Looking at modern football – how is it possible that the richest clubs own more wealth than the rest of the clubs combined? The circumstances are often in their favour, whether that be in terms of the country they are from, potential markets they can access and financial windfalls that can be generated as a result. Yet, at times, they still lose out to smaller, financially less powerful clubs, be it in individual matches or even over the course of a season. Is this a fluke, some random event where the underdogs were favoured by Lady Luck? Or do some clubs continue to defy the odds and is there a lesson to be learned here?
Clubs, such as Basel, Sevilla, Porto, Ajax, are entrepreneurial – they attempt through the lens of time, the need, and aspiration of the market. Their achievements over the past decade or so, both domestically and internationally, did not happen by chance. They all laboured strenuously to get to and stay in the position they are in this world and remain there. Opportunity is created daily and it’s all around us. Yet, only a few are able to seize it and turn it into a blessing. Football management is nothing different.
Mark Zuckerberg saw the need for social interaction and created Facebook. The likes of Amazon and eBay jumped on the need for online retail outlets and today they are successful. The early men saw the need for light and they endlessly sought to create fire. When you look at the football transfer market, both in real life and in the virtual world of Football Manager, similar opportunities exist.
Several football clubs have developed their strategies based on the concept of selling off their best players to other clubs and replacing them with younger, equally talented players they snapped up relatively cheaply. These opportunities are the creation of the (at times insane) market and clubs desire to sign new players and appease their fan-base. These opportunities are wrapped up in the very needs and value system that drives the market, or in our specific case, the transfer market.
Specifically talking about the Football Manager transfer market, many clubs are compulsory buyers in the market. Regardless of their financial status, they will always look to strengthen their squads and bring in a multitude of new faces in their everlasting quest for sporting successes. This means that there is always a market to sell players who are peaking, or who you can replace with similar players at a lower price. Essentially, the opportunity to sell players is generally there.
However, seizing these opportunities is what creates the defining moment for winners to emerge. They say success is born when preparation meets opportunity. The opportunity is a factor you can generally not influence that much. On the other hand, preparation is a variable that must be earned and honed to become and remain a winner in the cutthroat game that is the transfer market.
This is where the concept of shadow lists comes into play. At any given point in time, I have three to five options lined up to replace any and all first-team squad members. The players on my shadow lists can be either under contract with other clubs or youth prospects from my own academy. The fact remains that when an opportunity comes along to make a tidy profit on any of my players, I can easily assess a number of replacements lined up and make a quick decision.
Preparation is, in my eyes, a daily action. Preparation is a seed that should be sown on a daily basis. It may take time and be a pain but the reward is sure. The question right now is, what are you preparing for? If you are in preparation mode, you will see the right opportunity to seize. Think of preparation as a mustard seed. When you plant the seed, it takes a few years to become a tree. A tree in itself is an embodiment of purpose that seizes the opportunity to provide shelter for birds and people. Actually, opportunities are only identified in the place of preparation.
This means that I regularly check the reports my scouts come up with and assess the potential worth of players for my future plans. You are always scouting. If my central defender goes, who do we buy? If something happens to my Segundo Volante, where do we look? The preparation comes from trawling through the scout reports and lining up options, so when the time comes to make a decision, you can act quickly and decisively.
In order to make this entire process as easy and streamlined as possible, I use multiple shortlists. Let me show you:
Tom Shanosky. A twenty-year-old American forward, suited to playing in the Target Man role and with a somewhat prolific track record of goal scoring in the lower leagues of the United States. Our scouts have been thorough in their assessment and he might be an interesting option as for us, both as a draft option and a potential Withdrawn Target Man.
In this case, Shanosky has been added to the Draft Shortlist (which isn’t shown on the picture because Shanosky is already on it) and he will be added to the ‘Withdrawn Targetmen’ Shortlist.
As you can see, I have compiled shortlists for every possible situation and role. I have shortlists for every role I regularly use in my various tactics, as well as a shortlists for interesting prospects in the annual draft and for my sign-to-sell policy. The shadow lists help me prepare for any eventuality in terms of transfers. Due to the time I put into the effort to trawl through the scout reports regularly, I have shadow lists comprising of 20+ players for every player role and eventuality. Preparation pays off during the transfer window as it enables me respond quickly when an offer comes in for one of my players. I can check the shadow lists to see if I can snag a replacement at a reasonable price or else the deal is off.