England international admitted his “heart was close to stopping” when he heard Madrid wanted to snap him up from Dortmund, and he will wear the No5 shirt in homage to club great Zinédine Zidane. Can he make anything like the same impact?

Bayern signing Harry Kane

Another new arrival under the spotlight will be Harry Kane. The England captain recently joined Bayern in one of the longest-running transfer sagas of the summer, having struck 280 goals for Tottenham Hotspur before the move. The German champions, who have also recruited Napoli centre-back Minjae Kim, will be hoping Kane can prove the missing link up front.

Arsenal are one team giving the Champions League a different look this term, the Gunners returning for the first time since 2016/17. They too have dug deep to snare an England regular, bringing Declan Rice on board to seize midfield control. Fans will also keep a close eye on Kai Havertz, a Champions League winner with Chelsea in 2020/21, though fellow new-boy, former Ajax defender Jurriën Timber, has already sadly picked up a serious injury.

Everywhere you look, fascinating moves have heightened expectations, such as Sandro Tonali becoming the most expensive Italian player of all time following his switch from AC Milan to Newcastle. However, there is no denying the story of the summer, and that has been the newfound financial power wielded by the Saudi Pro League. The Arab nation’s Public Investment Fund has invested huge sums to attract some of football’s banner names, and after Cristiano Ronaldo blazed the trail in January, many more have followed – Benzema being joined by fellow Champions League victors including Neymar, Riyad Mahrez, Sadio Mané, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino and N’Golo Kanté.

Still, not everyone has succumbed to the Saudi lure, with Lionel Messi notably preferring to join David Beckham’s Inter Miami. Crucially, though, he too has left the European stage, having made his Champions League debut in the 2004/05 season. Truly, his departure spells the end of an era – and the dawn of a new one, as Europe’s heavyweight sides set off down the road to Wembley with shuffled packs all round.

Fans logging on or opening a newspaper every morning to check their club’s transfer activity is a ritual across the world. Club games are over by early June so those summer weeks are a key time to swoon over (or groan about) rumoured new recruits. Aside from actually watching matches, it’s some of the most fun you can have supporting a professional team – and it’s as addictive as catnip. 

Italy is particularly passionate about the calcio mercato, and several transfer gurus from the peninsula have made a pan-European impact in recent years. But how do they survive and thrive in this high-pressure arena? Nicolò Schira is a journalist with more than a decade’s experience in the field. “We work very hard to create and develop relationships over a period of years,” he says. “You create a network of contacts so that you can speak to people that matter: a sporting director, a coach, a player, an agent, an intermediary or club president. Some of those people have no intention of revealing secrets, but others want to let you know they are involved in something major, and that’s how some scoops escape.

Pulisic joins AC Milan

“It allows fans to dream,” he adds. “If the season is going badly and all hope is lost, you suddenly hear your team is linked with a new high-profile manager or player, and the enthusiasm bubbles back up. The transfer market is a playground of dreams. People come up to you on the train, in bars – even waiters at restaurants – and ask you who their team is going to sign. I don’t begrudge it because those people are the reason our jobs exist.”

There is a lot more competition among the specialists these days, and the holy grail is announcing a blockbuster signing before any of your rivals. Is that exciting or stressful? For Gianluca Di Marzio, legendary transfer expert at Sky Sport Ita

lia, “It’s both, because I have very close relationships with the real protagonists of football. I talk to huge personalities who most people would dream of having a selfie with. But if you do it properly, like I do, it’s also stressful because it’s a 24-hour job. If I am at the beach playing with my son in the sea, I have got one hand throwing a ball to him and the other is holding my phone, monitoring any moves. When I haven’t got my phone on me – if I am in the shower, or I am on a flight – I worry about missing a story.”

Insight
Transfer talk

Jude Bellingham and Harry Kane will be under the microscope after high-profile transfers in a market now shaken up by Saudi clubs

The list of clubs lining up for the 2023/24 Champions League contains plenty of familiar names, with holders Manchester City taking their place alongside fellow perennials such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern München, Benfica and Paris Saint-Germain. As for the players who will be wearing those famous shirts… well, that’s a different story.

Come rain or shine, economic downturn or global pandemic, the summer transfer market always delivers intrigue aplenty. Take 14-time European champions Madrid, for example, who will be starting a new campaign and perhaps a new age altogether. For the first time since 2008/09, the Spanish giants will supply a squad list missing the name Karim Benzema, the French forward having racked up 354 goals for the club before joining Saudi Arabian side Al-Ittihad in June.

Absent too will be Marco Asensio, one of several new faces in the Paris roster. Not that it has all been one-way traffic, of course, and one of the most tantalising questions this season will be how Jude Bellingham fits in at the Bernabéu. The 20-year-old England international admitted his “heart was close to stopping” when he heard Madrid wanted to snap him up from Dortmund, and he will wear the No5 shirt in homage to club great Zinédine Zidane. Can he make anything like the same impact?

Bayern signing Harry Kane

Another new arrival under the spotlight will be Harry Kane. The England captain recently joined Bayern in one of the longest-running transfer sagas of the summer, having struck 280 goals for Tottenham Hotspur before the move. The German champions, who have also recruited Napoli centre-back Minjae Kim, will be hoping Kane can prove the missing link up front.

Arsenal are one team giving the Champions League a different look this term, the Gunners returning for the first time since 2016/17. They too have dug deep to snare an England regular, bringing Declan Rice on board to seize midfield control. Fans will also keep a close eye on Kai Havertz, a Champions League winner with Chelsea in 2020/21, though fellow new-boy, former Ajax defender Jurriën Timber, has already sadly picked up a serious injury.

Everywhere you look, fascinating moves have heightened expectations, such as Sandro Tonali becoming the most expensive Italian player of all time following his switch from AC Milan to Newcastle. However, there is no denying the story of the summer, and that has been the newfound financial power wielded by the Saudi Pro League. The Arab nation’s Public Investment Fund has invested huge sums to attract some of football’s banner names, and after Cristiano Ronaldo blazed the trail in January, many more have followed – Benzema being joined by fellow Champions League victors including Neymar, Riyad Mahrez, Sadio Mané, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino and N’Golo Kanté.

Still, not everyone has succumbed to the Saudi lure, with Lionel Messi notably preferring to join David Beckham’s Inter Miami. Crucially, though, he too has left the European stage, having made his Champions League debut in the 2004/05 season. Truly, his departure spells the end of an era – and the dawn of a new one, as Europe’s heavyweight sides set off down the road to Wembley with shuffled packs all round.

Insight

Transfer talk

It’s already been a summer of frenetic comings and goings, with plenty more to come. We speak to two Italian journalists whose finger is always on the transfer pulse

WORDS Sheridan Bird

Fans logging on or opening a newspaper every morning to check their club’s transfer activity is a ritual across the world. Club games are over by early June so those summer weeks are a key time to swoon over (or groan about) rumoured new recruits. Aside from actually watching matches, it’s some of the most fun you can have supporting a professional team – and it’s as addictive as catnip. 

Italy is particularly passionate about the calcio mercato, and several transfer gurus from the peninsula have made a pan-European impact in recent years. But how do they survive and thrive in this high-pressure arena? Nicolò Schira is a journalist with more than a decade’s experience in the field. “We work very hard to create and develop relationships over a period of years,” he says. “You create a network of contacts so that you can speak to people that matter: a sporting director, a coach, a player, an agent, an intermediary or club president. Some of those people have no intention of revealing secrets, but others want to let you know they are involved in something major, and that’s how some scoops escape.

Pulisic joins AC Milan

“It allows fans to dream,” he adds. “If the season is going badly and all hope is lost, you suddenly hear your team is linked with a new high-profile manager or player, and the enthusiasm bubbles back up. The transfer market is a playground of dreams. People come up to you on the train, in bars – even waiters at restaurants – and ask you who their team is going to sign. I don’t begrudge it because those people are the reason our jobs exist.”

There is a lot more competition among the specialists these days, and the holy grail is announcing a blockbuster signing before any of your rivals. Is that exciting or stressful? For Gianluca Di Marzio, legendary transfer expert at Sky Sport Ita

lia, “It’s both, because I have very close relationships with the real protagonists of football. I talk to huge personalities who most people would dream of having a selfie with. But if you do it properly, like I do, it’s also stressful because it’s a 24-hour job. If I am at the beach playing with my son in the sea, I have got one hand throwing a ball to him and the other is holding my phone, monitoring any moves. When I haven’t got my phone on me – if I am in the shower, or I am on a flight – I worry about missing a story.”

Insight
Penalty Pedigree

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Fans logging on or opening a newspaper every morning to check their club’s transfer activity is a ritual across the world. Club games are over by early June so those summer weeks are a key time to swoon over (or groan about) rumoured new recruits. Aside from actually watching matches, it’s some of the most fun you can have supporting a professional team – and it’s as addictive as catnip. 

Italy is particularly passionate about the calcio mercato, and several transfer gurus from the peninsula have made a pan-European impact in recent years. But how do they survive and thrive in this high-pressure arena? Nicolò Schira is a journalist with more than a decade’s experience in the field. “We work very hard to create and develop relationships over a period of years,” he says. “You create a network of contacts so that you can speak to people that matter: a sporting director, a coach, a player, an agent, an intermediary or club president. Some of those people have no intention of revealing secrets, but others want to let you know they are involved in something major, and that’s how some scoops escape.

Pulisic joins AC Milan

“It allows fans to dream,” he adds. “If the season is going badly and all hope is lost, you suddenly hear your team is linked with a new high-profile manager or player, and the enthusiasm bubbles back up. The transfer market is a playground of dreams. People come up to you on the train, in bars – even waiters at restaurants – and ask you who their team is going to sign. I don’t begrudge it because those people are the reason our jobs exist.”

There is a lot more competition among the specialists these days, and the holy grail is announcing a blockbuster signing before any of your rivals. Is that exciting or stressful? For Gianluca Di Marzio, legendary transfer expert at Sky Sport Ita

lia, “It’s both, because I have very close relationships with the real protagonists of football. I talk to huge personalities who most people would dream of having a selfie with. But if you do it properly, like I do, it’s also stressful because it’s a 24-hour job. If I am at the beach playing with my son in the sea, I have got one hand throwing a ball to him and the other is holding my phone, monitoring any moves. When I haven’t got my phone on me – if I am in the shower, or I am on a flight – I worry about missing a story.”

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

The difference between those at the top and the chancers is seeking verification, firstly because it’s responsible journalism and secondly because it’s the way to build up a following. “I make sure what I am writing is true,” says Di Marzio. “I don’t decide if a transfer eventually goes through or not, but I can verify everything I report, like preliminary or advanced discussions. I don’t want to mislead my followers. I only talk about negotiations or deals in progress if they really are in motion.”

Both Schira and Di Marzio acknowledge that social media has widened their industry, to the point of being a tool. “I receive lots of direct messages on my various social media accounts,” Di Marzio explains. “It’s people telling me things they have heard, or if they have seen a famous football face on a plane to a certain city. I have all kinds of different sources and they all know how to contact me.”

The joy of being first, meanwhile, never goes away. “It’s always there!” adds a smiling Di Marzio. “Otherwise, I would have changed jobs. Over the years, I have had a lot of offers to be an agent, head of communications, scout, sporting director – but I have always turned them down. I am a reference point for those who follow me, and I love the adrenaline of being first to a story.” Of course, things don’t always go your way: “I also get very angry when I am not first or if I get something wrong.”  

Just as players have got favourite goals or matches, these reporters are proud of certain revelations. Di Marzio recounts a tale. “During Pep Guardiola’s year-long sabbatical, everyone wondered where he would manage next. Around Christmas 2012 a friend called and said, ‘I have got a Christmas gift for you: Guardiola is talking to Bayern in New York about next season.’ I wrote the story, even though the Germans were flying towards an eventual treble under boss Jupp Heynckes. 

“Everyone questioned how an Italian journalist knew about the affairs of a German club and Spanish manager; I didn’t have a huge international profile. Bild and Marca made fun of me, Bayern released a statement calling it nonsense. I was a bit worried. Then, in early January, Bayern publicly confirmed Pep was coming. It was a great moment – and, I believe, the birth of the concept of an international transfer expert.” 

Insight
On the move

Jude Bellingham and Harry Kane will be under the microscope after high-profile transfers in a market now shaken up by Saudi clubs

The list of clubs lining up for the 2023/24 Champions League contains plenty of familiar names, with holders Manchester City taking their place alongside fellow perennials such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern München, Benfica and Paris Saint-Germain. As for the players who will be wearing those famous shirts… well, that’s a different story.

Come rain or shine, economic downturn or global pandemic, the summer transfer market always delivers intrigue aplenty. Take 14-time European champions Madrid, for example, who will be starting a new campaign and perhaps a new age altogether. For the first time since 2008/09, the Spanish giants will supply a squad list missing the name Karim Benzema, the French forward having racked up 354 goals for the club before joining Saudi Arabian side Al-Ittihad in June.

Absent too will be Marco Asensio, one of several new faces in the Paris roster. Not that it has all been one-way traffic, of course, and one of the most tantalising questions this season will be how Jude Bellingham fits in at the Bernabéu. The 20-year-old England international admitted his “heart was close to stopping” when he heard Madrid wanted to snap him up from Dortmund, and he will wear the No5 shirt in homage to club great Zinédine Zidane. Can he make anything like the same impact?

Bayern signing Harry Kane

Another new arrival under the spotlight will be Harry Kane. The England captain recently joined Bayern in one of the longest-running transfer sagas of the summer, having struck 280 goals for Tottenham Hotspur before the move. The German champions, who have also recruited Napoli centre-back Minjae Kim, will be hoping Kane can prove the missing link up front.

Arsenal are one team giving the Champions League a different look this term, the Gunners returning for the first time since 2016/17. They too have dug deep to snare an England regular, bringing Declan Rice on board to seize midfield control. Fans will also keep a close eye on Kai Havertz, a Champions League winner with Chelsea in 2020/21, though fellow new-boy, former Ajax defender Jurriën Timber, has already sadly picked up a serious injury.

Everywhere you look, fascinating moves have heightened expectations, such as Sandro Tonali becoming the most expensive Italian player of all time following his switch from AC Milan to Newcastle. However, there is no denying the story of the summer, and that has been the newfound financial power wielded by the Saudi Pro League. The Arab nation’s Public Investment Fund has invested huge sums to attract some of football’s banner names, and after Cristiano Ronaldo blazed the trail in January, many more have followed – Benzema being joined by fellow Champions League victors including Neymar, Riyad Mahrez, Sadio Mané, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino and N’Golo Kanté.

Still, not everyone has succumbed to the Saudi lure, with Lionel Messi notably preferring to join David Beckham’s Inter Miami. Crucially, though, he too has left the European stage, having made his Champions League debut in the 2004/05 season. Truly, his departure spells the end of an era – and the dawn of a new one, as Europe’s heavyweight sides set off down the road to Wembley with shuffled packs all round.

Fans logging on or opening a newspaper every morning to check their club’s transfer activity is a ritual across the world. Club games are over by early June so those summer weeks are a key time to swoon over (or groan about) rumoured new recruits. Aside from actually watching matches, it’s some of the most fun you can have supporting a professional team – and it’s as addictive as catnip. 

Italy is particularly passionate about the calcio mercato, and several transfer gurus from the peninsula have made a pan-European impact in recent years. But how do they survive and thrive in this high-pressure arena? Nicolò Schira is a journalist with more than a decade’s experience in the field. “We work very hard to create and develop relationships over a period of years,” he says. “You create a network of contacts so that you can speak to people that matter: a sporting director, a coach, a player, an agent, an intermediary or club president. Some of those people have no intention of revealing secrets, but others want to let you know they are involved in something major, and that’s how some scoops escape.

Pulisic joins AC Milan

“It allows fans to dream,” he adds. “If the season is going badly and all hope is lost, you suddenly hear your team is linked with a new high-profile manager or player, and the enthusiasm bubbles back up. The transfer market is a playground of dreams. People come up to you on the train, in bars – even waiters at restaurants – and ask you who their team is going to sign. I don’t begrudge it because those people are the reason our jobs exist.”

There is a lot more competition among the specialists these days, and the holy grail is announcing a blockbuster signing before any of your rivals. Is that exciting or stressful? For Gianluca Di Marzio, legendary transfer expert at Sky Sport Ita

lia, “It’s both, because I have very close relationships with the real protagonists of football. I talk to huge personalities who most people would dream of having a selfie with. But if you do it properly, like I do, it’s also stressful because it’s a 24-hour job. If I am at the beach playing with my son in the sea, I have got one hand throwing a ball to him and the other is holding my phone, monitoring any moves. When I haven’t got my phone on me – if I am in the shower, or I am on a flight – I worry about missing a story.”

Insight
Penalty Pedigree

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