Of all the records you can break, the most
liked picture on Instagram is probably one
of the hardest.
With billions of users around the world, the
competition for attention and likes is fierce.
So – can you guess what’s the most liked
post ever by a sports team?
It’s not France winning the World Cup.
It’s not the Lakers winning the NBA.
…and it’s also not Red Bull winning Formula
The most liked sports team post ever on Instagram
is Cristiano Ronaldo returning to Manchester
A post about a football transfer.
And this is not a one time thing.
The second most liked post by a sports team
is Messi joining PSG!
The players’ personal posts about their
new clubs get even more likes.
Football fans are crazy about transfer news
Players moving clubs create even more hype
than players winning championships.
But it wasn’t always like that.
Transfer news is a relatively new category
of sports journalism.
So how can we find out more about it?
When you google “transfer journalist”,
it suggests this guy.
So…let’s just ask him?!
“Hi Guys, this is Fabrizio Romano, welcome
to Athletic Interest and here we go!”
For this Athletic Interest case study, we
invited the man himself Fabrizio Romano to
help us explain how football and the media
have changed and how that created a whole
new category of sports coverage.
Fabrizio was just 18 when he broke his first
bit of transfer news.
After spending six months writing for a small
website in his native Italy, an agent called
him from Barcelona with some inside information.
The agent asked him to write a story about
two young players that he was trying to sign.
One of them was Mauro Icardi.
Fabrizio still doesn’t know how the agent
got his number.
But he agreed and a couple of weeks later
he was the first to announce that Icardi would
join Sampdoria .
That’s how he got started and fell in love
with being a transfer journalist.
For him, the transfer market is a jungle,
where you expect the unexpected every day.
It’s part of life.
And I think it’s also why transfer market
Messi was in Barcelona to sign his new contract
and 12 hours later he was talking to PSG.
People love it because it’s crazy.”
For Fabrizio, transfer journalism is like
playing football and breaking the biggest
news is like scoring a goal.6
More than ten years have gone by since he
broke the Icardi story and Fabrizio has become
the go-to guy for all important transfer news.
If you want to know what’s going on in the
market, simply check his Twitter feed, where
he is providing updates to his nearly 6 million
Yes, you heard that right.
He has more followers than ESPN Football.
And this is a full-grown media company, not
one single journalist.
The biggest transfers are no longer announced
first by TV stations or newspapers, but by
How is it possible that one single journalist
became THE go to person for transfer news,
attracting more readers on Twitter than traditional
newspapers and more viewers on Twitch than
There are two developments that we need to
1) How the media has changed.
2) How football has changed.
“But I think now – talking about Transfer
market – the world is changing and so I think
sometimes this kind of Social Media is helping
to be faster.
People are not waiting for an Update maybe
for a TV show at night or maybe the paper
on the next morning to have the update.
They want the Update immediately.
(…) I think this is the process:
– To be fast
– To show your face
– And to be reliable
I think this is the real revolution.”
Thanks to Facebook, Twitter and so on, the
media industry has become faster, clickier,
and more personal than ever.
Social media, especially Twitter, has given
journalists the chance to build a public profile
that would have been impossible to build 20
Now they can interact with readers, share
unfiltered thoughts, and amass a following
that can travel with them from one job to
Thanks to the ability to publish news online
at any time of day — the old practice of
submitting a story for the morning’s newspaper
When news breaks, journalists are expected
to cover it.
The downside is that moving fast means people
are more likely to make mistakes.
The race to be first is real, and moving fast
doesn’t always correlate with getting things
And that’s where Fabrizio is different.
His approach is simple: be accurate rather
than be first to the news.
Fabrizio Romano basically combined the reliability
of traditional journalism with the agilityagility
of blogs and social media.
Overall, social media has done a quick job
of changing the centuries-old profession of
But it is not only the media that has changed.
“I think in the last six, seven years transfers
were completely changing.
Now people are waiting for transfer news more
than team news (to know what is the lineup
of their teams).
They prefer to know more about a signing than
watching the actual football game.(…)”
Since the Bosman ruling in 1995, the transfermarket
in football exploded.
In 96 the most expensive player ever was Ronaldo,
who moved to Barcelona for converted 15 million
Five years later Zinedine Zidane moved to
Real for almost 80 million euros.
And we all know what happened in 2017.
As the transfer sums grew, the public interest
and coverage of these transfers did as well.
Fans created countless blogs, subreddits and
boards to discuss the latest rumours around
A prime example for this is transfermarkt.com,
which was founded in 2000 and quickly became
the largest database for transfer information
and player values.
Today it even functions as a reference for
agents and club executives.
In 2008, the website was acquired by German
media tycoon Axel Springer, the largest publishing
company in Europe.
One reason for the rise of transfer news – and
the interest by major media companies – is
that most of it is happening in the off season,
while not much else is happening in football.
Experts found that 95% of fans want to interact
with their favorite leagues and teams throughout
Transfer reporting fills that gap with timely
tweets, player interviews, and other content.
It also means that clubs focus more on presenting
transfers than ever before.
It is no longer enough to just do a simple
The clubs now hire agencies to prepare full
blown media campaigns.
Which in turn helps out journalistsjournalists
like Fabrizio Romano.
“So maybe ten years ago, twenty years ago,
thirty years ago – when you had a negotiation
in the transfer world – it was “club by
club” or “club by agents” so there were
maybe two or three people involved in a negotiation.
Club director, the player, his agent – that’s
Now there are many people involved in a negotiation.
Because when you talk about agency they have
like the main agent and then there are people
working for him and then people are working
on Social Media for the agency.
Then there are people involved in the deal
So you have like 20 people knowing about the
People in the club, people close to the player,
people close to the agent.
It’s a crazy process – but I love it.”
A changing media and a changing sports landscape.
These two developments created a niche for
a completely new category of sports coverage
– and Fabrizio Romano pioneered that category.
We live in the first era of history in which
people are THIS fascinated with money, how
it moves and what it accomplishes.
It’s almost as if the new star of sport, next
to the likes of Federer and Messi, is this
money and how it flows.
There is a whole new world to cover off the
The stories behind the athletes and teams.
The stories of how sports function as a business
and reflect our culture.
The stories of Athletic Interest.