It's perhaps too early in the life-cycle to call it a "craze" but there is a quiet revolution happening in the transfer market. We've had speculation and misinformation for years but now there's a new wrinkle: The drip-feed of official communication about new signings.
Social media has been brought under the control of those truly "ITK" -- in the know -- and they intend to have some fun with it. It's time to take stock of what's going on and we find that transfer activity can be classified in five different levels.
Level 1: Old habits die hard
No matter how or where or by which social medium a new signing is announced, there are some mandatory boxes that must be ticked. First is a seemingly innocuous pose that has somehow escaped close scrutiny all these years: The subtly unnecessary holding by a player of his new club's new shirt, despite him actually wearing said shirt.
- Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) July 5, 2017
This old favourite, though, is no longer going about its business without the odd lampoon.
Elsewhere, in accordance with FIFA rules that transfers must be completed by a legally-binding thumbs-up from the player themselves, we are seeing more and more elaborate ways of getting deals done.
�� | Ready for another signing? Well, here you go... pic.twitter.com/IDsIPV7I1S
- Everton (@Everton) June 15, 2017
Clearly unsatisfied with their attempt to build up to Davy Klaassen's digit, Everton produced an "Extended Club Mix" for the unveiling of Sandro Ramirez, via a private jet, at the end of which their new Spanish striker obliged with the ultimate gesture of commitment: double thumbs.
�� | It's that time again... pic.twitter.com/DlrGSc2MJW
- Everton (@Everton) July 3, 2017
Level 2: Charming and humble
With big clubs still happy to roll out the old classics, lesser lights have the opportunity to be more inventive. Without a private jet to call upon, sixth-tier Oxford City kept their feet firmly on the ground by unveiling a new signing in what keen-eyed observers revealed to be a branch of McDonald's.
ICYMI | We are delighted to announce Matt Paterson has joined ahead of the 2017/18 season pic.twitter.com/SyUHAf5jiM
- Oxford City FC (@OxCityFC) June 2, 2017
This perhaps harked back to a more innocent age, when players put pen to paper in mutually-convenient motorway service stations. Inevitably, though, the charming affair descended into some tawdry, opportunistic corporate mini-banter.
Level 3: Broader appeal
(This may be the point where the football purists of a certain vintage start to feel a bit lost.)
Few people would have had Yeovil Town as the club to drag transfer unveilings kicking, screaming and Snapchatting into 2017. They employed "Snap Maps" to zero in on sheepish new signing Jake Gray.
- Yeovil Town FC (@YTFC) June 26, 2017
But, perhaps fearing they might have disenfranchised a whole generation of fans who think Snapchat is a premium-rate phone service, Yeovil then targeted the lucrative just-home-from-work market with this Countdown gimmick.
Meanwhile, Crystal Palace -- noting the impatience over their announcement of a new manager -- opted for a slow-burning, understated approach with distinctly "papal" overtones. Franciscus "Frank" De Boer was unveiled shortly thereafter.
- Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) June 26, 2017
Roma, though, are widely accepted to have hit it out of the park in this category. Former academy player Lorenzo Pellegrini's return to the club from Sassuolo was conveyed via the medium of FIFA 17.
This was a safe and effective strategy, bearing in mind that every footballer under the age of 36 now spends more time playing the virtual game than the real thing.
Level 4: Self-awareness
The sheer impatience and entitlement of the transfer window -- daily gossip columns are to blame for that -- can be neatly encapsulated by the evolution of the "ANNOUNCE" phenomenon. Having been bombarded with passive-aggressive requests to confirm the signing of anyone at all, clubs have exploited the only option available: Owning the joke for themselves.
Liverpool set the bar early this summer by somehow persuading £39m Mohamed Salah to engage in the least enjoyable activity in life -- searching for your own name on Twitter -- for the purpose of showing that globally-focused clubs also have a sense of humour.
- Liverpool FC (@LFC) June 22, 2017
Stoke's similar attempt to get in on the fun was briefly undermined by a Hull barber shop, who took it upon themselves to announce defender Josh Tymon's move...
When your club gets a Barbers to announce your new signings. pic.twitter.com/BHHz2B5HxK
- ByTheMin StokeCity (@ByTheMinStoke) July 4, 2017
....which in turn pressed Stoke's social media team into some emergency work of their own. Tymon hopefully has another 15 years or so to work on his thumbs-up.
That leads us, reluctantly but inevitably, to the indisputable peak/nadir (delete as appropriate, depending on your age) of this summer's transfer unveilings so far: Aston Villa's admirably over engineered announcement of John Terry.
- Aston Villa FC (@AVFCOfficial) July 3, 2017
Come for the slightly wooden dialogue, stay for the clever touch of Martin Laursen, Olof Mellberg and Paul McGrath leaving a WhatsApp conversation. Something for everyone.
Level 5: Fake news
Amid the fanfare, the impatience and the unrelenting light-heartedness that now pervades the transfer window, who can tell what's real anymore? The natural end-game for all of this was laid bare by Oldham Athletic defender Ryan McLaughlin, who invested a cool €25 into arranging his rather unexpected move to Barcelona.
- Ryan McLaughlin (@RyanMcL2) July 1, 2017
The 22-year-old showed impressive restraint in his tweet, only for his stadium-tour prank to fall foul of the old golden rule: You have to be wearing the shirt as well as holding one up. So close, yet so far.
Broadly speaking, these fleeting moments of close-season wit have gone down quite well with various fanbases, though there will always be a backlash from those who prefer how things were done in the old days...
And that's how far we've come. In a time when clubs are considered more distant than ever from their loyal following, these latest examples of innovative announcements are refreshing inclusive gestures. Just don't take them too seriously, eh?