In an ESPN article, football author Ian Macintosh wrote that when media outlets speculate about a club wanting to sign someone, the club most likely has been following that individual’s progress for months or even years. So when fans question their clubs’ decision to pursue said individual, many are unaware that the club’s knowledge of what their target has to offer is much more extensive than most think.

Once a club decides that it does indeed want to sign a player, the next step is to set up a communication channel between the two parties. FIFA regulations prevent teams from “tapping up”,which is approaching players and/or their agents directly instead of the club to which they are signed. Teams interested in purchasing must therefore hire an agent to act as a go-between for the two parties. These agents also serve a key purpose in that they can provide clubs with information on whether the player may or may not be interested in joining. This is done because clubs don’t wish to be embarrassed by making public bids for players who will reject them.

Once it is made clear that the player is interested in joining the club targeting them, the negotiations can begin. Surprisingly, negotiations have been known to take place over platforms like WhatsApp, as sports lawyer Jake Cohen explained to The Economist. Cohen pointed out that a platform like WhatsApp is perfect because “Instant updates and security make it particularly convenient”.

Within the negotiations, Macintosh also points out that the talks between the two parties have three key focal points, what the player may want for them in terms of compensation, what the player’s agent’s fees should be, and finally how much the selling club may want for their player. This final point tends to be very difficult to agree on, particularly in the case of a player with a buy-out clause. This clause is often attached to a player’s contract when he/she initially joins the club and requires any other club wishing to purchase the player before their contract has expired to pay it (in the case of the most expensive player of all time, Neymar Jr, his clause was set at the equivalent of R 2.8 billion). Once the two parties have sorted through the details of the contract, the player must then go through a comprehensive medical examination. A fair number of transfers have collapsed due to failed medicals, which is a testament to how key a component they are in the entire process. Once this is successfully completed the most glamorous part of the process, the public signing, takes place as the player is officially unveiled to the media and supporters. Football transfers, provided added, and sometimes unwanted, drama and intrigue to the beautiful game.


Illustration: Sally Hartzenberg

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