To say that transfers are an essential aspect of world football would not only be a massive understatement but also quite evident. Now more than ever, clubs spend enormous, almost obscene sums of money to attract good players. The record fees for players continue to rise every season, as the amount of money splashed around by the select few at the top continues to skyrocket to levels deemed preposterous a mere decade ago.
One of the effects of this gradual influx of money is the inflation of the transfer market. The transfer fees that both clubs and fans consider normal for relatively good players have risen exponentially in the last decade or so. Clubs like Real Madrid and the tycoon-lead English clubs have initiated this tendency to spend outrageous fees on often lukewarm players. Often, clubs will flex their respective financial muscles as much as they can to lure a specific player in or even keep players away from the competition. A club like FC Bayern, for example, is renowned for simply buying up the best players from potential competitors, even if they have no direct need for a specific player.
With this sort of panorama, it has become more and more important for clubs to anticipate their own needs and plan ahead. Swift and decisive action in the transfer market has become the deciding factor in getting great players’ signatures in contracts. In this regard, Football Manager is no different from the real world it attempts to simulate. The central question is, how do you plan ahead exactly?
I briefly touched upon the subject in my previous post in this Monchi series when discussing various strategies underlying the setting up of your search parameters. In this article, I intend to look at the theoretical implications of the multiple strategies rather than the technical and strategic implementation. The hoarding approach and more surgical approach to signing players have been mentioned earlier as to how to implement them but how do you determine which one works for you or how you can mix them up?
The Holy Trinity of transfers (and thus a transfer policy)
If you want to set up a transfer policy and balance the hoarding approach and surgical signings somewhat, you need to look at what I like to refer to as the Holy Trinity of transfers. The Holy Trinity consists of the following three factors.
- A honed nose to spot talent before everyone else;
- An early-bird approach to signing targets;
- A plan or rationale behind every transfer.
This may be a gross oversimplification of a transfer policy but you cannot deny that these three factors, as well as the interactions between them, are a huge part of setting up a sound transfer policy.
Spotting and recognising talent
I have touched upon this subject a number of times but finding talented players is of the utmost importance. In the earlier sign-to-sell article of this series, I already mentioned a few categories of players who are quite interesting in terms of spotting and recognising talent. While we already discussed setting up our scouts and sending them out to scour the corners of the earth, trailing through their reports is not always as easy as merely finding players with a high star rating provided by your scouts. When I set up my scouting filters, there are always certain aspects to keep in consideration.
Please keep in mind that this is more about how to look for talented players and not necessarily where to look for them. I have written about that in the past and even in previous instalments of this Monchi series. This is more about the factors that make a player appealing to me in terms of actually signing them. I have created a separate scouting overview to help me scout more efficiently. You can download this overview here.
These are the factors I take into consideration. Some are regular ones, you might expect in a scout overview, while others are more unorthodox and certainly less conventional. Allow me to look at each and every factor and explain why I included it in the overview.
- Player Status Information (INF); because it always pays to see if players are unhappy or injured. The first status could make them interesting targets for a transfer, whereas the second one warrants closer inspection and might see me back away from a deal.
- Person name (NAME); I do like to know who I am scouting… A bit of a no-brainer, really.
- Scout’s opinion of this player’s best position (BEST POS); I am interested in the scout’s opinion as to which position a player is best suited to play. Please note that I might change all of that through re-training, this is merely a setup for the initial scouting process.
- Scout’s opinion of this player’s best tactical role (BEST ROLE); while my scouts are not all-knowing and perfect, they do have a decent idea as to which attributes are best suited for a specific role.
- Scout’s opinion of this player’s best tactical duty (BEST DUTY); while my scouts are not all-knowing and perfect, they do have a decent idea as to which attributes are best suited for a specific duty.
- Scout’s opinion of this player’s minimum wage demands (MIN WD); I am always curious what a player’s wage demands are, as his minimum demands can be an indication of how expensive a particular player can be at the very least.
- Scout’s opinion of this player’s minimum asking price (MIN AP); the minimum amount I have to pay for a player is always of interest.
- Scout’s opinion of this player’s maximum wage demands (MAX WD); I am always curious what a player’s wage demands are, as his maximum demands can be an indication of how expensive a particular player can be at most.
- Scout’s opinion of this player’s maximum asking price (MAX AP); the maximum amount I have to pay for a player is always of interest.
- Age (AGE); another no-brainer. If you want a player with resale potential, you can’t go around signing old players. Knowing their age is thus quite useful.
- Appearances (APPS); a player who does not play often yet has the skillset to play for you can be an interesting target, as he might be unhappy and clubs are usually rather willing to let benchwarmers go.
- Goals (GOALS); someone who scores a lot of goals, regardless of league or level, is always certain to garner interest from other clubs. In terms of finding players with resale potential, this is an important column.
- Goals per 90 minutes (GLS/90); a bit of an underrated column in my eyes. Players who come off the bench a lot generally don’t pop up in the goals search but they might appear here. This is a nice way to find some underrated gems.
- Average minutes per goal (MINS/GL); similarly to the column above, searching this column might yield some unexpected pinch hitters or instant impact players.
- Assists (AST); how many assists has a player racked up. Again, creative players are always in demand. Players who rack up many assists are always interesting targets.
- Assists per 90 minutes (AST/90); similar to the goals per 90 minutes, this is a column I use to scout for bench warmers at top clubs, who can often make an impact as substitutes but might fly under the radar in the conventional statistics searches.
- Chances created (CHC); since an assist needs a team-mate to actually finish the attacking move, this statistic can create a somewhat skewed image. A sublime playmaker in a team with average forwards will not rack up many assists, despite his efforts. This statistic looks at how often a player puts a team-mate in a goal-scoring position.
- Chances created per 90 minutes (CHC/90); pretty much like the previous column, but this time for substitute players.
- Average rating (AV RAT); some players don’t score goals or rack up assists yet still perform admirably. Their average rating generally reflects this.
- Headers won ratio (HRD%); especially when you are scouting for defensive players, the ratio at which they win their aerial duels is quite useful.
- Height (HEIGHT); not an item I use a lot for scouting purposes but it does give you a quick general impression of a player.
- Weight (WEIGHT); not an item I use a lot for scouting purposes but it does give you a quick general impression of a player.
- Pass attempts per 90 minutes (PAS/90); especially when you are looking for a creative outlet, the number of passes pro game can aid you in your search.
- Pass completion ratio (PAS%); every manager loves a player with an accurate pass, so regardless of position, this is a useful secondary scouting column.
- Tackles per game (TCK); combative midfielders or defenders can be scouted using this column.
- Tackle completion ratio (TCK R); likewise, when you are scouting for combative midfielders or defenders, this column might be quite useful.
- Interceptions per 90 minutes (INT/90); and another column for the defensive-minded players in your team. When you’re not looking for brute force but for a footballing mind, the number of interceptions during a game can be indicative of solid defensive performances without too many fouls.
- Scout’s opinion of this player’s potential ability (POTENTIAL); I could lie and say it’s not that important, but it is one of the first columns I check out. I don’t accept the scout’s ratings 100% of the time but I do use it for an initial pruning of the list.
- Scout’s opinion of this player’s ability (ABILITY); I could lie and say it’s not that important, but it is one of the first columns I check out. I don’t accept the scout’s ratings 100% of the time but I do use it for an initial pruning of the list.
- Scout’s opinion of this player’s player style (STYLE).
Timing is everything
I have said it before and I will reiterate the point; many transfers in Football Manager are driven by a player’s reputation. That means that both in terms of selling and buying players, you need to time the moment just right, as values can skyrocket or plummet in an instance. To illustrate just how quickly a player’s value can rise under the right conditions, I will use two examples within my own save-game. Meet Frank Bonn and José Mendes.
Bonn is a 23-year-old German attacking midfielder, who seems tailor-made for strikerless football. He is fast, he can dribble, he can score and he can play as a natural attacking midfielder. His pedigree with FC Bayern hints at a world-class potential, whereas the fact that he spent most of his career in the reserves and on loan with Eintracht Frankfurt ensures that his reputation was low. Bonn was not on anyone’s radar at all when he arrived in Sittard, despite having an impressive skill-set. He wasn’t getting any game-time at FC Bayern, because their forward line was even better and they did not use an attacking midfielder. Bonn faced a similar problem at Frankfurt.
His reputation was low, his contract was running out and Bayern wanted to sell him. The timing of the deal was just perfect. A 3.6 million deal is a bargain for a player like that, especially when you can see that he is an instant impact signing, averaging one goal every game he plays, with his value increasing by a staggering nearly 600% (rounded upwards).
José Mendes is a 27-year-old forward, who was retrained to play as an attacking midfielder as well. Despite an impressive skill-set, he never really got going for Fortuna Sittard. He still managed to earn himself a big-money move to perennial overspenders Chelsea. Why, you ask? Timing… An injury to first-choice attacking midfielder Niels Snijders saw Mendes rack up a series of matches towards the end of the season, in which he scored a fair few goals, ending his league campaign with 14 goals from a mere 13 appearances. Chelsea caught wind of Mendes and his sublime performances and offered us a deal. I wasn’t looking to sell Mendes but the offer was too good to refuse.
For a player who has spent most of his senior career either sitting on the bench or out on loan at various European clubs (arguably, top clubs), a 45 million transfer is a huge one. His reputation was quite high due to successful loan-spells at top clubs, he had just finished a great season (or rather half a season), so the timing for this deal was superb. If I had tried to sell him six months earlier, during the winter break, I doubt he would have garnered much interest. Timing is everything.
Having a plan for the deal
This leads us to how I handle my transfers. Obviously, there is a set of deep differences between the whole philosophy of transfers I have and Football Manager’s AI-controlled clubs. I generally do not sign players based on their reputation, as I try to focus on their skill-set, accomplishments and resale value instead. The AI-controlled clubs, on the other hand, seems to make most of their signings with the reputation of the player as the driving priority.
First off, I dislike lengthy transfer sagas. When a club is an absolutely nefarious institution to try to negotiate with, I often back away from the deal. I generally do not like overpaying for players and clubs charging me 30 million or more for players worth maybe 10% of that sum seems highway robbery to me. These deals are distasteful in my eyes and I shy away from them. I refuse to take part in them in most cases, instead shifting my focus to good opportunities in the transfer market.
A crucial component of my success in terms of transfer policy is the sporting project. I know exactly why I sign a player and I balance the books accordingly. If a player is signed for hoarding purposes, I generally go for free transfer options or players who are transfer listed at a bargain. The initial investment should not be a steep one or the chance of recouping my investment becomes smaller. The same applies to youngsters. The younger they are, the more of an unproven factor they are. Paying excessive fees for very young players becomes akin to playing high-stakes roulette; it’s a gamble in which the house usually wins and you lose. I do shelf out excessive fees when I am certain a player can be an instant impact player for my squad but this happens once, maybe twice every season. Before you make a deal, be sure that you actually need this player. If you intend to sign him to sell him on within one or two seasons, don’t invest heavily in the initial transfer, or you might end up in debt.
Balancing the three; when to make which kind of deal
The trick now is determining when you should do which kind of deal. I generally opt for a strategy that combines the hoarding approach with the surgical signings for my first-team squad. The hoarding allows the club to grow financially, whereas the surgical signings provide me with instant reinforcements to bolster the squad that has to sustain the growth of the club out on the pitch.
Determining which strategy suits your club depends on your own goals really. If you do not need the money, steering clear of hoarding deals makes sense, as they can be a bit of a time-sink, both in terms of scouting the players needed as well as finding suitable loan clubs for these players every season. Sometimes it takes me an entire day just to get through the pre-season, as I have to find clubs for almost 100 loanees.