Teams like Udinese and Basel are hardly world class teams, filled to the brim with superstars. They are certainly not the teams who compete for the Champions League every season, despite occassional stunts in the tournament. Yet despite all of this, these are teams who excel in a very particular area of the game: the transfer market. While some teams have acquired fame for their overwhelming spending summer after summer —more often than not thanks to the monetary backing of Eastern European or Middle Eastern investors— Udinese and Basel have mastered an investment approach that any Wall Street stockbroker would envy. Their keen eye for scouting young and affordable talents, combined with the common sense to actually field these youngsters instead of letting them rot away in the reserves, allows for these clubs to dramatically increase the market value of their players over relatively short periods of time. In short, these clubs have demonstrated the enviable knack of buying players relatively cheaply, benefiting from their prowess for a couple of seasons, then selling them for a very good price to richer European teams.
Sir Alex Ferguson was a manager renowned for his squad building skills. “Fergie’s never really looking at this moment, he’s always looking into the future,” Ryan Giggs once told newspapers. “Knowing what needs strengthening and what needs refreshing–he’s got that knack.” I want to look at my approach when building a squad, what is important and what isn’t, what are the do’s and don’ts. If you want your chance to build a dynasty á la Fergie’s, you might find this useful information.
When building a squad, there are a couple of key aspects I focus on to put myself and the team on the road to success. I focus on the demographic structure of the squad, I look at a form of performance-based analysis and finally I worry about the transfer policy. The demographic structure defines the capacity of managers to make up a balanced squad from the point of view of age, experience and contract length so as to guarantee sufficient long term stability. Secondly, performance-based analysis refers to the managers’ ability to objectively identify the strengths and weaknesses of their teams in order to find collective and individual solutions to improve results or anticipate eventual problems. Lastly, transfer policy defines the managers’ capacity to renew the pool of players available to optimise, or maintain over the long term, group unity, demographic balance and performance levels. Ultimately, the aim is to have a talented squad with sufficient depth to it, without having to deal with too many unhappy players complaining about being left on the bench.
Whilst sounding awfully pretentious, the Hartman doctrine refers to gunnery sergeant Hartman (geek alert for movie reference!) from the movie Full Metal Jacket. For those of you who may not have seen the movie, this is sergeant Hartman, who was an actual, bona fide US marine corps drill sergeant cast to play one.
He looks scary, doesn’t he? Can you imagine him instructing his troops? If you can but enjoyed the movie, or have never seen the movie, or do not possess a vivid imagination, have a look at the following clip.
Modern football is changing. With money becoming more and more important, the club landscape has changed. That applies to FM just as well as real life by the way. There is now a top tier of untouchable clubs who, like big businesses, get constantly richer and keep football alive with a trickle down of capital (Man City, PSG, Chelsea, Bayern) and then there is a secondary tier of clubs who provide a safe shop window for investors.
It seems rather unlikely we will ever see another ‘Ajax ’95’, a team which (arguably pre-Bosman ruling) bypassed economic restrains to achieve romantic glory. However, the most organised and forward thinking boards can overachieve and rise up the tiers. Take real-life examples such as FC Basel, Ajax, Porto and Sevilla. They understand that, in capitalist football, all staff are up for sale and will only remain at the club until they have reached their peak. The best businessmen know who to sign cheap and even more importantly; when to cash in before hitting a glass ceiling.
In this blogpost, I want to focus on the business side of things. If you’re a smaller club trying to break the strangle-hold of the traditional top clubs, be it nationally or internationally, how could you sign the right players for the right price? Which strategies can you employ to scout and sign players, how can you get the most value for players you intend to sell, basically, how can you be a smart wheeler-dealer?
Pre-season is good for a great many things. It can help you raise tactical familiarity, you get the chance to assess your squad and new signings, raise the overall fitness level of your players, boost morale in time for the new league campaign and there’s the opportunity to make some serious cash during pre-season.
Whilst I find all of these aspects to be equally important, I do find that I often overlook the financial aspect of the pre-season. However, the commercial and financial impact of the right pre-season friendlies can be immense. I wrote about this for FM14 and I’ve decided to re-vamp this approach after reading about it again on AlexOnFM.