During the January transfer window, we scoured every Monday – Saturday edition of The Sun and The Daily Mail in order to compare their approach to transfer rumours. We chose these newspapers as they are the two most circulated dailies in the UK, thanks in no small part to their tendency to publish gossip, but how much can we read into the back pages?
We would only mark down a rumour if there had been no quoted confirmation by either of the clubs involved. We will specify throughout the article where we have included all rumours (that includes duplicate mentions of the same rumour), or unique rumours (no duplicates). We focused solely on Premier League clubs, whether a player was rumoured to leave or join. Talk of summer transfers were ignored – we were only interested in players speculated to move in January
Here are our findings:
- During the whole of January, The Daily Mail printed 30 more rumours (261 – 231) than The Sun did, although this includes duplicate mentions (e.g. The Daily Mail linked Morgan Schneiderlin with Everton in four separate editions before the deal took place, so we have included each occasion in this statistic).
- Despite printing fewer rumours overall, The Sun printed more unique rumours (191 – 187). This may include the same player multiple times, but each occasion would be a link with a different club.
- Both newspapers linked 111 different players with various clubs during the January transfer window.
So printing rumours is all well and good, and helps to sell newspapers, but how many proved to be correct?
- The Daily Mail reported 28 deals before they took place (and/or before clubs had commented on them), compared to 23 for The Sun. If we put this against the unique number of unique rumours printed, this gives The Daily Mail a rounded success rate of 15%, compared to 12% for that of The Sun.
- It’s important to note that, just because a deal did not go through, it does not mean it wasn’t on the cards – so in this sense we’re not stating that either newspaper are printing untruths (in this instance!).
We now turn our attention to which of the two outlets reported certain deals the earliest. In terms of transfers that went through, there were 16 in total that both newspapers reported in common, before the event. Let’s see who got in there first:
- The Daily Mail just shade it, with seven successful deals being reported earlier than The Sun. On the other four occasions, both newspapers reported a move on the same day.
- Notably, The Sun linked Dimitri Payet with the Marseille as early as January 3rd.
Are there certain days where there were likely to be more rumours reported? Let’s take a look:
- Note that this particular analysis includes a player being linked with a club on more than one occasion, so it is, in effect, the number of mentions reported.
- The Daily Mail were most active in terms of linking a player with a club on a Friday, with an average of 14.8 potential deals reported, whereas The Sun reported the most on a Tuesday, with an average of 11.8 (it should be noted that deadline day itself was a Tuesday, so both newspapers were naturally very active on the transfer front then).
- The least amount of rumoured deals were printed on a Saturday, where there was a tendency for match preview content and other sports to take up the focus of the back pages.
- Naturally, the most rumoured deals were reported on Tuesday January 31st – 26 in The Daily Mail and 20 in The Sun.
- Not a single rumour reported in any Saturday edition of both newspapers came to be, although as less rumours were reported on this day overall, this result isn’t altogether surprising.
- Despite The Daily Mail overloading their Friday columns with transfer gossip, only five deals came to fruition. On the flip side, they had more success on a Wednesday (seven confirmed deals), despite reporting an average of just eight rumours in the midway point of the week.
Next we look at what type of player is most commonly discussed in the rumour pages:
- This particular analysis includes all rumours.
- The largest proportion of rumours, in both The Daily Mail and The Sun, were for midfield players, with 34.9% and 40.3% respectively.
- The Daily Mail were more interested in defenders (30.1%), compared to The Sun (22.1%)
- Overall, goalkeepers accounted for less than 3% of all rumours.
Which leagues were most discussed in the rumour pages?
- The most common rumour was a Premier League player being linked with a team from the same league (44.1% for The Daily Mail and 38.1% for The Sun).
- In both instances, the Championship was the second most likely league to be part of a rumour with a Premier League club.
- The ever-growing Chinese Super League was the fourth most talked about league in The Daily Mail, and fifth in The Sun.
- In terms of nationality, aside from English players, French footballers were the most common to show up in both newspapers.
- Chelsea players received 42 mentions (including duplicates) in The Daily Mail, more than any other club, whereas Middlesbrough players appeared the most times in The Sun - 29 times.
- Robbie Brady was the most discussed player in the transfer window, appearing ten times in The Daily Mail and nine times in The Sun.
- In terms of unique players, the average ages of players speculated about in each newspaper is very similar – 25.9 in The Daily Mail and 25.8 in The Sun.
- The most outlandish/unlikely rumour? How about Lionel Messi to Manchester City, courtesy of The Sun.
In summary, there isn’t a great deal of difference between the approaches both newspapers made to the January window – The Daily Mail publish slightly more rumours, whilst The Sun speculate on a wider range. It isn’t surprising to see so many players mentioned, as both are well known for publishing hearsay and adopting sensationalist headlines. With a rumour success rate of 15% (The Daily Mail) and 12% (The Sun), readers of these newspaper would do well not to get too excited when seeing big-names linked to their beloved clubs.