In the transfer market, wheeling and dealing is an art. 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’ ability to negotiate a good deal. Clearly, a manager worth his salt can earn his club millions by negotiating the right conditions for a transfer.
As we have seen in the previous instalment of this series, a transfer deal can be influenced by a number of factors. I am not going to delve into all of these again, as it would mean copy-pasting half the previous article. What I am interested in is the art of negotiation. What are the interesting tips and tricks you can use to secure yourself a good deal on the transfer market?
The start of the negotiation process, from the buying point of view, is the part where a team has identified a transfer target and approaches the other club with an offer. As we have seen earlier, negotiating a good deal is a complicated game between guestimating the value of a player, assessing what the selling club wants to receive for the player and keeping the damage limited somehow.
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, especially when you have managed to unsettle a player beforehand.
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Get the timing right
In terms of buying, getting the timing right can mean the difference between a bargain deal and having to pay through the nose for a player, for a variety of reasons. Let’s just look at a few scenarios and how the timing can have a serious impact on the eventual outcome of the deal.
For starters, there is the most obvious case of getting the timing of your deal right. The transfer deadline day is always the most hectic day of transfer periods, as clubs tend, for a variety of reasons, to leave deals for the very last minute. In fact, selling clubs and agents may seek to hold the deal up until the last available moment, in order to try and obtain better conditions, while also considering parallel offers. Additionally, transfer deals are also often dependent on each other, so that when one deal is concluded, a series of consequent transfers, that had been put “on hold” depending on the positive outcome of the first, is triggered. Either way, leaving deals off until the last possible moment will generally mean you are desperate as a buying club, which ultimately might result in you paying too much for a player. If you conduct your business earlier, you can often reach more advantageous agreements with the selling club, because an earlier deal gives the selling club time to find replacements.
Similarly, clubs are often more willing to part with players when their contracts are about to expire or when they have, obviously, transfer listed their player. Necessity is a strong factor in negotiations. When a club risks losing a player for free or is actively trying to get rid of a player, they are often quite inclined to accept low offers and pay parts of a player’s wages for a considerable amount of time. You can often save 50% or more on a specific transfer fee when a player’s contract is due to expire at the end of the season or when the player is transfer listed.
A third factor to take into consideration when you are trying to get the timing for a deal right is the reputation of the player. We have already discussed how reputation drives a player’s value up by simply moving clubs. Similarly, reputation can lower a player’s value when he has just returned from a loan spell at a small club or when he is on the fringes of the squad. When someone sees little or no first-team action, his value is likely to plummet. Especially when you look at the squads of top clubs, there are always interesting prospects at the fringes of the squad you can snap up for peanuts. Large clubs often hoard talents Scrooge McDuck-style. After three or more years of training at a top level, these talents are good players for most clubs but not quite good enough for their respective paymaster. These talents can often be signed cheap while being instant impact signings.
Recognising such scenarios can mean the difference between snapping up a bargain or paying through the nose for a specific player. An often underestimated additional benefit of recognising beneficial scenarios is that you can take a gamble on a player when he is relatively cheap, whereas you are less likely to splash the cash on an unproven player when there is a very real risk such a deal can backfire or blow up in your face. When such a player is cheap, you basically get a low risk-high potential reward scenario, where your club can take a gamble without too much financial risk.
Tap up your target
Tapping up is an attempt to persuade a player contracted to one team to transfer to another team, without the knowledge or permission of the player’s current team. Proper tapping up is impossible in Football Manager because it is an illegal practice. You can, however, use a milder form of “tapping up”, which involves a manager letting his admiration for a player at another club become known, perhaps by hinting at his interest, spouting the usual sentences such as “he’s the sort of player any manager would be very keen to sign”. This mild tapping up is as easy as selecting the proper menu.
When you click on the “Transfer” tab on a player’s profile, you get the option to declare an interest in a player or add a player as a transfer target. Selecting either option will spawn a news item where this information is reported by the media, as well as a press conference where the media asks for your opinion on this player.
Naturally, tapping up a player way above your station is never going to work, so be sure to pick your targets wisely. Also, unsettling a player generally takes time. Doing this once or twice generally will not suffice. You have to do this regularly for it to work, as well as throwing in a few low-ball offers that are certain to get rejected. When your club has a higher reputation there is a fairly good chance the player will start to moan and bitch and demand a transfer.
Assess the value of a player AFTER his move
I am going to start off by quoting a fragment from the previous article.
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.
As we saw last time, a player’s reputation can skyrocket in the right circumstances. This potential value increase should be taken into consideration when determining the transfer fee you are willing to pay. A player with a market value of 2 million and an asking price of 8 million might seem overpriced but if this player is moving from the Swedish league to England, his value might move up to 20 million after his move. That doesn’t sound like a bad deal when you look at it that way, right?
Ask for a scout report
When you have estimated the value of the player after the transfer, you can also determine the sum you are willing to pay. In order to make this assumption correctly, you will need to get an indication on how the other team is willing to accept for a deal to go ahead. If the player has an asking price, as would be the case with a transfer listed player, or a minimum release fee, then the fee will default to this amount. In this case, the default fee does form a reliable basis for the value of your offer.
In most cases, your intended transfer market target is not transfer listed and his current club is far less likely to accept any old offer. In such cases, doing your homework may help you speed up proceedings. When you know how much the other team demands, you can decide if you can afford such a fee or if said player is even worth that much to your cause in the first place.
That is where the scout reports come in. When you have your scout(s) compile a scout report, they will generally include an estimation of what the other team expect to receive.
Getting an estimate like this can help you determine whether or not a player is worth chasing. If the demanded fee is excessive for a player who is not expected to be an instant impact player (or if you plain can’t afford to sign someone for that fee), it is best to back away before entering an ultimately unsatisfactory and frustrating process of negotiation where supply and demand are simply not on the same page in terms of expectations.
Fluff the deal with interesting clauses
Finally, when you get the timing right, have tapped up your targets and done the math on both his expected new value and whatever the other team wants for him, you can get around to the actual offer. Even here, it is possible to screw the other team around somewhat by fluffing the deal with various clauses.
For instance, offering additional fees for an X amount of games played or goals scored is something you can safely offer when you do not intend to actually field said player (see The Juventus Gambit). Similarly, offering a fee for an X amount of league games that exceeds a full season can be interesting as well. When you sell the player before he reaches the conditions agreed upon for such a clause, the other team gets fuck all in terms of compensation. So if you buy a player for 12 million with 4 million in additional clauses after 30 league games and you make sure he never plays 30 league games before you sell him, you will have earned yourself a cool 4 million.
The AI teams will generally not accept deals with exclusively additional fees but using such devious and sly methods can still save you a decent sum of money every transfer window.