January transfers can be a tortuous business – as long-suffering Newcastle fans have discovered. Chief sports writer Mark Douglas presents a beginner’s guide to January transfers, how they come about and why they can take so long
A huge complication then arises. While some agents have signed a contract to say that they represent a player, others prefer to keep their relationship fluid. They do this basically to earn more money – because signing a contract with a player means the player has to pay tax on any agents fee that a club pays. If they refrain from signing a contract, when a player moves they can say they’ve acted on behalf of the buying club instead – and all fees come directly to the agent. This loophole isn’t illegal, although we understand that the HMRC are looking into it.
What does this mean for the transfer? It means it is essentially a free-for-all, with agents in every country suddenly pushing the player to a multitude of clubs in order to secure a big pay-off for their client.
How do agents do this? Usually they use friends in the media to smoke out interest.
Any agent worth their salt will know who Premier League scouts are looking at – and scouts will often speak freely to agents as part of their extensive background work. But that means clubs’ targets are rarely kept secret for long.
The slew of Rémy stories in the weeks leading up to the transfer window variously claimed that United had agreed terms and a fee with Marseille when Newcastle sources were briefing anything but.
For the agents, the job was done. Rémy’s name was now on the agenda and clubs were alerted to his availability – with Newcastle’s interest a red flag to their rivals clubs. If United, with their top French scouting operation, are interested, shouldn’t we be taking a look?
A lot of bidders drives the price up, and gives the player power to negotiate a better deal. No wonder the list of interested clubs in Rémy grows by the day.
When negotiations start, it is usually through the player’s representative first. Wages, length of contract and the player’s desire to actually move can all be ascertained here – along with getting an idea of the sort of fee that would cost. The obvious point here is why it takes so much time. Couldn’t United end the smoke and mirrors by tabling a bid with Marseille?
This, too, is fraught with danger. “As soon as Newcastle table a bid, the news is out there. Too many people are involved now for it to be kept secret,” a leading North East agent explains.
“Then they’ve shown their hand. Instead, they’ll be trying to establish what price Marseille want through intermediaries so that when they eventually get round the table with officials they can pretty much wrap the deal up within a few hours.
“If they’re typical of a Premier League team, the player has probably already agreed terms and Newcastle will have established that he wants to come. So all of this is about getting the best deal.”
For the sake of saving a million or two, United are locked into a long process on Rémy.
Fans get frustrated but the board believe that their negotiating stance makes sense – and point out that if they paid over the valuation for every player, they would be on a road to financial ruin.
Still, January lends a sense of urgency to the whole process. If you’re struggling or need a player in a certain position, you’re essentially over a barrel. In Newcastle’s case, the loss of Ba doesn’t make it any easier to negotiate.