Football is a ruthless business. You buy a lad before he’s old enough to buy a packet of Benson & Hedges, stick him on a five-year contract, play him about as often as a Simply Red album and then refuse to let him leave until Derby County have paid £13m for him. Them’s the rules.
If you know what you’re doing, you should almost always sell a player for more than you bought him. If you buy high and sell low, you’re either managing Real Madrid or you’re washing money down the plughole.
Here’s how to make sure you’re getting the best possible fees for your players.
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The basics of selling players in FM21
Let’s get the basics of getting maximum value from player sales out the way first:
- Don’t let players reach the last six months of their contract. Unless you’ve got an absolute carthorse on £100k a week that nobody else wants, avoid letting players get into the final six months of their deal, or else they will almost certainly jump ship to another club for free.
- Get rid of players as they peak. To maximise value from sales, you need to sell players when they reach the apex of their career, just before their attributes start to slide. For outfield players, that is generally between the ages of 28-30. Keepers tend to peak a bit later, in their early thirties.
- Avoid release clauses like a dose of the Rona. Is it just me or are release clauses a much bigger thing in FM21? Whatever, do your best to negotiate these out of any deal you sign with a player. Offer them higher wages, a bigger signing-on fee, free Domino’s on a Friday, but don’t let them put in a release clause that allows PSG to come along and take them for the price of a bacon sandwich. If their agent locks in a release clause and you don’t want to walk away from the deal, offer them a new contract at the earliest opportunity (normally around six months in) and try and get rid of that clause.
Choosing when to sell
Selling a player when it suits you – not them – is the key to maximising value. Transfer listing players isn’t normally a good idea, as it sends out a signal you don’t want them and invites cheap bids. Offer the player out instead, and only put them on the transfer list if you continually fail to get a bite.
In my experience, the best way to maximise transfer value is to sell a player that’s in demand right at the beginning of a transfer window. Why? (a) Clubs are likely to still have most, if not all, of their transfer kitty in hand; and (b) it gives you time to haggle for the best price, unlike at the end of a window when you might be panicked into accepting a lower offer so that you have time to find a replacement.
I’d generally try and sell big stars in the summer window, as it’s longer and gives you pre-season to settle replacements. Plus, more players tend to become available in the summer, when contracts normally expire.
The situation I have with my backup keeper in my Leicester save is almost the perfect selling scenario. I’ve got a better replacement, Donnarumma, but because the Italian wonderkid busted his leg in the second half of last season, backup Livakovic got a lot of games and played brilliantly in our march to the Champions League and World Club Championship titles (yes, that was a humble brag; OK, it wasn’t that humble).
It’s still mid-summer and there are four big clubs expressing ‘major interest’, which I can hopefully spin into a bidding war (see next section). He’s a damned good backup and he’s only 27, so in many ways I’d like to keep him. Rationally, however, he won’t be first choice when Donnarumma’s fibia isn’t at a right angle, and I could buy a decent backup keeper for £10m and invest the rest in a first-choice outfield player.
The other key factor here is he’s not desperate to leave, dripping poison in the dressing room and forcing me to sell to the first bidder. He got the hump when Donnarumma first arrived and he was dropped down to Cup Keeper status, but that run in the team at the end of the season and a couple of medals perked him right up. However, he might start sulking again when he’s back on the bench.
It’s time to sell. Send round the brown Jiffy bag for his leaving collection and prepare to haggle.
Maximising transfer fees
In a situation like this, this is how I’d approach the sale:
1. Offer the player out to clubs with no asking price. This is a good way of finding out what clubs are prepared to pay for him. The ideal situation is that more than one of his suitors put in a bid.
2. Nudge up the asking price. With the bids tabled, go back to the clubs and start nudging up the price. If they bid, say £40m, go back and ask for £60m. But here’s the key thing – if they immediately accept £60m, cancel the deal.
3. Offer out again at a higher price. Now offer the player out again for £80m. If they bit your hand off at £60m, they’re prepared to go higher. You might only get £63m or £65m offers, but that’s a few million quid more than you would have got. If they’re happy to take £80m straight away, cancel and repeat this step again until you find the maximum the club(s) are willing to pay.
4. If you didn’t get your asking price in step 2 or 3, work slowly backwards. Keep offering the player out at a slightly lower price each time, until someone bites. Watch out for clauses at this point. If clubs can’t really afford a player, they’ll often try something sneaky like spreading out payments (not ideal) or making you pay a percentage of the player’s wages for the remainder of his contract (avoid, unless monumentally desperate).
5. Don’t rush a deal. Be patient. Don’t use that new option to force players to make a decision, give them breathing space. This is why you want to do the bulk of your selling in early summer, where there are months of transfer window remaining. Rushing the process will either result in you taking a lower price than you could have got or a player pulling out of the deal. And then you’ve got to deal with the Incredible Sulk.
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