Over the last few days, a rumor has emerged from the mists: Real Salt Lake is one of the clubs interested in SV Wehen Wiesbaden forward Manuel Schäffler, a prolific striker who’s been playing in the 2. Bundesliga.
Schäffler, 31, scored 19 goals in 32 games in the fractured 2019-20 season for Wehen, whom he captained, but his club has been relegated to the 3. Bundesliga, and with that often comes with a siphoning of players on the squad, often for financial reasons.
With that on the table, I thought it would be helpful to dissect this rumor. It pretty quickly did the rounds, making it to the league site (which, as a reminder, is mostly editorially independent of the clubs, despite the single entity structure employed — it’s a bit weird, and they publish unsubstantiated rumors from other sources without any extra knowledge.)
To do so, I’ll take you through some of the questions I typically ask myself when considering a rumor.
What’s the source?
This is the first thing I consider, and it’s often the most important. There are many, many outlets who rely on rumors to bolster their content. This report came from Kicker, a German outlet that is quite prominent. They also publish a great number of rumors, and they publish them both with sources and without sources.
Who does the report cite?
In this case, the report cites no source. The most reliable transfer rumors cite somebody — sometimes even anonymously — which gives readers more reason to trust the report. Citing nobody is very common practice with web-sourced rumors.
What other reports exist?
If you can find other reports on the rumor that — importantly — do not cite the original report, that’s usually an indication that there is a bit more to the rumor. In this case, no rumors exist that do not directly cite the Kicker rumor. Yes, MLS reported it, but they only cite Kicker.
As a result, I don’t think we have to go too far to assess this rumor as false.
Is the player linked elsewhere?
It is often the case that a player being liked to multiple clubs is a bit of an indicator that there is something else going on. It often comes down to an agent going through backchannels to attempt to negotiate a more favorable deal for their client (and, in effect, themselves — it’s a weird, kinda broken system.)
In this case, Schäffler is linked with Hamburger SV, a club still in 2. Bundesliga. It may be the case that neither club is an accurate link, and the agent is attempting to negotiate a better deal for a player at a club that was just relegated, or it may be that another, unnamed club is interested, and the agent is attempting to spur them into the action.
Of course, there’s no guarantee this is an agent plant, but all signs, for me, point to it. Consider initial rumors when Real Salt Lake signed Jefferson Savarino: He was linked with other clubs, but we were the only one directly linked by sourced reports. The other clubs were largely agent plants to attempt to change the negotiation proceedings at RSL.
All these things combine for me into a bit of a smell test. There are other considerations, too, but if the report doesn’t pass an initial pass, I don’t usually go hunting deeply. In this case, I don’t see anything else even after hunting, and that’s usually not a good sign.
At any rate, there’s always the chance this rumor is actually true — it could be an agent attempting to get Real Salt Lake to negotiate differently with a transfer fee or contract — but right now, we don’t have any reason to convince us that it is. If even any of the questions above came with a more enlightening answer, we could think more deeply about it, but for now, I don’t think there’s any reason to do a deep dive.
As always, when transfer windows are open, it’s important to exercise skepticism, because everybody is trying to get your attention, and often, it’s not because they have anything meaningful or accurate to contribute to the conversation.