Behind the Scenes: 10 Steps of Every Player Transfer

The transfer rumour mongering mill is grinding. Millions of dollars will exchange hands. Players will be disappointed. Fans and clubs alike will be disgruntled for failing to land their targeted players for the upcoming season.

Traditional big spenders comprising Real Madrid, Manchester United, Arsenal and the rest of the Premier League big boys will also be unveiling new faces before the transfer window closes at the end of August.

But the million dollar questions are: What happens behind the scenes as clubs get ready for their summer spending? And how do teams actually get the deals done? What really has to transpire for a transfer to be rubber-stamped?

If you are a soccer fanatic, agent or club, here are the 10 steps of every transfer:
Jorge Mendes in the Middle Represents Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho

Football scouting is an evolving industry. The days of the old-school scout, making instinctive judgments from the stands, are not quite over, but they are fading, particularly at the top level with the advent of computer technology.

Many clubs now use computer programmes, such as Scout7, to gather detailed statistical analyses of targeted players. Vital videos are uploaded within minutes of a game finishing, enabling a manager, head of recruitment or director of football to run the rule over a player from the comfort of his office.

Scouts on the other hand spend more time gathering intelligence off the field as they do watching a player on it – speaking to agents, forging relationships with a player’s family and friends. And most of all, to stay a step ahead of their arch rivals as the competition gets tough.

The bid
Once a player has been identified, the next step is to put a transfer (or loan) offer. The most common is for the club to submit a formal written offer for a player, seemingly by fax or email, which will then be considered by the selling club.

On the other hand, it is common for clubs to contact trusted agents to act on their behalf, either in finding an available player from another club, or finding a buyer for their own unwanted player. Agents act as intermediaries between the buyers and the sellers.

These can therefore kick start a deal that otherwise may not have been struck.

Tapping up?
Premier League rules clearly state that “a player under contract shall not directly or indirectly make any approach to another club without having obtained the prior written consent of the existing club to who he is contracted.”

But that is not always the case. Rarely will a bid be submitted for a player, without the buying club having contacted the player’s agent to hear if he would be interested in a move. And if so, how much is his asking price and expected wages.

Frowned upon? Certainly, but it is pretty much common practice across the game. The bulk of a deal is often set up before a fee has been agreed between the buying and selling clubs.

The negotiations
The media is possessed with phrases such as: “Preliminary talks,” “advanced discussions”, “talks ongoing”, “personal terms”, “showdown talks” – and the list keeps growing. Such phrases evoke images of a group of people – players, agents, chairmen, managers – sat around a table sliding pieces of paper with figures on them to each other, to be greeted by a shake of the head.

Again, the reality is very different. ‘Negotiation’ meetings are often brief, with an agent laying out a player’s demands, and an official (usually the chief executive, the head of recruitment or the director of football) giving their own side.

Common issues arising are: salary, bonuses and signing-on fees, as well as personal and social considerations. Players often leave the negotiations to their agents, and are kept abreast of the situation from afar. They usually meet with a manager before a deal goes through to discuss how he would fit in at his potential new club – and if they don’t, then they’re taking a huge risk.

Players’ dilemma
Players now possess more power in transfer deals. After all, it is their lives who will change. Considerations for a player prior to a transfer include how much playing time they would get if they moved clubs, whether they would need to re-locate (or learn a new language).

Would they be happy to work for the buying club’s manager and, particularly as you go down the leagues, the length of contract. Players, like anyone, want security. And, of course, there is also the financial aspect. Wages play a big part in any job decision, and in football the sums are vast, and still on the up.

The agents
Often branded as the enemy of football, agents in truth suffer from a familiar problem; the conduct of a few bad apples ruining the whole batch. In reality, agents are an important part of the game, particularly at this time of year, and good ones are valued, by both players and clubs.

As stated, agents can be used by clubs to identify players, or to find clubs for players they are looking to sell. Their network of connections is often a valuable tool for managers, from the highest level down.

They also, theoretically at least, should ensure players are able to focus on their football, without having to concern themselves with contract negotiations and discussions. A good agent should be as much a mentor and a confidante as a negotiator.

“My number one concern is my player,” says Neil Sang, a Liverpool-based agent who represents a number of players. “I listen to what my player wants, and then try to make it happen as best I can.”

The media
The media and player transfer is always a love-hate relationship. They love it because the stories keep them knee-deep in copy, but hate it because sifting through the garbage is an arduous and often disheartening process. Regularly, reporters will receive tip-offs about potential transfers, often via agents but sometimes from other sources.

Medical and work permit
The final hurdles in a deal are the medical and, for some players, the work permit. Medicals at top-level clubs are stringent, carried out at the training ground – Liverpool carry out tests on players at the Spire Hospital in Mossley Hill – and often well publicised through club’s official media channels.

But as time ticks away on deadline day clubs, naturally, have been known to take gambles. Liverpool, for example, signed Andy Carroll in January 2011 while the striker was sidelined with a thigh injury. Basically, if both club and player want a deal to go through, then it will.

Work-permits, meanwhile, are needed for any player over the age of 16 who does not own an EU passport. The buying club, basically, agrees to sponsor the player to be in the UK. A certificate of sponsorship is then produced by the club, which is submitted to the FA.

The FA will grant the work permit if the player has played 75% of competitive games for a FIFA-ranked top 70 nation over the past two years. Failure to meet this requirement will see an application rejected, unless it can be proven a player was unavailable for selection due to injury.

The drama
With all the time to conclude deals, why many clubs scratch around at 10pm with an hour before deadline? Drama addicts? Possibly. But the biggest factor about deadline day, especially in January, is how much of a domino effect is in operation. Clubs try to plan as best they can, but one transfer leads to others.

Additionally, a sudden run of poor form (or injuries) can lead to panic, particularly if a club is battling relegation, or chasing promotion. The risk of not adding to your squad when there are four months left in the season is deemed too big to ignore. Hence the “panic-buy” signings on the final day.

A club that is suddenly stripped of its star man late in the window, as Liverpool were with Torres, has to act fast, and that creates a knock-on, and a fair bit of drama too.

Done deal
The fee is agreed, the personal terms are agreed, and the medical is done. All that remains is to lodge the signed and sealed, finalised paperwork with the authorities. ….Oh, and to make sure you get the obligatory smiling photo of the player with his new manager, and his new club’s shirt.


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