The Juventus Gambit; Why Hoarding Players Can Pay Off

The title “Juventus gambit” is bound to raise questions. Before I explain, let me illustrate a point upfront. How many transfers do you think Juventus has done this season? Transfermarkt has the answer; 74 in, 79 out, which includes youth players. This isn’t incidental, last season the grand Old Lady of Italian football had 75 incoming players compared to 81 players leaving Juventus. The season before that, the numbers were at 59 incoming, 63 outgoing.

These are staggering numbers, to say the least, mindboggling would come closer to an accurate description of the status quo. When you look at these figures more closely, you can see that they are somewhat inflated by the sheer number of loan deals Juventus does. The Bianconeri seem to loan a tonne of players away every season, despite most of these never reaching first team status. This raises the question regarding the motives of the Turin club in doing so.

This rather straightforward question yields an equally uncomplicated answer; it’s a lucrative business to loan away youngsters like that, with the added side-effect that those who develop spectacularly can be integrated into the first team squad. Let’s take a look at an example taken from real life.

vykintas_slivka_wordt_opnieuw_gehuurd_van_juventus_foto_fc_den_bosch

The dashing youngster above is Vykintas Slivka, a Lithuanian midfielder. Juventus signed him from Lithuanian top side Ekranas, before loaning him away to Modena, NK Gorica, FC Den Bosch and Ascoli. Presumably, most of these clubs paid for his wages on top of a small loan fee. Another example of such a player is Dutch-Moroccan Ajax midfielder Ouasim Bouy, bought by Juventus but loaned to the likes of Panathinaikos, FC Zwolle, HSV, Brescia and Palermo. While we’re dealing with relatively small numbers here, many small numbers will still add up to a rather hefty sum. This strategy is what I have dubbed the Juventus gambit, and in this article, I will show you how to replicate this strategy in FM.

The basic strategy

It really is a simple concept and not one that is terribly farfetched. I ended up calling it the Juventus Gambit, but pretty much any big club in the world is doing it, some are just less successful at it than others. You start off by hoarding players. Ideally, you want to sign young promising players, but there’s room to manoeuvre in this department. Just start off by stockpiling talented players.

After assessing their usefulness regarding your own squad’s needs, you ship out the excess players on loan deals. In reality, that means around 90% of the new arrivals are immediately moved on to other clubs. These can be feeder clubs, or you can just offer these excess players out on loan deals. Keep in mind that feeder clubs generally do not pay you any money in terms of wages or loan fees.

Every six months or so, the performances of this armada of loanees need to be evaluated. The players who are actually underperforming are sold off, while the majority is sent out on loan again or kept at their current loan club. Since most deals are for 100% of the wages in all circumstances as well as a small loan fee, these loanees are immediately recouping their transfer fee for you. If you signed these players as free agents, you start to make a profit almost instantaneously. The odd diamond-in-the-rough, who develops spectacularly, can always be bled into the first team squad of course.

The profits you make from such a setup are large dependant on the scale of course, but they are generally reinvested into the structure so as to grow the organisation as a whole. When it’s all set up correctly, the financial aid such a setup provides is an excellent way to help a smaller club grow and possibly attract one or two big names. So in a  nutshell…

stl01

I have applied this strategy to my current team, which is Kawasaki Frontale of the J-League in Japan. Over the past three seasons, the financial benefits I have reaped from this money-making scheme have enabled the club to not only sign the best players in Japan but also to develop the monetary muscle to ward off European clubs as they try to unsettle my stars. I’ll take you through the steps I have taken season by season.

Season 1

The first season saw me experimenting with the sheer amount of loan players I could get away with. I signed a lot of African and Brazilian players on free transfers, as well as a few American and English players and the odd European player. Regarding the success rate of loaning them away, it was a mixed bag. Some of them easily found new clubs, others had to be loaned away at 100% wages but no loan fees.

gambit01

The first season saw us rake in €2.6 million in loan fees. Not a bad start, but hardly the financial kickstart I had imagined. This wasn’t nearly enough to make the club grow. I needed to boost my income, which meant I needed to work on a much larger scale.

Season 2

Before investing the €2.6 million in a lot of new players, I sat down to rethink my overall strategy. From the transfers in season 1, I learned that youth players, by which I mean players under the age of 21, are not that exciting if you’re purely in it for the money. Younger players need time to develop before teams are willing to pay for them. The same applied to certain nationalities. If they require work permits in virtually any other country but their native one and the domestic league from that country isn’t very strong, they are probably never going to find a club.

The third point, which wasn’t directly player-related, I stumbled across was a lack of knowledge in the scouting department. For this gambit to start making money, I needed to bring in larger amounts of players, quality players at that and preferably at low prices. The domestic market was out of order for me, mostly due to a lack of funds. That meant I had to focus on foreign markets, but I did not have the knowledge of these markets due to a lack of scouts.

After securing the maximum number of scouts possible, which was a bit of a challenge in the J-League, I decided to focus on a specific set of countries for my new prospects.

  • The US – mostly because US players can be acquired dirt cheap as long as they are not with the first team squad of an MLS club. The MLS clubs also have a bit of money so they would be willing to pay for a US player on a loan deal.
  • Mexico – the Mexican clubs have a lot of money to throw around, and the league has some serious foreigner restrictions. Bringing in domestic players is something Mexican clubs will pay for.
  • Brazil – there’s an abundance of local talent. Players rotting away in the reserves of the big clubs are good enough to play for bottom half Serie A teams or top Serie B clubs. If I can get them cheap, I will definitely be able to find a club to loan them to.
  • Argentina – again, there’s the abundance of talent. The domestic league lacks the financial power of the Brazilian league, but I do have high hopes of finding clubs for these players.
  • Australia – since A-League clubs cannot do any domestic transfers between clubs, you can often pick up decent talents there for relatively small fees. Because of these same transfer restrictions, Australian players are generally in demand as well. Even though the A-League lacks the financial power of some of the other Asian leagues, you could still get 10k to 20k a month for an Aussie prospect.
  • Various African leagues – while none of these leagues has any real financial power, they do produce a fair amount of talented players who are available relatively cheap. European clubs tend to scout these countries as well, and they are interested in these players if I can bring them in. I omitted Egypt from this list because Egyptian clubs often ask for silly money for their starlets.
The countries I focussed my scouting efforts on. For those who are geographically impaired: the US, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Morocco, Algeria, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Congo, Nigeria, Cameroon, Angola, Zambia, South Africa and Australia.
The countries I focussed my scouting efforts on. For those who are geographically impaired: the US, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Morocco, Algeria, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Congo, Nigeria, Cameroon, Angola, Zambia, South Africa and Australia.

After increasing both the quality and intake of players, it came as no surprise that the financial benefits of the gambit increased dramatically. The Brazilian players especially seemed to be in high regard, and we managed to loan away some academy graduates as well. The presence of a few English players proved exceptionally lucrative, as Premier League and Championship level clubs apparently pay insane amounts of money for an English player who is good enough to sit on their bench. Please keep in mind that these players were not cheap to acquire in terms of their wages, but since every loan deal I conduct is at 100% wages, this is not an issue as long as I manage to find a new club for them.

gambit02

The financial benefits we made increased and since most of our players performed well during their loan deals, so did their reputation. This, in turn, meant that I could charge more for next year’s loan deals.

Season 3

Season 3, which is currently still underway, has been the most successful to date in terms of this gambit. I seem to have perfected the strategy in terms of scouting and determining which players to sign and which ones to ignore. Roughly summed up, these are my criteria.

gambit04

That is not to say that I never buy U20 players, but those are generally not a part of the gambit. I learned that the hard way when I signed a few talented youngsters from the Côte d’Ivoire yet was unable to secure loan deals for them because they just weren’t ready for first team football.

gambit03

As you can tell, I haven’t even detailed each and every loan deal that I made this season. What is interesting and intriguing about this picture is the total sum on the bottom of the page. €27 million. In loan deals alone. Let that number sink in a bit. €27 million. That’s more than most clubs make selling players.

The opportunities and pitfalls

So what are the opportunities such a human-trafficking system like this offers to your organisation? Let’s focus on that final number there again. €27 million in income in a single season… Since every deal is done at 100% wages and most players are brought in on free transfers, that’s mostly pure profit. You can use that to improve facilities, sign additional staff and fund the signings of many more players. It provided the financial backbone to make the club grow.

On top of that, the law of large numbers starts to play a role. When you sign that many players, you are bound to uncover some serious talent as well. Even with foreigner restrictions in place, there’s a conveyor belt of ready and able talented players set up. If you can’t use such a player, loan him away, and as soon as a spot in the team opens up, you can recall them, fit and ready to play.

That is not to say that there aren’t any pitfalls. The gambit relies on you being able to loan these players away. If that fails, you’re stuck with often expensive players you cannot field. That eats into your profit margin big time due to wage costs, not to mention the strain it places on your coaching staff and the overall squad morale. Players who cannot compete in competitive matches are often unhappy, demanding greater playing time and unsettling the rest of the squad.

The presence of so many players, even if it is on a temporary basis, often suffocates the growth and possibilities of your own youth academy graduates. They have to be exceptionally talented to make it, otherwise, they become more meat for the grinder, and they are inducted into the gambit. There are quite a few managers out there who value their youth academy graduates, so this is a fair warning up front; using this gambit will limit their possibilities.

I touched upon this subject earlier, but to reiterate my point; if this gambit wants to have a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding, it needs an extensive scouting setup to work. This costs money, which means you cannot afford to have too many errant signings in the initial stages of implementing the gambit.

The final pitfall is more of a moral objection. Essentially, this is a large-scale human trafficking system you’re setting up. Sure, most of them are decently-paid professional athletes, but that doesn’t change the essence of the gambit.

gambit007

40 thoughts on “The Juventus Gambit; Why Hoarding Players Can Pay Off

  1. I have found this strategy to be very effective in leagues that don’t have their registration rules tailored towards youth development by clubs themselves. Using this system in the Premier League for example would help boost finances and ensure that quality youth players make the first team squad but they will not be considered as players that have been developed by the club itself and so you will fall short of those requirements. They may not be considered trained in England either so you have to be careful as to how you implement this kind of technique.

  2. This is definitely a very interesting approach, clearly seen in the likes of Chelsea and Man City. I admit that I never believed you could set up a fully-functioning profit-generating system without breaking FFP. I guess that this isn’t a problem in Japan, but it would be interesting to see how you could get round it (or do loaned out players not affect the wage increase at all?)

    Just wondering if the players you sign have to have a certain potential (say 3 stars) before you’d be willing to sign them, or do they just have to fulfill the criteria above.

    Great post, very interesting

  3. Great writer-ip! I used this tactic with great succes on a somewhat smaller scale back in FM16 doing a save with Aachen. It was the only thing that kept me competitive with Bayern.

    I did not have the sheer volume you had but instead focused on high quality players that did not fit my system.

    After some seasons it felt like I cheated the system and it took a long time to execute, however, for succes in FM in economically challenged clubs this is a must do – and I would do it again!

  4. this is really interesting. I’m managing Salford currently in regional league so i don’t think it would work here but once my team grow bigger I’ll definitely try this. thanks!

  5. Really good and interesting post mate. A few questions. U mentioned scouting a little bit but how do u mainly find these players? Solely your Scouts or do u search for players? If so do u search specific attributes? Finally do u do what everyone else does and scour the numerous youth intakes?

    • Part of it is my scouts scouring the ends of the Earth and part of it is me checking which players get released during the season and seeing what my scouts think of them.

      For first team players, I heavily scout on the attributes needed for their roles and some generic attributes needed to play my style. For the players in this gambit, I’ll take anyone who shows glimpses of potential really. Most of these lads will never break into the first team squad.

      I don’t really scout the intakes outside of Japan because I can only field five foreigners and there’s no real reason why I would sign youngsters in those precious slots.

  6. Very cool article! I tried to do it on a new Save with Freiburg after I managed to be promoted to the Bundesliga (still playing FM16). I bought some North and South American talent but some of them do not attract any interest at all. I tried just putting them on the loan list as well as offering them to clubs but no one bites even for 0% Wages. Am I supposed to offer them directly to Clubs? Like should I actively offer a Mexican player to a Mexican Team?

  7. Can I just point out that although this can be successful I’ve had better success with affiliated clubs having a club in the fl2 one in the championship and one in any of Europe top ten leaguesz, great opportunity to start creating partnerships, currently doing this with Liverpool in season 2 might not get a big income from loan deals but board gave me nearly 80 Mil for liverpool must be doing some business right

  8. Hmm, I’m not sure in the real world the second or third div. clubs pay anything else than the player’s wage to be fair and sometimes they don’t even do that. So I don’t think this applies to all youngsters, it’s more a “potential resale” or potential inclusion in the first squad thing.

    Unrelated, I found this article by chance and since you are playing Jleague: I’d recommend an eye here https://community.sigames.com/topic/383130-japanese-football-pyramid-j2-league-released-3112/ as we are going to release a big pack of… youngsters very soon 🙂

  9. I’m trying to add this strategy to my long-term save with Braintree (England)

    Currently, as a Championship Team (mid-table / playoff), is nearly impossible to negotiate a loan worth more than 100% wages and 0 loan fees, but I already see a lot of increased interest in my players, so I will keep going, let’s see…

  10. I’m using this strategy playing in Brazil and I’m, very satisfied with the results. I try to hire players at the end of the contract and then I offer by loan and I accept only the offers to play regularly.
    I usually keep players on loan for two or three seasons before selling or using in the first team.
    I also look for players with more than 25 years in the end of the contract, cheap options to compose the team and the result is also good, I have received proposals for these players too.
    I want to test this method in Europe, I believe that it may have more difficulties to implement it because of the rules of the Permier League, for exemple, but in other countries like Germany and the Netherlands I think I will have more facilities.

  11. I would love to know if it is possible (with succes) to let a Technical Director do the negotiating for the loans. Would potentially save a lot of time? I know you can give him instructions on the worst deal you want, but the question is, will he try to get a better one (with loan fee)?

  12. I am doing this with my current Everton save, I sign around 20 odd youth players a year and then just loan them out. Keep the best one for first team exposure, if they are not good enough, I sell them and ensure I have a percentage sell on clause just in case they do make it later and get a big move.

    It’s quite fun and after a while it makes you shed loads of money. After only 5 seasons with Everton – I’ve got a balance of over £120m; a new stadium in the works; a transfer budget of £90m which I don’t even need to use as my diamond in the rough players are more than good enough and much cheaper than shelling out millions on a big signing; a wage budget which I’m more than £2m under.

    One issue is the game becomes a cake walk and once you get established, meaning you get the urge to move on after 5 seasons and start all over again.

  13. Great post. 27 million in loan income is a staggering amount of money, and I want to try it out in a save of mine. One questions though; Do you know how much money you spend on agent and sign on fee for the players you brought in, and then loaned out?

    The total sum of money in and money out is of course of big relevance, and one should obviously pay attention to this. Some players and agents demand huge sums as we all know. The final profit you made from doing this is presumably significantly smaller, and in worst case it might be negative, looking isolated at the season.
    Over the course of several seasons I believe that the profit is positive, since there is a large chance that several of the players will be sold on.

    Theoretically it would also be interesting to speculate if the sign on fees can be brought significantly down, if one offers conditions in the contract that one normally would not offer – since most of the players most likely will be sold/loaned out and never player.
    That actually brings up a question I never found an answer to; does the club that loan the player pay the bonuses for goals scoared, games played, etc, or are the club that loans the club out covering those bonuses? Would be a sweet deal if you could sign a player on a contract with minimum sign on fees but with large bonuses, that the club that loans the player then pays 😀

    • Most of the players brought in are not that expensive, so while the number is definitely over 0 and lowers the absolute profit, it should be nowhere near the total sum of loan income. Good point and one I forgot to cover 🙂

      As for the second point, I am unsure. I imagine the club that loans a player takes over all his contractual obligations, but I am unsure of that.

    • Not using a mod. I was so far into the game that all the real players had retired, which meant that it was not difficult to have each J-League side with a full squad.

Leave a Reply