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Top Tips for the transfer market in Football Manager

It’s that time of the year again! The transfer market is in full swing, with offers coming and going, contracts getting checked and renegotiated and every bit of the off-season fun. But while it can be fun for the fans to see who their team get, it’s a really stressful part of the year for managers and DoFs, and FM is no different. Fear not, though, for the DTG team comes to the rescue, with our top tips for the transfer market in Football Manager.

Contract Negotiations, by Rock’s End FM

Every step of the way to completing a transfer has its pitfalls and dangers, and that’s why it’s so important not to fall on the last hurdle, the contract negotiations. Whether you’re signing a top target for a huge sum of money or scraping by to get that free agent to join, it can be a critical time. So how can you ease the way?

Wages

The first of my transfer market tips for Football Manager, pay good consideration to the wages. I use yearly wages as it helps me better visualize how much money is going into any player, but whatever method you use, consider this: is that player worth what they’re asking? Many times, particularly as a rookie player, I’d get starry-eyed and try to get the player no matter what. Even now, I’m ashamed to admit, it happens from time to time.

But sometimes a player is just not worth it. There’s no shame in accepting that you won’t reach an agreement and backing down. The best way to understand when you’re about to overpay is to build a wages structure. You can do it by taking a look at your current squad and checking how much a starter makes, and how much a rotation player does. There’s also a guideline provided by your board in the Finances screen, under the Wages tab, listing how much a player should earn according to playtime and importance.

Bonuses

My second transfer market tip for Football Manager is to use the right bonuses. There are two types of bonuses: fixed and performance-related. Fixed bonuses (Appearance Fees and Unused Substitute Fees) pay as long the player fulfils the requirement. Most players will take lower wages if they get good fixed fees. Appearance Fees are great to lower the wage expectations of rotation players who won’t get on the starting 11 often.

However, when negotiating the contract of a top player you should focus on performance-related fees like Goal, Assist, Clean Sheet or Team of the Season bonuses. I’ll often cut some percentage of a player’s fixed fees and offer that or more as part of a performance-related bonus. The reason is simple, you cut fixed expenses and only pay more if you’re succeeding. Also, ambitious players will be motivated by this.

Similarly, International Caps Bonuses are great if you have players who’re great for your level but can’t quite make it on the international level. Be aware of players who come from countries with smaller talent pools as this might come back to haunt you.

Regardless of which you’re using, the key is to lower fixed expenses to avoid that dreaded red bottom line.

End of Contracts, by Ryan Brown

This is something most people use, however, this is a tip in which you can really use the transfer market in Football Manager to your advantage. Essentially this is signing players for free, or at a much-reduced fee in order for them to come in at the end of their contract.

The way in which you can do this simply is to go on the transfer market and add a filter to players who expire in 6,3 or 1 months. Due to the Bosman rule, you can sign players when they have 6 months or less left on their contract. As well as this, you can go through different clubs and change the view so that it shows their contract with their expiry date. This is useful for when you don’t have the players scouted or want to sign players from clubs you like. An extra tip, look at their youth teams, you can often pick up promising players who will add depth to your squad.

During the talks and negotiations, you can often sign the player on the spot for a reduced fee if you can get the other club to agree to it. I always use this method, due to the nature of how little you will spend without paying a hefty transfer fee.

I have always found you will get a better deal at this time, rather than when the player is a free agent. It also means that players will join at the beginning of the window, and if it’s the middle of the season you will get them in at the start – ready for the second half of the season.

Making Use of Affiliated Clubs, by Luke Hume

Making use of your affiliated clubs during the transfer market in Football Manager is a key way to improve your squad whilst also keeping your squad salary under control, especially if you are managing in the lower leagues.

You don’t have to wait for these clubs to send you a list of players they are looking to send out on loan to gain experience, although during the season, they will do this, so keep an eye out in your inbox!

You can go directly to their squad yourself and begin delving through the players. Take a look through all their squads, not just their main squad, they might have a wonderkid sitting in their U18s, whilst why he may not be good enough for them yet, he may be for you.

Now, be realistic. We’d all love to sign the best player from the club on loan, but it’s not going to happen. So, be sensible and see who is interested in joining your club on loan.

Once you’ve decided which players you need on loan, make the club a loan offer. Here’s the best news, as affiliated clubs, you won’t have to make any wage contributions or monthly loan payments. This can be huge for a small club, whilst getting more legs into the team. What’s not to love?

This is also handy in leagues such as the MLS and A-League where you are under a salary cap, as your cap impact will only be at the Senior Minimum Salary.

Offering Players to Clubs, by Craig Walsh

Sometimes the only way to offload some unwanted players is to offer them out to clubs, especially if no offers have been coming in for them beforehand. This is a common technique to use, but there are a couple of extra features to look out for when using this option.

Firstly, check to make sure the player you want to offer out will NOT be upset with you! You can check this in the top left of the Offer to Club screen, which will show feedback from the player’s agent. If you really want a specific player out, you may be able to risk upsetting him to the point of forcing him out, but be very careful here! Always check to see if they are an influential player in the dressing room.

Offering out a player who is a Team Leader or Highly Influential Player and then angering them could see other players support him in his mistreatment. This in turn can tank your club atmosphere and your squad’s morale. The key to Football Manager 2021 is morale, as without this your team will lose more often than not and your job is under serious threat. And all because you wanted to sell that 30-year-old winger with zero pace!

Targeting options

Secondly, you can target specific clubs when offering out your players. If there is a particular club interested in your player, but they are not offering the money you are asking for, you can offer the player out to them specifically for the price you want. Go to Transfer > Offer to Club > Targets > Add Clubs to Propose to and type in the club you want to offer to.

This can make negotiations a little smoother because the club in question are likely to want to buy the player, although it then comes down to price. You can also filter out domestic clubs and rivals to ensure your player isn’t bought by a team who is competitive against you. That would hurt to see them do well at their new club AND deny you that trophy or European spot for next season!

Trial Before You Buy, by Pint of Football

If you are playing as a top club then you may well have a hefty scouting team. But whether your resources are vast or poor, there is always a way to grab a sneak preview on a free agent before you take the plunge. Prepare yourselves cheapskates, it’s trial time.

Face it, we’ve all been at the stage where we are staring at six thousand free agents with few clues as to who is best to take a punt on. For some managers, especially those in their second or third season, they might just need a couple of newbies to have a perfect XI. Whilst for players like me, I’m always open to a new player coming in and inspiring me to make a change in personnel, tactics or formation. So because of this I always start my preseason campaign nice and early with a squad full of trialists, youth players and loanees.

There might be some of you out there thinking “but why waste preseason finding out about players you could just scout?” and yes, it’s a fair argument. The reasons that I will always opt to get players on trial rather than scouting are based on resources, time and gut feeling. Most of my FM career is usually spent in the lower reaches and therefore I often have as few as two in my backroom scouting team. Also, they often have poor Judging Ability and give me such insightful news like “First Touch 2-16”. Cheers lads!

In it for the long run

I also believe in having a “marathon, not a sprint” approach and spending days of real-time on the transfer market windows on Football Manager helps me get the business done. There’s nothing wrong with chucking a dozen friendlies into your programme and for me its definitely the best way. Start with a tonne of trialists, give them some game time, then phase in your squad to the point where you end up with your perfect team. To put it into perspective, in my current save as Frosinone in Serie B I started the 2023/24 preseason with 23 newbies. How many of them started my first competitive game a month later? Just two- but both are already proving to be key players and averaging over 7.0 ratings per game.

Of course, the most important thing though, which you can only get from seeing them in action, is gut feeling. Forget the stars, forget the career history, forget international caps- are they the player for you? No amount of scouting can tell you what a hat-trick in his first game will do. If they are free, get them on trial and see what they can do.

Scouting, by JonnyGamesFM

Scouting is a bit of a no-brainer throughout the season prior to the summer transfer window. Hopefully, you’ve set your scouts out on many assignments throughout the season so you’ve got plenty of candidates to sift through in the offseason.

I think it’s important to build up and maintain a fairly succinct shortlist. I tend to add a lot of players to my shortlist (which isn’t always the best) and also try to scout them as much as I can without blowing the scouting budget out of the water. So by the end of the season, there’s not a lot of unknowns with the players I have on the list.

One thing to be cognizant of is the areas of improvement you need in your starting XI. Make sure you’ve got your scouts giving you recommendations for those positions of need that you’ll have to recruit for this offseason. Otherwise, you’ll be grasping at straws desperately looking to fill the gaps in your team and not necessarily finding the most ideal solution.

Scouting smarter

If you’re first starting a save in the offseason, you may or may not want to recruit anyone. But if you do, use leagues that are currently in season. For instance, if you’ve been managing in England and it’s the summer, try to scout the Scandanavian leagues, South America, North America and Asia. Also, major international tournaments are a great place for short term scouting, where you may find a diamond uncovered on the World stage, but also they could be a flash in the pan, so watch out.

In the end, if you can uncover as many attribute values as you can prior to signing a player, it’s a good thing and it’ll give you an advantage. If you’re playing with attribute-masking, then use the statistics and the scouting report summaries, pros and cons of the player to make your determination. Scout as much as you can, make sure you have the best quality scouts you can find and bring in, and best of luck signing those Brazilian Wonderkids!

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