The Phantom Menace Part II: Middlesbrough chase Serbian wonderkid Rajko Purovic

Hook. Line. And sinker.

With the world going bananas for up-to-the-second transfer gossip as the long summer days draw out, fans have become accustomed to reading a whole load of guff as hacks frantically scratch around every European gutter for the latest transfer EXCLUSIVE. Never mind the small details of having reliable facts to back up the outlandish headlines, as long as its fresh and sounds faintly plausible, the story is usually found as tomorrow’s splash across the red-tops and internet forums.

Brilliantly though, The Mirror have found themselves forced to eat humble pie after they were found to spread a completely baseless rumour concerning a non-existent striker and a potential move to Middlebrough.

As written by Oliver Pickup in the Mirror on June 10, 2009:

“Middlesbrough have been linked with a move for teenage Serbian striker Rajko Purovic. The 18-year-old’s representatives claim talks are to take place between his current club, FK Banat Zrenjanin and the Teessiders over a possible move. Boro have worked hard to build up their European scouting network in recent years and have fostered links in Serbia. They brought 20-year-old FK Kosice midfielder Nemanja Matic over to England on trial last season, and could do the same with the £2million-rated youngster.”

Despite the fact the no such player exists, the gutter online press thirsty for clicks jumped onto the story like a dog with a hard-on, and even managed to embellish the tale a little further.

Writing for on June 10, 2009, Eric Paylor regurgitated the same transfer lies, before adding a new twist with quotes from “Mirko Rajkovic, a Serbian who said he was speaking on behalf of Purovic’s agent Dejan Maric, said talks would take place this week.”

Said Rajkovic: “Rajko Purovic is an exciting young player. Banat think he has a bright future in football. Purovic’s agent informed me that many clubs in Europe are looking to sign Purovic, with interest in Spain and Netherlands. Purovic is a clinical goal scorer for Banat youth team. He is strong and powerful for a player of his age, which is why he is so popular at Banat. I think Purovic is the same as [Manchester United’s Zoran] Tosic and will be excellent if MFC sign him, which I believe is likely.”

Paylor also managed to find a picture of the so-called “Rajko Purovic,” which can be seen on the right hand side of this article. The only problem being that this is a picture of Milan Smiljanic – the Serbian midfielder currently playing for Espanyol in Spain. By contrast, the picture at the top of the article is also apparently “Rajko Purovic,” having been claimed by “euro_agent” on the particularly awful back on June 8, 2009. (Link here.)

Naming and shaming all those who fell for the hoax, we must also mention who managed to call Purovic a “teenage sensation.”

Interestingly, Rajko Purovic’s wikipedia page has also since been deleted. (See here.)

Incredibly this is not the first time that such a gag has been pulled off in 2009, with the fifth estate showing themselves to be foolish and gullible in falling for the same prank twice in the space of half a year. Back in January it was the turn of Masal Bugduv to become the non-existent Moldovan striker who became one of the world’s 50 hottest young footballing talents. On that occasion, The Times of London found themselves falling for the joke.

Looking to smooth over the situation, it was left to the Daily Mirror’s Darren Lewis to gently break the news to viewers on his daily transfer video blog that the story was a complete wind-up. However, the hack refused to admit that the tabloid swallowed a porky, rather slyly revealing how “we’ve be asked to settle a bizzarre debate about a player called Rajko Purovic” admitting that no such player exists.(Watch here, 4.40 minutes in.)

Nice side-step!