Advanced Sign-To-Sell; Polish That Gem

In an earlier post, I mentioned the patented sign-to-sell idea, which roughly means you sign players you have no intention of ever fielding purely for the intention of selling them for profit. Simply identifying and signing said players really isn’t enough though. Just having them sit in your reserves is not going to make it easy for you to sell them, let alone turn a profit. Allow me to show you what I mean with a simple case study.

One of my scouts informed me that I could sign Qatari international Sadiq Al-Shammari on a Bosman deal. Let’s have a look at this strapping fellow, shall we?

Sadiq Al-Shammari is a proper steal at this value.
Sadiq Al-Shammari is a proper steal at this value.

At first glance, we see a decent enough player, a well rounded player in the prime of his life. The 41.5k value does not do his actual quality justice, but playing in the Qatari Stars League is not helping his value improve much. Despite all of this, his reputation is fairly high and playing for a better side like mine should see his value rise quite rapidly. In this case, Sadiq checks the first box, he’s an established player, available for way less than what he’s actually worth.

Looking at his history, we see Sadiq checks a second box as well.

A lad with pedigree.
A lad with pedigree.

Due to PSG’s Qatari owners, the French giants tend to spawn the occassional Qatari newgen. Whilst Sadiq was not good enough to feature in the PSG first team, he has trained with some fine players and under a talented coaching staff. With PSG routinely producing classy newgens, there’s a fairly decent chance Sadiq has some untapped potential in him.

An added benefit of this French pedigree is his double nationality. Having an actual EU passport makes him more attractive for most European clubs, especially those located in countries where Work Permits are a necessary evil. All of this makes him well worth signing and his value is expected to rise quite a bit.

First thing I do after signing a player like Sadiq is place him in the reserve squad. He was signed as a backup for first team, so he won’t be too concerned about being placed in the reserves. We need him to get some matches under his belt anyway and allow him a chance to work with the excellent coaching staff I have assembled over the years.

My quite superb coaching staff.
My quite superb coaching staff. Incidentally, I have 23 coaches, so you can’t see them all on that screenshot.

So what can six months of training do for Sadiq?

His stats have improved and his value has sky-rocketed.
His stats have improved and his value has sky-rocketed.

A mere 6 months in the warm bossom of my club and its amazing coaches has done wonders for Sadiq’s stats. As was to be expected, his value was re-evaluated to match the stature of the club he is playing for, setting his value at 6.25 million right now. Not bad, but we can always milk it further. It’s always easier to sell a player after a decent season for a club and well, Sadiq hasn’t played in first team in the past six months.

So what we need is to offer Sadiq to other clubs, to try and get him some games.

Offer him out on reasonable terms.
Offer him out on reasonable terms.

I feel that just listing a player for loan is often not enough to generate interest for said player, so I actively offer them to other clubs. I always go for 100% wages, so I don’t lose money on the deal. Never ever let a player compete against you, so make sure you un-tick the “can play against own team option.” The option to recall is useful when a player is not getting enough first team action or when-ever you feel you need the player yourself.

The result.

When the player is good enough, there are always clubs who respond with an offer. Don’t fuck it up at this stage by trying to negotiate a monthly fee. Remember, we’re trying to polish this player to sell for a profit later on, so we don’t need to get greedy right now. In this example, Sadiq got loan offers from several clubs, all with decent training facilities.

Loan completed.
Loan completed.

When a player makes a move on loan like that, just make sure to keep an eye on your loanee. I always ask for scout reports on such a player. If a player is not getting enough first team football, recall him and loan him away to another club. In an ideal situation though, a player will see his value rise. Just have a look at our buddy Sadiq.

Sadiq performing well at Anfield.
Sadiq performing well at Anfield.

His value has risen from just over 6 million to 10 million. Apparently, playing in a stronger league raises a players reputation and thus his value. Selling a player like this, with an inflated value, should be quite easy.

A profitable transfer deal.
A profitable transfer deal.

If you’re able to negotiate a deal properly, you can get upto 50% on top of a players market value. If you want to read more about negotiating a good deal, give one of my older blog posts a read. Either way, it’s a quick and simple way to raise the profile and value of a player and make some extra money on the side.


Negotiating a good deal

Another important part of wheeling and dealing is the pure and simple negotiating a deal. Several factors come into play here. First of all, you have to know what a player is actually worth. I’m not talking about the value displayed in-game, I’m talking about actual value in terms of the market. Is this is one-of-a-kind type of player, unique to this generation, is this a wonderkid with the potential to be the next Messi or is this a run-of-the-mill type of player?

I’m going to use a prime example of the last category here, seeing as you won’t be likely to sell the first two types of players. Say hello to Japanese wing-back Shinpei Mizunaga.

Mizunaga is an average wing-back. Decent and solid, but nothing spectacular. There are probably dozens of players like him out there, but Mizunaga is one of the few who is now for sale. Whilst he is not transfer listed, he has been placed in the reserve squad, signaling to AI clubs my willingness to sell. I hardly ever transfer list players, as that tends to attract ludicrously low offers.

In terms of value, I’d like to get between 6 and 7.5 million for the lad. That is more than what FM says he is actually worth, but I see a player almost in his prime, with good enough attributes for most top division sides in Europe, low wages, a senior international for his country and the added bonus of extra merchandising revenue from Japan.

With a 15k a week wage, Mizunaga has costed me at least 780k so far, not taking bonuses into account. If I add that sum on top of his market value of 5.25 million, I’m at the 6 million minimum I want for Mizunaga. The lad came in for free, so I don’t have to throw a transfer sum into the equation.

We know what we want, now it’s time to see who wants Mizunaga. When negotiating, it’s also important to see who is offering. Bigger sides are more likely to overpay, clubs from specific nations are more likely to spend big as well. For example, when teams from the Ukraine, Cyprus, Turkey or Greece come knocking, feel free to overcharge a lot more.

This time, it’s Vitesse offering us a deal. Despite being a top Dutch side, they don’t have millions to spend and they want to make a good deal, for them anyway. Quite frankly, I am insulted they are even trying this shit with me. At 2.7 million with no installments or clauses, they are having a piss…

Naturally, I am not going to accept such a low-ball offer. I’m going to show them how much I want. I’m going to counter with a high-end bid of 7.5 million. Vitesse are not likely to accept this, but when negotiating, it’s always a give-and-take approach that pays off. Vitesse raise their bid, I lower my demands until we meet somewhere in the middle.

Vitesse immediately decided to raise their bid. We’re still a long way off what I want for him, but we’re also in the initial stages of the negotiations. Things aren’t looking very bright at the moment, but should the negotiations cave, it does send a signal to other clubs we’re not selling for pea-nuts.

As I mentioned earlier, I am working towards reaching a sort of middle ground. They raised their bid, I lower mine. When asking 7 million, I’m still comfortably in the high end of what I actually want. I can slash half a million to make them more committed to these negotiations.

Vitesse have again raised their bid. We are now at almost a million more than their initial bid. Still a long way off what we actually want, but we’re getting there, slow and steady.

I decided to negotiate again. I kept in the installments for fun.

Vitesse are getting desperate with their next counter-offer, as they are slapping more and more clauses onto their bid. The negotiations are reaching their final stages and I have a bad feeling about the outcome.

I lower my asking price some more.

The next offer is probably the best Vitesse can do, considering all the clauses they have slapped on. They are still a million shy of what I want for this guy, so either I take the million “loss” or I wait for another buyer.

At this point, I decided to check my options. If Vitesse had been the only interested party, I would have probably sold him. It’s still a very decent profit, but as it stands, Lille are also interested and French sides have some more spending money.

I once again go for a high-end counter-bid.

Vitesse are most likely to reject it, which is what happens.

Even when these negotiations broke down in the end, it does show you how to raise the offers on your average players considerably. I could have taken their final offer and not been far off the value FM gives him.

The same concept also applies to big name players, or as I mentioned earlier, the arrived stars, the crème de la crème, the players you don’t actually have to sell. In terms of Pozzo’s Udinese, the Alexis Sanchez’ of the world. They are likely to attract big name clubs and you can make a killing here.

The guy in my example above is an Egyptian international, 23 years old, almost on top of his game and definitely a top player for his position. When a player attracts the attention of clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid, he has game.

Again, I assessed his value. I don’t have to sell Shokry, so there’s no way I am going to go for his market value or a figure anywhere near there. Also, these clubs are loaded and can afford to splash the cash, so I might as well bleed them as dry as I can. I also have to take into consideration that I will face off against them in the Champions League and replacing Shokry would cost me a pretty penny, unless I relied on bleeding in a youth academy graduate. Barcelona’s initial offer of 17 million felt like an insult. They have a lot more to offer .

Using the same method as I mentioned earlier, I started negotiating. The outset was different though. For Mizunaga, I was happy with a value just over his market value. Mizunaga was a run-of-the-mill left-back, Shokry is, at this point in my save-game, one of the best players in his position.

Shokry, in my eyes, was worth nearly twice his actual market value. This took into consideration his relatively young age, low wages, sublime skill-set and the fact that a replacement of similar quality would cost me around 25 million or more. Barcelona, having more than enough money anyway, agreed to my terms quite quickly.

Fortunately for me, I did not have to invest in new players, since I always come prepared for deals like these. I invest in a shadow squad, which means I have young players sitting in the reserves, either waiting for a shot in first team or away on loan to a feeder club. In this case, one of my talents returned from a loan-spell and looked about ready for first team action.

In the end, I gained 35 million for a player who could easily be replaced by a youngster already at the club. When dealing with bigger clubs, don’t be afraid to ask for prices you initially thought would be insane. The big sides will pay crazy money when you ask them to.


If you have the system in place, you can start to make a profit by using what I call “sign-to-sell”. This basically means that certain players you sign should be players with either high potential or a high reputation, who are undervalued at the moment you sign them. If your team is successful, this rubs off on every player, even unused substitutes, meaning their value will increase. If needed, you can loan these players away for a season or so to inflate their value.

Naturally, you need to find the right kind of players to make deals like that. In my eyes, there are three kinds of players suitable for such deals.

1. The emerging young starlet
Take for instance my good friend Shûji Ike.

As you can see, Ike joined on a free transfer as a promising youngster, having completed three successful seasons in the J-League and having broken into the national side. He came in January, on a free transfer and on relatively low wages. He stayed at my own club for 6 months to hone his skills, was loaned away to Udinese for the next season and had a decent season in the Serie A, considering this is a young foreigner, making his debut in Italy. He impressed Napoli sufficiently to earn a lucrative transfer to Italy.

Considering the fact that Udinese paid his wages for that second season, I did not pay a transfer sum for him and his wages were relatively low (under 10k a week), you can see I have made a massive profit on this player.

Is Shûji Ike any good? You be the judge of that…

Personally, I feel that Ike is a solid defender. Good enough to play in the Serie A, yes. Perhaps even good enough to compete in the Champions League. Is he worth 14 million? No way. He’s just a prime example of a player who was signed just before he made a name for himself on the international stage and was sold on when his loan ended and his value rose a bit further, with his parent club being a Champions League winning side and all…

2. The established international, available for a limited fee or a free transfer
A second example would be Triantafyllos Siamantas, a dynamic Greek wing-back. Is this guy any good? Again, you can be the judge of that…

This is an example of a prime player, who for some reason was released by Olympiacos, probably a dispute over money. Siamantas was not cheap to acquire, commanding wages of 50k a week, totaling roughly 2.6 million a year, not including other fees. Siamantas was good enough to reach first team however and he’d be good enough to play for almost any side in the world.

He was a more expensive investment, but still relatively cheap. As you can see, his value was at around 10 million upon signing. Since the player had already peaked before signing, his value was relatively stable. I generally don’t sell a player like that, unless I get an offer that is considerably over the market value he represents. If a player is part of a winning team, the AI seems to hype said player and this was the result.

A deal like this would not have been lucrative, had I paid an actual transfer sum for Siamantas. In that case my profit margin would have been very low. We did not really need another left wing-back at the time, but he offered a decent investment with a very real chance to make a profit. An internationally renowned player, available for a limited fee and in the prime of his professional career.

3. Rejects from a top academy

The last group I take a punt on when wheeling and dealing are rejects from a top academy. If players are released by top sides, either domestic or international, I tend to have my scouts check them out if they haven’t already. If they come up as 3 stars or more in terms of potential, they are worth a punt. If my prized coaching staff are able to get the best out of such a player, his value will sky-rocket and I can turn a profit.

Incidentally, this seems to work best with real players. Most of them have been given a decent potential ability by virtue of being part of a top club’s academy, so the raw potential is present. A combination of good coaching, regular action in either the youth or reserve squad or a possible loan and perhaps a bit of luck will see a before average player turn into a decent talent, which means he can be turned into a profit. Let’s look at a prime example, Augustine Loof.

A former Dutch youth international, seen as a decent talent by PSV but ultimately released because he was not good enough. I took a chance with him. My coaching staff went to work with the lad and he came a long way. He wasn’t quite good enough for my team, as evidenced by the few moments he saw action on the pitch.

He did however develop into a player good enough for the Sierra Leone national team, which made Udinese offer us a deal. After some fierce negotiations, I managed to turn Loof into a healthy profit of 8 million.

This last method is a tricky one, as not every player is a guaranteed hit. In fact, it’s a bit hit and miss, with a success-rate of around 50%, which is far lower in terms of results than the net yields of the other categories of players. Because of the low costs of such players, it’s worth a punt though. And be honest, my financial results don’t lie…

Setting up the basics

After taking over a club, one of the first things you need to sort out is the backroom staff. After all, what use is it to sign talented youngsters if their progression halts after they sign for your club.

Ideally, you want a good setup for both first team and the youth squad, something a bit similar to this. If you can afford them, get separate coaches for the youth squad.

Don’t worry too much about the specific training setup, just get decent coaches in there. For coaches, these are the attributes I look at.


Fitness (Aerobic/Strength) = Fitness, Determination, Discipline & Motivation.
Tactics = Tactical Coaching, Determination, Discipline & Motivation.
Ball control = Technical, Mental, Determination, Discipline & Motivation.
Attacking = Attacking, Tactical, Determination, Discipline & Motivation.
Defending = Defending, Tactical, Determination, Discipline & Motivation.
Shooting = Technical, Attacking, Determination, Discipline & Motivation.
Goalkeeping (Shot Stopping) = Goalkeeping, Determination, Discipline, Motivation, Tactical
Goalkeeping (Handling) = Goalkeeping, Determination, Discipline, Motivation, Technique

Ideally, this leads to results like these.

Next up is the most important part, the part that makes the Pozzo engine tick; the scouting network. Udinese have employed over 120 scouts worldwide to be sure they scout the talents early on. Basically, you want to get as many scouts as you can and then distribute them wisely.

When signing scouts, there are two important attributes to look for, these being Judging Potential and Judging Ability. This is what a scout is supposed to do, so this is what you should look for when signing scouts. Some people look at other attributes as well, but these two attributes will do, especially when you have to rely on free agents because you cannot afford to poach top scouts from other clubs.

You don’t need an all-round superstar, who can do just about anything. All you need is a specialist who has an eye for talent. You would be amazed at the amount of talent floating around on the free agent list, but it takes some time to find them. Be sure to look for scouts with at least 15 for both attributes. You want a semi-decent scout, otherwise you’re just wasting resources.

Now, the staff search option the game offers is not always ideal, because it does not display all the staff worldwide, but just those in your region. Placing an advert for personnel is not a bad idea. This allows others to respond to the job you are offering and this sometimes leads to responses from people you hadn’t noticed before.

Since signing a new scout also raises your scouting knowledge, it might be a good idea to look at the nationalities of your scouts. Since a scout automatically has a 100% knowledge of his home nation, it could be a good way to raise your scouting knowledge of the world. In my case, if I had to pick between a Dutch and a South American scout, both with comparable profiles, I’ll pick the South American to raise my scouting knowledge in this continent.

Now whilst getting high scouting knowledge is important, you shouldn’t strive for 100% coverage, for the pure and simple reason that some parts of the world are just not worthwhile.

In the example above, you can see that the club has exceptional knowledge at least for Europe, North America and South America. You will also notice that Africa, Oceania and Asia are not present in the regional knowledge. That is because most of the players from such regions are not worth the resources it would cost to unearth them.

Keep in mind that I am not saying that there are no talents hailing from these regions, but economically speaking, it’s not worth it to send a scout to the entire region. Take for example Asia. A vast continent, but in terms of football, there are only three or four countries who regularly produce players good enough to play in Europe (South Korea, Japan, China and Australia). Instead of spreading resources to cover all four regions of Asia and have scouts spend months in shitty little countries like Thailand, Myanmar and Nepal, I have just assigned scouts to the four countries I deem worthy.

The same applies to Africa, instead of scouting the entire continent, just focus on the countries you know end up producing decent players. Your scouts won’t waste their time in countries like Benin, Gabon and Lesotho, but will instead direct their attention towards unearthing talent in the countries who are actually worth their attention.

The Pozzo Ploy

Basically, I want to take a page from the Pozzo handbook. In case you are not familiar with the story, Giampaolo Pozzo took over his local side Udinese back in 1986, since then Udinese have been on an incredible journey which has taken them from betting scandals and Serie B football to the Champions League, and Giampaolo didn’t achieve this through following a model which involved him spending big amounts of money on players, he achieved it through investing in scouts which found some of the best young talents across the world, these players would then be signed fairly cheaply by Udinese and would be developed into great footballers who could help the team grow.

Udinese chairman Giampaolo Pozzo
Udinese chairman Giampaolo Pozzo

In the summer following promotion in 1994, Udinese supporters were given a taste of things to come in the shape of Oliver Bierhoff, signed for approximately 2m from Ascoli. Within three seasons he was a German international, topped the Serie A scoring charts in 1997-98 with 27 goals and was sold for ten times the amount he was bought for to AC Milan.

This was the “Udinese Model” in its embryonic stage, Bierhoff its first real success. Set up by Pozzo in that first season back in Serie A, Bierhoff was just one example of a number of older players Udinese have transformed from journeymen into household names.

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