how football (soccer) player transfers work in non-American leagues


There have been a lot of moves this summer and there’s currently a lot of drama about where Mbappe and Kane are going to end up, and I don’t understand how the transfer fees work or why players can reject transfers

In: 5

If a contract has a release clause then once it’s been met the buyer can enter contract negotiations with the player. If not, then they have to negotiate the price which depends on a number of factors: age of player, position, length of contract remaining…ultimately the player must also accept the terms being offered. If the player doesn’t then the deal doesn’t go through (you can’t force players out). Fees are also divided into several parts: a portion is paid up front, while the rest is spread over a few years and could include performance/appearance bonuses…so Tottenham aren’t getting £100M right away

If a player is under contract to one club, another club can buy the right to acquire them. This is a transfer fee. That money goes from one club to the other club. Then the player and the new club still have to negotiate a contract and come to terms.

It’s literally buying and selling players. A lot of clubs develop players and sell them to better clubs at a profit to stay viable in the lower leagues where the tv deals aren’t as lucrative. That money helps to fund their operation in addition to tickets and merch sales.

However, if a team doesn’t want to lose the player, the can refuse a transfer fee offer and then the player isn’t allowed to negotiate with another team until their contract ends (technically they can start negotiating in the last 6 months of their contract if they are not extended by the first club).

If a player doesn’t want to switch teams, even if their club accepts a transfer offer, they simply have to refuse to sign a contract with the new team. Then nothing happens. They stay where they are on the current contract.

If the club really wants that player gone, their only option is to cancel their contract which would make the player a free agent, and the club loses them and gets no money in return.

That”s how transfers have to be agreeable to everyone involved.

The player has to be okay with changing teams.

The first club has to get an acceptable amount of compensation for losing their player.

The second club has to feel like the player they’re acquiring is worth the money that they have to spend to get them.

Transfer negotiations can happen at any time, but players can only actually move from team to team during the two transfer windows each year (winter and summer).

A player is registered to a club. So for as long as that is the case, that player cannot play for any other club. When the player joined the club he or she signed a contract stating the club would hold that registration for a certain period of time, measured in seasons/ years normally.

If the player decides to leave the club they must request that the club sell them to an interested party. If the club agrees, they will discuss a transfer fee with any clubs that they are interested in selling to.

If the club decides to sell the player, the player can either agree to talk to the interested party and see what they are offering, or tell the original club that they are not interested in joining that club.

That’s where things can get complicated. A player who refuses to leave has every right to stay, but they may find they are dropped from the playing squad. And in the reverse situation, where the player wishes to leave but the club refuses to sell them, there are few options available to the player that will not contravene their contract. They could refuse to train or play, but in both instances will have wages docked for failing to fulfil their contractual obligation.

There are some other things to note – when a player signs for a new club the new club will pay a transfer fee of which some might go to the player and / or their agent. The player will also get a signing-on fee from the new club. In some instances, when handing in a transfer request, the player may well no longer be able to claim any of the transfer fee.

And once a player’s contract runs out, they are a free agent and can negotiate with any club they wish. Players in the Premier League can begin negotiations with non-PL teams from six months before their contract ends. If they wish to join a PL team at the end of their contract they must wait for the contract to expire.

It’s also worth noting that a club can only approach another club. They are not allowed to approach a player and ask if they would like to join before approaching the player’s club. And while that has been the case for as long as I can remember, players – and their agents – absolutely do talk to clubs before official approaches are made.

The thing that is hardest for Americans to understand is that in Europe (and really most of the rest of the world), the player’s contract cannot be transferred to a new team. When the player’s team agrees to transfer him, all that means is that IF the player and new team agree on a new contract, then the new team will pay a fee to the old team.

In American sports, the contract itself is traded, so the player has significantly fewer rights to stop the move (unless they have a no-trade clause in their contract).

I wrote this in a similar thread a couple days ago:

So, it’s closest to baseball in the old days.

Just a couple ground points: All contracts are guaranteed, they cannot be transferred or traded. When contracts are over, players can leave as a free agent (this was not the case before 1992. American baseball used to be similar.)

So, a player may sign a contract for 5 years. That player then registers with their team and plays the year. At the end of the year, a bigger and richer team may be interested in that player. The interested team must contact the contracted team directly (not the player first, if they do, it’s illegal and it’s called “tapping up”). The contracted team will tell them if they are interested in selling the player, or to go pound sand. If they are willing, they will agree a price that the interested team must pay in order to begin negotiating. This is the transfer fee. The transfer fee is basically the price that the contracted club wishes to receive in order to void the contract with the player. It is a balance between what they believe the player is worth on the open market, and the value they expect to receive from the player over the life of his contract.

If the teams agree to a transfer fee, the interested club will enter into negotiations with the player and his agent. They will have to agree to contract terms at the new club. This is completely separate from the transfer fee discussion with the club. If the player doesn’t want to move, the transfer breaks down and he will stay at his contracted club at the same terms.

There are instances on both sides where either the contracted club won’t let a player who wants to go leave below a certain price (Harry Kane at Tottenham, for instance), or a player who doesn’t want to leave his contract to make less money elsewhere (Wayne Bridge at Man City refused to leave and was making $90k/week to play in the reserves).

All of these must happen in two months during the summer, or one month during the winter – more or less (and each league has a slightly different window. Yes this sometimes causes problems like if one player leaves and the team can’t find a replacement).

Loans, are sort of what they sound like. Usually these are for players (often younger players) who are struggling to break through into the first team. A loan is a short term agreement (couple weeks to 2 years) for a player to remain contracted to his current team, but to go play for another team. The player receives the same pay that is in his contract. The Loaner club and the Loanee will negotiate who will pay for the player, or if they will split it. That will depend on the circumstances.