Wheeling and dealing, astonishing coups and the occasional suspect sale: the transfer market is opening up again in real life. As the highs and lows of the previous season have withered for most teams, eyes are fixed on the horizon and bringing in reinforcements is the creed of the moment.
For me, the transfer windows are integral to my enjoyment of the game. I love buying and selling for a myriad of reasons. I have a fair bit of experience doing transfers, and I have learned the dark arts as well. With cloak-and-dagger dark arts becoming more and more commonplace in football, I felt like sharing these little nuggets of fuckwittery with you.
Like most gamers, I feel that, at the best or worst of times, depending on your perspective, I can be a bit of a MacGyver of mischief. There is nothing one can’t improvise into a playful prank bordering on deliberate sabotage if you experiment with the game’s mechanics often enough.
Is it cheating and/or exploiting? Meh, maybe it is, perhaps it isn’t. I’m not going to argue semantics. Feel free to ignore the suggestions listed below if you feel it’s not something you would like to do. My experience with gaming is that a lot of us transform from “Don’t share this poop-filled video of two girls and a cup with anyone because it’s horrible” to “THIS IS HORRIFIC I MUST SHARE IT WITH AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE!” Just go out and have a few laughs at the expense of the AI.
The following is important to keep in mind before we start. Not every trick in this dark book of semi-forbidden arts will work 100% of the time. Just keep that in mind and don’t fly into a blind rage the moment something backfires or does not go as planned. That’s the thing about shithousing and fuckwitting; it can backfire and blow up in your face.
So strap in and get ready for some dastardly tricks and shenanigans to create havoc in the transfer market. The promise of virtual riches makes a better recipe for supervillainy than dropping a criminal mastermind into a tank of chemicals.
Stall the AI and leave them in limbo
Let’s start small, with a minor effort of vileness. If fuckwittery is your aim, stall the opposing team. Use the maximum time allotted to you to reach a decision. When a team, regardless if it’s controlled by the AI or by a human manager, makes a bid for a player, the funds involved are temporarily allocated to that deal and cannot be used to further other transactions.
By holding out on the other team, you effectively limit the time they have in the transfer window to do business. Limiting someone’s time is especially fun if you can hold out until deadline day. The value of the bids might go up a lot, or the other side might not be able to sign anyone at all.
For extra credit on the scale of cuntishness, accept a deal on deadline day and pull the plug at the very last moment; cancelling instead of confirming.
Such antics can cause players to get unhappy, but another man’s happiness is a small price to pay for successfully shithousing the AI, no? At least you left a rival club without options.
Keeping your players by gaming the mechanics
One of the things the AI loves to do is unsettle your star players. You can appease your players, but more often than not that means you’re stuck with minimum release fee clauses or promises that you’ll sell for an X amount, while in reality you just want to keep hold of your star asset and sell him on your terms, if at all.
There are a few ways to stick a spoke in the wheels of such a deal. Each approach brings a particular risk along with it, as you risk alienating a player at best or the entire dressing room at worst. I recommend employing such a method if you either have confidence in restoring your working relationship with the player or if you’re stalling for time so you can scout and/or sign a replacement. Otherwise, the spoke in the wheels is a double-edged sword, cutting the deal but also your dressing room atmosphere.
If you have made a promise to a player to sell them for a specific price, that is pretty much set in stone. If a club hits that number with their offer, the players expect to be sold. The same concept pretty much applies to limited release fee clauses. However, if you prevent AI clubs from actually reaching that number, the player won’t complain in case of a promise and is less likely to complain in case of a limited release fee clause. Since the AI clubs have not met the valuation the player and his agent had in mind, they seem cool with it.
If you want to prevent AI clubs from reaching specific fees, the first step is to stall. Take all the time allowed to reach a decision. Try to negotiate as often and long as you can. All the time that an offer is not rejected is also time where the AI cannot make a new offer that triggers a promise or contractual fee.
If you feel that their offers are awfully close to hitting the predetermined mark, instead of giving up or negotiating up, you negotiate down. That makes no sense from a business perspective, but it does allow you to refuse the deal for not hitting the right number without the player going nuts—low-ball to preserve.
Just make sure the AI does not make an offer that matches the release fee clause or the promised number. Keep negotiating to a number below that and you can happily keep rejecting.
If, despite all your best efforts, the board has accepted an offer, the offer matches a promise or a release fee is met, you have a way to wriggle out of the deal. As odd as it may sound, in order to get out of the deal at this stage, you have to get your player to accept a transfer offer from a third party, introducing more clubs to this deal.
The logic behind this is irrefutable. If the board accepts an offer or a release fee clause is met, you cannot refuse this offer. If you accept an offer, you can refuse and thus cancel the deal. All you have to do is attract a club more interesting than the one whose offer was accepted without your consent. If you need to, offer the player out cheap to attract bigger fish and pray that the player refuses the option you cannot cancel.
I’ll have whatever they’re having
Playground antics are perfectly acceptable if you’re out to cause chaos. One of those shenanigans is to hoard all the players your rivals want to sign. Or at the very least you will try to keep your rivals from signing these players.
It really is the Football Manager equivalent of declaring something is of interest to you, just because someone else likes it, much like a toddler who does not want to share his toys. Only in this analogy, the toys are all the talented virtual players in a computer game. Shut up; I never said it was a great analogy.
Either way, if you find out your rivals are bidding on a certain player, you can sneak a bid in as well. At this point in time, you have options. You can either sign him and offer him out on loan to make back some money or you can offer a good contract and then continue to delay the transfer for as long as the selling club are willing to accept, before cancelling the whole deal.
I’m going to make you an offer…
It is an excellent quote from movie history; it also offers me the chance to use a Godfather gif as well as describe how you can grift the AI in a way that would make Don Corleone proud.
If you are hoarding dash stockpiling players as I do, there’s a fair chance that the majority of your incoming transfers will never reach the locker room where your fabled first-team resides. Instead, most of these players are sent out on loan for a few seasons, before being sold on.
With that knowledge in the back of your head, why not offer the selling club a lower transfer fee? Instead of money straight up, include more fees that depend on a player reaching an X amount of games for you or scoring a certain number of goals? You already know that this player is not going to amount to that, but the selling club doesn’t…
A variation to this scheme can be pulled off if you are managing a club & country combination. If you’re the one who calls up players, you can add clauses for more money after a certain number of international appearances. You can then guarantee that this player is never called up while snickering in a most dastardly fashion.
If you make an offer for a player, you can see that one of the clauses you can include is the “loan back” one. You can loan a player back to his old club. By doing that at 0% wages, you can often get clubs to lower the initial transfer fee, sometimes even substantially.
When you are looking at these clauses, you can also include the “recall from loan” clause. You can see where I’m going with this, can’t you? If you time this right, you can sign and recall a player within the same window. More likely is the scenario where you recall the player in the next window, which means you got a discount and got him at your clubs six months earlier than planned.
This article has been inspired by Benriach Authenticus. Besides the liquid inspiration, I have had help and inspiration from FM Scout, FMTahiti and Zealand as well.