England international Jack Grealish has never won a pin in football whether for club or country, yet he was sold by Aston Villa to Manchester City in a transfer reportedly worth £100m.
Compare him with Lionel Messi who’s won practically everything winnable in club and national team football – except the FIFA World Cup – yet, this week, he left Barcelona after 21 years to join French side PSG for free! Yes, you read that right. Barca did not get a penny from PSG.
So what are the factors which determine a player’s fee?
1 – AGE: A player’s age is a key determinant when negotiating a contract. Is he young and able to play for a long time or getting older and likely to retire sometimes soon? An older player, if injured, could take sufficiently more time to heal than a younger one so it is riskier to splash the cash on players of a certain age.
2 – EXPERIENCE: This is self-explanatory as a player’s years on the pitch will be a huge factor when his transfer is being negotiated. Except in very rare cases, you hardly see a 17-year old commanding more money than a 24-year old battle-hardened veteran. Even where it happens, the 17-year old starlet must show an incredible amount of talent and potential.
3 – SELL-ON VALUE: Age and experience will determine a player’s sell-on value i.e if it will be possible to get a higher amount of money for him in the near future when he makes a move to another club. Using the Grealish/Messi example, Man City were comfortable to fork out that amount for Grealish because they know that – all things being equal – he’s relatively young and expected to develop into a better player whose value will increase in the years ahead so they can turn a tidy profit when they sell him. City would have been hard-pressed to pay such an amount for a player they know would have little or no sell-on value because of age.
4 – COMMERCIAL VALUE: When Real Madrid paid £80m to complete CR7’s transfer from United in 2009, before he kicked a ball for the Madridstas, they’d reportedly sold 1.2million shirts bearing his name in the city of Madrid alone. If a shirt sold for £30, that was a cool £36m recouped from their investment in just one city. You can do the math on how much they would have made from his shirt sales alone for the years he played for them.
5- MEDICAL HISTORY: Michael Owen and Owen Hargreaves were two examples of players who had to give up their careers because clubs were wary of touching them due to their frightening injury records. Robin van Persie was heading that way until Arsenal helped him to figure out the source of his injury worries and the Gunners were amply rewarded, cashing a cheque of £24m on a player of his age when he moved to Manchester United in 2012.
6- POSITION ON THE PITCH: In all of transfers biggest money moves, strikers and midfielders have commanded more than defenders and goalkeepers. This does not mean the others are less important on the pitch, it just shows the order of need by football managers. In other words, a striker or midfielder will command more money than a defender or goalkeeper in most cases.
7 – TRANSFER PERIOD (Summer/Winter): Players are ‘relatively cheaper’ in the summer transfer windows because it is a buyers’ market where clubs have all the luxury of time to decide whether they want to buy a player or not and could haggle back and forth before agreeing on a price. However, during the winter (January) window, it is often the clubs in trouble who seek to fortify their teams and the selling clubs are usually able to exploit their desperation by asking for top dollar for their players.
8 – LENGTH OF EXISTING/INTENDING CONTRACT: Messi had run down his contract with Barcelona and was more or less a free agent so it was understandable that he only had to agree personal terms with PSG without the encumberance of a drawn-out negotiation between Barcelona and PSG. On the other hand, Grealish had a subsisting contract with Aston Villa so it stands to reason that City must ‘break’ that contract to get their man. In that case, the selling club, except if there’s a buy-out clause, would determine what they think is the minimum for which they’re willing to let that player go.
9 – STATUS OF BUYING CLUB: Real Madrid are traditionally known to be big spenders so when they are interested in a player, everyone connected with that player senses a big pay-day and the price, not necessarily the value, of the player goes through the roof.