La Magica; The Monchi Files — 07. The Art Of Negotiating A Good Deal (Selling)

Being able to maximise your recruitment process – your conveyor belt of talent from either your academy or other clubs – is just one part of what makes or breaks a club in the transfer market. When engaging within transfer negotiations, clearly, the buying club aims to bargain for the lowest price possible, while the selling club naturally tries to market the player for a much higher amount. The final transfer sum will be somewhere between these two, depending on the two teams bargaining power.

It can be influenced by the possible available substitutes (i.e. other players), the talent and skills of the player(s) in question, and the estimates that the respective clubs assign regarding the marginal utility of the player’s talent. Considering that it is a team sport, the value of individual talent and skills greatly depends on the team the player is contracted to. The extent of how much the buying and selling clubs’ bargaining power influences the signing price is still debated and vary according to a number of factors that may even come from the player himself.

The start of the negotiation process, from the selling point of view, is the part where a good manager (or Director of Football) is also able to negotiate a reasonable price, as this can earn his club many millions extra. Negotiating a good deal is a complicated game between guestimating the value of a player, assessing what the buying club is willing to pay for him and being able to extract as much money as you can out of the deal.

I briefly touched upon the subject in the introduction. Negotiating the best possible deal is a complex, yet at the same time eerily uncomplicated affair. When you get the timing right and you know what your man’s worth will be after he moves, you can quickly negotiate a good deal with the buying club.

The first thing you need to do if you want to stand a chance in the cutthroat environment that is the transfer market is come to terms with how the market operates within in the confines of the Football Manager game. The transfer market is not fair, has never been fair and will never be fair as the value of players can and will mean something else for each club. This is because each club operates in different leagues, different divisions, so their incomes are also relevantly different. It all boils down to the following: reputation. On several levels, this drives the transfer market value of a player in Football Manager.

For a team in a lower reputation league, a talented young player’s value can be decidedly lower than for a club that is active in a league with a seriously high reputation. Take for example how a player’s value can skyrocket after a transfer.

As you can see in the video example I have provided above, a player’s value can almost double and, in some cases, even triple under the right circumstances. Mind you, that this is the same player as he was a day before, the only factors that have changed are his club, the league he is active in and his contract (notably his wage). The boosted reputation of the two former factors has spiked his transfer value tremendously.

Some of the reasons for this increase in value is that in a well-known, stronger league, the same player could achieve better individual performances and more serious professional success due to stronger team-mates around him and sterner opposition to prove himself against. Another import factor that drives the growth of his value is the reputation of his new club.

So let us zoom in on that idea. There are, in my eyes, four value-driving factors in play when it comes to selling players in the Football Manager transfer market. These four are quite succinct on their own, yet all interlocked at the same time. For you, as a manager, it is essential to know the factors influencing players’ value.

  1. The individual reputation of a player;
  2. The selling club’s reputation;
  3. The selling club’s league’s reputation;
  4. The selling club’s league’s nation’s reputation.

The individual reputation of a player is essentially that – the player’s standing within the world game. There are specific events that can trigger a sudden increase of his reputation, which could spike an increase of his value and could, therefore, be seen as triggers to sell such a player when a club makes a financially appealing bid. Events like this are, for example, winning a title, appearing in a major international tournament and winning individual accolades. This is all a simplification of a complicated process.

The following explanatory variables can also drive up an individual player’s reputation and thus transfer market value:

  • players’ age (above a certain age, a player’s value will stagnate and even drop off because he cannot be realistically sold on);
  • experience (number of matches played);
  • number of goals (if a forward);
  • position (as a rule of thumb, forwards or offensive-minded players are generally more expensive than defenders or keepers).

When you see transfers within a specific league, you can see how the reputation of a club can impact the value of a player. Whenever a player moves up, from say a mid-table side to a top side, you will see a spike in his value, caused by the reputation of his new club. When the reputation of his new club is significantly higher than the reputation of his old club, this spike can lead to an almost doubling of his new transfer market value.

Similarly, players who move leagues can see a similar spike. When a team recruits a new player from a side in a division below them, this recruit will also see a spike in his transfer market value. This spike is not only caused by the increased reputation of the player’s new club but also by the increased reputation of the league he is active in. Say that, for example, Ajax buys a player from a Dutch side a division below them. This player’s transfer market value will go up, not just by moving to a higher reputation club but also because he is now active in a stronger, more top reputation division.

Likewise, players recruited from a lower reputation foreign league will almost certainly see their reputation increase, sometimes even when the club they move to has a lower reputation than their previous club. A very tangible example to explain this scenario can be found when we look at specific transfers from the Portuguese league, Liga Nos. Clubs like FC Porto, Benfica and Sporting Clube de Portugal have an excellent standing within football; their reputation is without doubt high. When their players move abroad to an English side, their value still increases. The buying clubs generally have a lower international reputation, but they are competing in a higher reputation league in a higher reputation country, so the transfer market value still goes up.

When you realise that the various forms of reputation are the primary value drivers for a player’s transfer market value, you can put this knowledge to good use. When you compare your standing within the game in comparison to that of the buying club, you can estimate a feasible and realistic transfer sum when someone is tapping up your players. Fortunately, the game makes it rather easy for you to track down your club’s and league’s standing.

Establishing these values makes it a whole lot easier to estimate both what your player will be worth after his transfer and what you can realistically demand a buying club pays you. I realistically go for around two-thirds of what the player will be worth after his transfer and I will generally try to fluff the deal up further with installments along with future percentage clauses. This takes a bit of trial and error and honing your skills to appreciate certain transfers and value aspects. No sure-fire formula will help you with this, sadly.

You have a realistic expectation of what kind of transfer sum you wish to receive for your player. Be prepared to lower it somewhat but also make sure you don’t sell him for less than what he is actual transfer market value is while he is still at your club. You may consider this a warning beforehand – around half of my transfer negotiations fail because the buying club is not willing to meet my valuation of my player. In such cases, I walk out of the deal. In most cases, I am not the one offering to sell; thus, I am not forced to meet any random valuation of my assets.

Before I go and explain how I conduct my business when negotiating a deal, I want to offer you a case study. In the video below, I describe how I sell my Colombian winger César Assia to Southampton. I will show you and explain to you why I use specific negotiation tactics.

That specific deal was not even a particularly great deal. You can see how Assia’s value shot up from €4.5 million to €33 million, making the potential €6.75 million they paid a bargain. For me, it was a good deal, since we spent just over €200k for Assia and he was a rotational player in our squad, who was demanding a higher pay cheque (wahey wage-caps in the MLS!) and was taking up a valuable international player slot (another fun rule in the MLS). We made an incredible profit on a player who was not even an undisputed starter in our team.

One of the clauses I generally try to sneak into any deal is a future percentage deal of 40%. I always ask for 40% of the next transfer sum, seeing as such a clause commonly yields an additional amount of money in the future. The future percentage of profit deal is less favourable. If a player fails to impress at his new club, the chances of him being sold on for a profit are slim to none, rendering this clause useless. If he’s sold either at a loss or a profit, I will still receive 40% of sale, along with 40% of any future clauses the AI typically implements.

Similarly, I generally try to stay clear of clauses that see him play an X amount of league games or score an X amount of league goals. If a player fails, that money is never coming your way. International games are a bit of a hit-and-miss for me. When a player hails from a relatively small country, it is a safe bet to include them because he will get called up even when he’s a bench-warmer. For a player from stronger countries, with a large talent pool to draw from, such clauses become increasingly risky and should typically be avoided.

A further little trick that might be useful – when a team is unwilling to pay the desired amount upfront, you can try lowering the amount of cash you receive upfront and adding that money in an installment deal over the course of a year or even two years. While the total sum remains the same, the buying club is often more inclined to agree to such a deal, because they can spread the deduction of the money over a larger period. This is actually how real life transfers operate.

The last aspect of negotiating a good deal is a somewhat mystifying and incomprehensible one since there are no hard rules to it. This one is all about the timing of a deal. When do you conduct your business? Early in the transfer window or do you wait for late offers? Both strategies have their merits and inherent risks, so there is no sure-fire way to say one way or the other is favourable.

When you do your deals early in the transfer window, most clubs will still have their war chests intact, so they will have money to burn in the perpetual quest to sign their desired targets and strengthen their squads. It also gives you time to reach agreements with potential replacement players (though I highly recommend you sign replacements before you sell anyone at all).

Doing your business later in the transfer window gives other teams time to react to each others bids and possibly drive the price up. Any team late to the party is usually desperate to splash some cash around in a last-ditch effort to secure the services of some much-needed reinforcement. On the other hand, waiting too long can also mean that everyone has already signed players of their choosing and that their transfer budget is simply gone. It also leaves you with less time to sign possible replacements (again, I highly recommend you start negotiating with replacements as soon as the first bid comes in). This may cause some issues if the team you are buying from doesn’t have time to recruit their own replacement and they may try to put a clause in to find a replacement as a result.

Another aspect of selling at the right time has to do with expiring contracts. The AI may be awful at building a squad, but it is quite adept at recognising a forced sale. When a player’s contract is due to expire in a year and you cannot afford to renew it; the player is unsettled and wants to leave; or you just want to bring in someone else, the AI generally will not pay top money for a player. This is especially true if it could attempt to sign them for free in six months time. To avoid the issue with contracts, it’s best to assess contracts on a regular basis and monitor those who have less than 18 months remaining on their contracts and assess whether you wish to keep them in your squad or not. You could offer him a new deal and attempt sell him after he has signed a new deal, or be willing to cut your losses and let someone go on a free transfer.

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