Guardian's Gareth Bale 'Twitter Exclusive' Shows Social Media As A Double-Edged Sword

Millions of football fans worldwide rely on Twitter for breaking transfer news, and UK newspaper The Guardian has clearly taken notice.

At around 3:30pm GMT on Thursday, the paper's sports editor, @ianprior, tweeted the following:

"Major - and boy do I mean it - football exclusive coming up on sometime around 5.30."

The next two hours proved to be such a hive of activity and speculation that the tag #GuardianExclusive became one of the most-used worldwide in just 120 short minutes.

Fans exchanged their own ideas - ranging from Manchester United selling Howard Webb (read it again) to Liverpool accepting a transfer request for Fernando Torres - as the minutes counted down.

Then came 5:30 and... well, what, exactly?

The major football exclusive turned out to be a report linking Inter with a £40 million move for Tottenham Hotspur starlet Gareth Bale. Of course such exclusives have their value - it would be a monumentally important transfer if it went through - and certainly there is no suggestion that the Guardian have made it up.

But fans were left wondering why, in the middle of the winter transfer window, Prior had raised such a fuss over a speculative deal six months away - particularly when sources at Spurs have previously indicated that they won't negotiate for a penny less than £50m.

As you can see from the image below, fanatics on Twitter didn't hold back in making their feelings known...

As #BaleFail and #GuardianFail continue to trend, Prior has noted with concern that there is now a campaign to unfollow him on Twitter. But, to his eternal credit, he at least retained a sense of humour about the situation...

It just goes to show that the fans giveth, and the fans taketh away...

... and on that note, if you wish to give @Goal_intl your Twitter following, we wouldn't say no.

Update 18:41 GMT: Inter have issued an on-the-record denial of the story to Bloomberg, while an unnamed source at Spurs has done the same to The Telegraph.