How to get the best transfer deals in Football Manager


Football Manager is not real life. Poker stares won’t win you deals. Neither will bluffing by presenting low-ball final offers. To make an empire out of this virtual world, where no one can either enter a dialogue with you or see what you’re doing, it’s important to have a systematic approach towards every stage of the process.

For better or worse, I’m experienced in negotiating deals and making mistakes. Here’s a snapshot of my team’s transfer business this season:

Everton transfersdefault

Everton incoming.png

Everton outgoing.png

Everton final

My process

Your first thought will probably be how some of these deals look like trash. Getting Mohamed Abdalas for £58m and then loaning him out with no loan fee? Would any manager in real life do anything like that? While solid, the fees for Mammana, Tielemans, Schick and Bentaleb are also underwhelming for this self-proclaimed expert.

If you look back to previous seasons, I’ve also made losses on several of those youngsters, despite making a heavy profit on many more. I’m probably looking forward to FM19 more than anyone else here, since my 5-star rated 22-year old midfielder has agreed a pre-contract deal to join Monaco for free at the start of next season!

Yet, from this list, we got £365m for players we weren’t planning to use and spent that money on a plethora of the best prospects in the world. Since this model was implemented, this is how my Everton team have improved in stature:

Everton stature.png

Although the profit and loss figures in ‘finances’ don’t show it for some reason, we always make a significant profit at the end of every season; this is despite operating on a loss for much of it, until the final prize money comes in.

The first-team

Everton squad.png

At the end of every season, I look through my squad. I then decide who I’m going to keep and who I’m going to sell.

This isn’t as easy as it sounds. In the interests of keeping a young team who’ll all develop their games, while appreciating in quality and value, and commanding a lower wage, I have strict age limits for each squad status. These are: 30 for a key player, 27 for a first team player, 25 for a rotational player, and 23 for a backup player.

The process for deciding a player’s squad status often changes, but right now I start by taking a look at the ‘squad depth’ screen in ‘team report’:

Everton squad depth

I take a teleological look at the role I see for each player, rather than what their natural position is. Instead of describing what I do for every position, I’ll show you where everyone trains, to be totally clear and concise:

Everton training.png

Out-and-out wide players are reserved to wing-back, attacking midfielders play in central midfield and defensive midfielders play at centre-back. The five ‘key players’ will be the best striker, central midfielder, wing-back, centre-back and goalkeeper. The six remaining players making up the best XI will be ‘first team’ players.

On the bench, I have the remaining strikers and central midfielders, preferably the other left-wing back, one centre-back and another goalkeeper. These make up the rotation players. In backup, there’s the other right wing-back, along with the final centre-back and goalkeeper.

Selling players

Out of the players I don’t want, I decide whether selling them or loaning them out would be the best option. If I don’t want them because they’ve exceeded the age limit, the answer would be to sell them in 99% of cases.

These are probably the simplest negotiations, which might be why I don’t always get the highest fees. I start by seeing what teams are willing to pay, by offering the player out for an unspecified amount.

At this point, if an offer comes in, buying teams nearly always try to low-ball you. Rebut their offer with the player’s market value, no matter how much higher it is. It’s not the end of the world if they withdraw their offer!

It often just takes persistence and standing your ground to get significant money for players you don’t want; you need to offer them out again every day until they’re sold.

If you haven’t got an acceptable offer, but see clubs interested in that player, offer them out to those clubs. If all of that comes to no avail, try giving them asking prices, starting from 200% of their market value, going down to 100%. If that doesn’t work, you have a decision between waiting for other players to be sold, loaning them out, or using the ‘unwanted list’ route; the latter option is likely to get you less money.

It’s worth transfer-listing the player after stage one hasn’t worked. If you don’t get a resulting offer, you can tell the player to look for new clubs, which often incentivises them to be interested in signing for a poorer team on a lower wage.

Loaning players out

Previously, I’ve made the mistake of relenting too easily on the payment of their wage. Keep that at 100% while going down step-by-step from 200% to 0% in terms of the percentage of their value as a loan fee.

200% and 150% won’t usually yield any offers, but they do on occasion. Again, if you see any clubs interested in a player, take full advantage of that.

If you get any offers, first check whether the loaning club is willing to pay the player’s full wages. If not, gently suggest that they comply! Also, loan fees are usually negotiable, so try offering 130% of each of their suggested fees. They usually rebut, presenting the same terms as before, but then offer 115%. They usually accept.

The trick with getting good loan deals is spotting the bluffs, even more so than with transfer deals. Usually, straight when you loan list a player and offer them out on any terms, you get a tonne of offers worth either nothing, or close to nothing.

They can be tempting to accept, but forget your empathy for the player and reject them!

Loans are all about observing how the market will behave, rather than trying to get a certain amount of money. This is because the player’s value is set to constantly appreciate significantly, unlike those you’re trying to sell.

Loans take even more patience than transfers, because the players often aren’t keen on them. Especially if they’ve just been bought and expected to be in the first-team. With enough persistence, offers should come through by the end of the window!

Back to the process, if there’s no interest for a player when you’ve offered them out for their wages alone, it’s time to consider your options. You might want to sell them, or you could offer them out for 50% of their wages. If that doesn’t work, you can put them on your development list.

Strangely, that last step can suddenly make a player interested in a loan; I’ve frequently been able to get the loaning club to pay their full wages at that stage. If nothing works, and you’ve tried both of the last two options, either the player isn’t valuable, they’re injured or suspended, or they want to stay and be a nuisance. In the latter scenario, try dropping them to a different squad, offering them out for transfer or loan for no money, and offering a mutual termination.

As with selling players, the whole process often must be done more than once.

Buying players

My approach to buying players is… paradoxical. I delegate the power to make offers for first-team players to my Director of Football, and that power for youth team players to my Head of Youth Development. However, I hardly ever go ahead with signing the players they make offers for.

You’ve probably seen that I sign a lot of youth team players. I try to proactively scout as many as I can and sign those with a reasonable asking price and scout recommendation of at least 65.

65 marks a player with the potential to be a good player for the first team, not just useful.

Scouting youth players.png

When bidding, I start with the player’s market value. If they’re a viable transfer target, their parent club will usually make a counter-offer, unless they have a minimum release fee clause.

From the counter-offer, subtract the value of your original offer from it. Then take 30% of that remaining value, before adding that to the value of your original offer. If there’s another counter-offer, do the same but use 15%, rather than 30%; the selling club then can’t high-ball you.

After that, the selling club usually get frustrated, but present a counter-offer and indicate they want the deal to be tied up quickly.

The next step is to work out the raw amount the selling club went down from their previous offer, and add that to your previous offer. Another option is meeting them half way. Personally, I try to do whichever option turns ends up with the lowest offer. The selling club usually bow to my demands and accept the offer at that point!

For first team players, the bidding process is exactly the same. However, the process of finding players isn’t; otherwise, I’d have to claim I was winning Champions Leagues with Everton, while never signing anyone older than 18.

I look for players between the ages of 18 and 25, and usually bid according to scouting recommendations. Sometimes I look for particular positions, but I have so many players that can do a job for the first-team that I’m often just looking for luxuries.

Just take a look at my players out on loan:

Everton loan players.png

Out of the following players, I try to get more of the former, and less of the latter two.




The big question you might be asking is… how the hell do you have so many players scouted? Well, these two screenshots might answer that question:

Everton staff.png

Everton scouting assignments.png

Contract negotiations

This follows similar principles to other negotiations. Young players often want wage increases after a certain amount of games and a yearly wage rise; I always try to raise the latter while denying them the former.

With those players, I now make the contract as long in length as it can be, while offering them 85% of their requested wage, signing on fee and agent fee. To compensate, I offer them 130% of all their bonuses, including yearly wage rise. From that, I negotiate as if it were a transfer deal.

For players without the yearly wage rise, I do the same, but take a year off their proposed contract length. They usually don’t accede. When they insist on keeping the contract at the requested length, I then only offer them 85% of the requested wage, signing on fee and agent fee, from where the negotiation is at in that moment.

Management takes its toll.

Steve Clarke.png

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