So What’s involved in a football transfer you might be asking or wondering? A complex procedure that sees millions, if not billions, of Pounds exchanging hands. With the England transfer window coming to a close in less than a week I have decided to guide you through what is involved in a football transfer…
This is a bit of a grey area and don’t ask Liverpool to get it right. Buying clubs are officially obligated to get approval from the potential selling club to approach a player to discuss a transfer. The reality is this very rarely happens with agents and players meeting potential buyers all around the world. If a selling club feels that the player was “tapped up” in that the buying club went behind the selling clubs back to convince the player to join them before getting approval, the buying club can be reported. This happened this transfer window with Liverpool’s approach for Fekir.
Players are only allowed to move during a transfer window which for most European leagues summer transfer windows open from 1st of July to 31st of August. Players can be bought and sold outside this window, but the paperwork will only go through during the transfer window to make it official. Although this rule is not mandatory for free agent.
Once a player has indicated that they are willing to join the buyers club official negotiations take place.
In order for a transfer to go through there are several negotiations that take place. Firstly the clubs will agree a fee and then the player will agree terms with the buying club.
In modern football there are two fees that are involved in a transfer fee, the amount paid to the club and the amount paid to a players agent. A player very rarely gets any of the money in a transfer fee unless a clause is inserted in the deal. A transfer fee is determined by how much a club values a player. This is why transfer fees can seem ridiculous at times as each player is then compared to one another as a measure of the market. For example, Watford could say they value Richarlison as a young talent that could become a world star and value him as quarter of Neymar. So if Neymar’s fee was £200m, Watford would want £50m. This isn’t a science it is opinion based on certain criteria such as age, nationality, squad role and marketability.
This is why transfer fees will likely only go up as they are always being compared to the last. Transfer fees are also not always paid in full at the time but over a set period defined within the selling contract. So a club could be paying off a players transfer fee over several years sometimes.
Agent fees have become a big deal in the last few years to the point that FIFA is now trying to regulate how much an agent can earn. Agents have become the gatekeepers to players and in order for a club to buy a player they will have to meet the agents terms in order to proceed with player negotiations. The new common trend is “dual representation”. This is a practice by which an agent can legally act on behalf of both the player and the club during a transaction, thereby doubling the money they can earn.
When discussing a transfer of a player there are several clauses that could be placed in a contract by the player or the selling club. Here is the four most common clauses selling clubs put in place:
1) First option
If a the player in questioned is sold in the future to another club, the club he has just transferred to has to inform the players former club and give them the first right to buy him back.
2) Buy back
Similar to the above First Option (sometimes they are combined) but here the players former club specifies an amount to buy the player back at. This happened when Morata moved to Juventus from Real Madrid, Real Madrid sold him for £18m to Juventus but had a buy back clause of £27.00m in place which they of course activated two years after selling him.
3) Release and buy-out clauses
Not too dissembler from each other, a release clause is a clause which automatically requires a club (subject to qualifying conditions) to accept a offer of a pre-determined amount set out in the by the players contract.
A buy-out clause, which is mandatory in Spain, is the valuation that a club has of a player. If an offer equal to the buyout clause is met, the selling club must accept the offer. It’s worth noting that in Spain a buy-out clause must be paid by the player and not the club. Which is why this rarely happens and is such a controversial clause.
4) Sell on fee
Quite self explanatory, this is a clause where the selling club can place a sell on fee. This is very common with young players that clubs are willing to let go but would like to see some return if a player goes on to become someone of value. Fees can range from deal to deal but are normally 10-25% of the transfer fee.
Do they ever end? Lots of people get very upset at how much some of the top football players earn such as Messi, Neymar and Ronaldo, but sometimes you need to take a set back and remember that these players constitute less than 1% of players that play football. These players bring entertainment to millions of fans on a weekly basis unlike a film star who does one or two movies a year and provides a couple hours worth of entertainment at most. So why shouldn’t the best players be paid top Dollar?
The players agent will sit down with the buying club and present his clients demands and the buying club will present their offer. This can include wage, signing fee, loyalty bonus, what sort of role the player will play, appearance fees and bonuses, goal bonuses, clean sheet bonuses, competition progression bonuses and more.
Image rights are some of the most controversial incentives that inevitably hold up a deal. This is especially true with top earning footballers such as Ronaldo and Messi. These players are more than just athletes, they are some of the most marketable people on the planet. They drive up sponsorship deals, merchandise pricing and the value of your club. So when ever you use an image of that player you are essentially ‘branding’ that image. Now how much is a brand worth?
Well if you are Messi or Ronaldo, quite a lot. This is why when a player signs their contract there will normally be a section about player rights. Clubs want the maximum image rights of a player but they might only be 50%, 70% or 90%. This could potentially affect a club in that every shirt that is sold with the players name on it, a percentage of that sale goes to the player. Or a company pays the club for a commercial with the club and player. The income of that deal will be split as per the image rights agreement.
After a fee has been agreed and the players demands have been met a player will undergo a medical.
Did you know that there actually isn’t really a pass or fail criteria? Each club is different and is based on their own standards. Which is why some players fail a medical at one club and pass it at another. This also explains why someone can pass a medical even if they are carrying an injury, for example when Dalot joined Manchester United and is still carrying an injury from last season.
A risk analysis is done on each player where on where the player is injury-wise, what the manager and the club want from that player and what it will cost. The player’s medical history is gathered and then a physical examination is then done. Further investigations might include MRI scans, blood tests and cardiac screening . After seeing the club doctor, a player is passed to physiotherapists and sports scientists for his fitness tests.
More tests can be done based on the amount of time available, which is why some medicals take over a day to complete while some take less than a couple hours. The more information you have available the more informed the club can be to make a decision. So rushing a medical can be a risk but its a risk a lot of clubs are willing to take.
After a fee and players terms have been agreed and the player has passed their medical the transfer can now be completed. The following process is then followed out in order to complete the players transfer from one club to another:
- The association representing the selling club (e.g. the FA) must confirm the player’s identity in the International Transfer Matching System (ITMS).
- Once that confirmation is in place, Fifa will allow the process to continue.
- The association representing the buying club requests an International Transfer Certificate (ITC) from the selling club’s association.
- The selling club’s association either delivers the ITC or rejects the request.
- If delivered the buying association must then enter the player’s registration date in the ITMS.
- The player becomes eligible to play for his new club.
- His new club completes payment to the selling club and uploads receipts to the ITMS.
- The transfer is complete
So there you have it! Simple right?
If only. Football transfers are tricky things, but for us fans they are a great spectacle and a great conversation starter. So we’ll leave the clubs to their thing while we busy speculate who will be moving where and for how much!