La Magica; The Monchi Files — 03. Sign-To-Sell

As modern football is changing and evolving, the influence of the financial moguls cannot be underestimated. Money is becoming more and more important, changing the club landscape throughout the world. The rise of financially powerful corporations backed by big corporations or rich owners has led to a trickle-down of capital and subsequently the rise of shop window clubs or selling clubs.

These clubs have perfected their scouting approaches and deliver a steady stream of talented towards the absolute top clubs, overachieving somewhat along the way in European competitions. Real-life examples such as FC Basel, Benfica, Porto, Sevilla and perhaps to a lesser extent Ajax have mastered the concept of signing players with the objective of selling them on for a profit; sign-to-sell.

These clubs, or actually their boards, understand that, in capitalist football, all staff are up for sale and will only remain at the club until they have reached their peak. The best businessmen know who to sign cheap and even more importantly; when to cash in before hitting a glass ceiling.

In this blog post, I want to focus on the concept of sign-to-sell. Essentially, this is the resale factor; the Monchi factor if you will. When I sign this player, will I be able to sell him on to another club? Which factors determine this resale factor? How can I maximise my chances of finding a player with resale potential?

Which factors determine resale potential?

When establishing the resale potential of players I am contemplating of bringing to the club, there are around four main factors I take into consideration. Some of these factors can be divided into separate subfactors but there are four main ones.

  1. Age;
  2. Ability;
  3. Potential ability;
  4. Reputation.

So to summarise, these are the four factors I look at when determining the resale potential of new signings.

The age factor

Whenever you look at potential new signings it is wise to keep their age in mind. By their age, I mean both their age at the moment of the transfer and their age at the end of their contract with your club. In the general transfer market in Football Manager, most field players peak around their 28th birthday. Some peak a bit earlier or a bit later, but selling players who are their prime is generally considered the easiest strategy and these players yield the highest transfer sums.

Using this theorem as a basis, it, therefore, makes sense that players who have not yet peaked are also quite interesting targets with resale potential. The closer players are to reaching their peak in footballing ability, the easier it becomes to sell them on to other clubs. Players who are quite young and whose chances of living up to their potential are uncertain are more difficult to sell on than players who are more established and have proven themselves as valuable assets.

Similarly, players who are past their prime become increasingly difficult to sell on. Clubs are reluctant to take on older players because there is a slim chance of ever recouping their initial investment on these players. These ever decreasing chances of recouping the initial investment also explain why the market value as calculated by the game often takes a severe hit once a player reaches a certain age, usually in his early thirties.

The percentages used in the graphic above are not entirely random, though they can vary, depending on the circumstances of the situation. With most youth players, their potential ability is not clearly determined, making their success later in their career a fifty-fifty longshot. As a player progresses and develops, the chances of selling him on increase, provided he is actually talented. The entire graphic above is based on working with players who are living up to their potential. When they fail to deliver, the chances of selling them on generally decline significantly.

The reputation factor

A factor that should not be underestimated is the reputation factor. This is a factor of the utmost importance, that drives many of my decisions regarding transfer market dealings. Allow me to explain by using an example many long-time fans of the Football Manager series will recognise and have dealt with themselves.

When you take over a smaller side in a lower division and overachieve massively, you often find yourself struggling in the second season. The players that have helped you achieve promotion have gotten a reputation-boost. This means the better ones among them are attracting interest from other clubs, whereas the increased reputation and thus value boost makes it more difficult to get rid of the dross. However, the club’s reputation seems to have remained somewhat linear, making it difficult to attract new players, keep the current squad happy and juggle the boards’ expectations. The team is in transition, technically still classed as a poor team but punching above its weight. This takes a while to level out, making the game challenging in that aspect.

As you can tell from this example, reputation plays an important part in how the mechanics of this game work. The example above touched upon two of three forms of reputation in the game that are important for what I have in mind regarding playing the transfer market. There are three forms of reputation that I deem important when it comes to manipulating the transfer market.

  • League reputation;
  • Club reputation;
  • Nation reputation.

Technically, there is also the individual reputation of players to contend with but I find that form of reputation less important compared to the other three because it fluctuates far more wildly and is thus easily influenced by the other three. You could see the other three forms as parent forms, which easily influence a player’s individual reputation. Just to summarise…

As I mentioned earlier, a player’s individual reputation is heavily influenced by the reputation of his club, the reputation of the league his club is active in and the reputation of the country his club is active in. His country of origin can provide the occasional boost reputation-wise but that almost never happens. The trick is to make reputation work for you when determining the resale value of a player.

Generally speaking, a player will receive a massive boost to his individual reputation when either or all three of his parenting reputation factors are upgraded. When you sign a player from a lower division team, his reputation will improve and his value will improve as well. Imagine what happens when you are managing a major English club and sign a player from say the Dutch or Swedish league… His value will go through the roof shortly after his transfer goes through. You can use this knowledge to determine if a players’ value will improve or not.

The ability and potential ability factors

Since you are visiting Strikerless I presume you are familiar with the terms current ability and potential ability. On the off-chance that you are not; the current ability for any player in the game is set on a scale of 1 to 200, with 1 being extremely shit at football and 200 being a footballing genius. Similarly, the potential ability is set up on a scale of 1 to 200.

The game displays ability and potential ability with a stars-system. Gold stars display the ability and current ability of your first team players, silver stars do the same for your youth players. The black stars are a bit of an oddity, as they show the uncertainty a member of your backroom staff has about the players’ ability or potential.

These black stars make it more challenging to accurately judge the true ability and potential ability for players. Younger players are especially difficult to judge in terms of their future development. As a player matures, it becomes less difficult to spot the truly talented ones. You must also be aware of the misleading nature of scout reports when trying to determine the resale potential of players. A scout report offers you insight into the ability and potential of a player based on the skills of your own squad. A three-star potential rating does not mean a player is a poor one, it just means he is average compared to the players already at the club.

It makes sense that a player with an abundance of talent is easier to sell on compared to a less talented compatriot. That is just common sense so I feel there is no need to elaborate any further on this subject. While ability and potential ability are obviously important when looking for new players, they are of minor consequence in establishing resale potential. If you are interested in the process of scouting good players, this article could be useful, as well as this one.

The Process Of Surgically Signing New Players

What We Look For In New Players; Limiting Chances Of A Transfer Debacle

Identifying interesting targets

While the above factors are all definitely true and should prove helpful in establishing the resale value for specific players, they are also rather abstract. In the case study below I will showcase different types of players and clubs I tend to scout and sign. Both of these categories of players make use of one or more of the factors that determine resale potential. There are more categories of players you can look at, these are just a few examples.

Rejects from top clubs

Since not every club has the facilities and resources to develop and train their own talent, it can be a valid strategy to let other clubs do the hard work for you. I have written about this strategy in the past and it is definitely a profitable endeavour. Instead of finding the players at a young age, which can be a risky investment, you let the top clubs hoard the talents and you pick up the ones that can’t quite cut it there.

In terms of the resale factors we discussed, you are pretty much hitting the mark on most of them. You are getting players in their early twenties, you are getting players with somewhat of a proven track record in terms of potential ability and players who have been developed by a top club, which ensures a decent current ability as well. Oddly enough, despite playing for major clubs, these players will often have a low reputation, because they will have spent time on loan with lesser clubs or even languishing in the reserve side of the aforementioned top club.

The Cuckoo Transfer-Market Strategy; Let Others Develop The Talents For You

It really makes sense to look for players with a proven track record or some form of top club pedigree. As the AI hoards and stockpiles talents, they often sign far more players than they can realistically play and effectively develop. Whilst it can be hugely frustrating for the selling clubs to lose their starlets to the money-bags from London, Paris, Madrid, Munich, Leipzig or Barcelona, you should appreciate the bright side of this state of affairs. These top clubs usually have exquisite facilities for both youth and senior players, not to mention a fine coaching staff and the best medical teams money can buy.

They have done the hard work for you in a lot of ways. By the time they hit their mid-twenties, these talents have often developed into decent professional footballers, just not of the level that can waltz into the line-up of a European top team. That doesn’t make them any less useful to the teams one or two (or more) pegs below the Barça’s, Bayern’s, Chelsea’s, PSG’s, Juve’s and Real’s of this world. The AI seems to favour a strategy that seems them release these players or sell them off cheap, which is where you can swoop in. Let’s look at one example of such a player.

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While never being an undisputed starter for my team, Francisco Javier has been a valuable asset to my squad. He came in for free from FC Barcelona, despite not playing a lot for the Catalan side. With a pedigree that included Barcelona and Sevilla, I was fairly certain that he was a talented player and you can’t really go wrong with a free transfer. Even if the player never really turns into a first-team asset, you can always sell him for a profit. In terms of resale potential, Francisco Javier has been a shot in the bullseye.

When we look at some of the incoming transfers for next season, you can see a fair few top sides listed amongst the selling clubs; Arsenal, AS Monaco, FC Bayern, Chelsea, FC Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain to name but a few. Most of the players coming in are similar to Francisco Javier in terms of attributes and ability. If they cannot break into the first team, they will spend one or two seasons on loan before being sold to the highest bidder.

Let’s just use Angel Gomes as an example of a player who never broke into my first-team squad. Gomes was signed as a reject from the Man Utd academy, where never really broke into the first team squad. Sadly, he failed to impress during his pre-season campaign with Fortuna, so he was subsequently sent on three loan-spells, all of which brought in some money as well. This meant we had already recouped our initial investment before selling him off to Napoli.

Brexit-related players

Unless you have been living under a rock the past year, you will have heard about Brexit, one of the biggest political decisions taken in the UK since the Second World War. Before the EU referendum, debate raged about what the impact would be of a vote to leave the EU. Now the country has backed Brexit, the consequences and ramifications of this decision are still somewhat murky. In Football Manager 18, Brexit opens up interesting possibilities, since British clubs will be forced to change their approach.

After Brexit takes place in the game, English clubs will be forced to maintain a core of homegrown players. In my specific save, every non-UK player requires a work permit to be active in the Premier League. This means that any moderately talented English player, capable of performing on a Premier League standard, is worth his weight in solid gold. Let’s look at another example.

I could have just used Angel Gomes from the previous example again but that would be easy. Also, by using a different example I hope to show you that the Gomes deals were not flukes but strategy. Ben Sheaf is a hard-working but not overly talented defender from the Arsenal academy. Sheaf was not good enough for my first team but I managed to loan him away every season, to subsequently stronger clubs. After his latest loan-spell at Porto, where Sheaf competed in the Champions League, his value had shot up to around 20 million. I sold him for slightly less than that because his contract was due to expire in a year and renewing it would cost me considerably more than the few million I did not take from Monaco.

Every season since Brexit, I have signed one or two English players, usually rejects from the academies of top sides. Most of them never make their debut for Fortuna and are immediately loaned away again. When they enter their final contract year, they are sold to the highest bidder. Their nationality and the fact that their reputation skyrockets because they are not languishing in a reserve squad, makes them ideal targets if you are looking for players with resale potential.

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