When you look at the football transfer market, you probably see patterns, with similar kinds of footballer moving to similar kinds of club. If you know what sort of player is most valued by a club, you can bet with confidence on where a player will go in the summer or January transfer windows. Take a look at the most common kinds of football transfer, to see what we mean.
1. The Statement of Intent
This is a player who is already a major star, playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world, but is offered an extortionate amount of money to move to a less-heralded club. The player is usually signed for what he represents, rather than purely his considerable footballing ability, as he'll be surrounded by workaday cloggers, so won't be able to make that much of a difference.
When the player arrives, often on transfer deadline day, he will talk about the "exciting project" being proposed by his new club, as, all the while, the look in his eyes indicates the darkness in his soul as he realises he'll be playing Europa League football every second Thursday.
Club Known for This: Any team recently taken-over by a Russian oligarch and/or petro-state.
2. The Young Player Signed for Peanuts
At any youth academy match up and down the country, there will be one or two shady-looking men in brown trenchcoats. They're either attention-seekers, researchers for next year's Football Manager computer game, or scouts from a club higher up the football pyramid.
As soon as the best young prospect, who has grown up within a mile of his home-town club's ground, is 18 and therefore old enough to sign a contract, he will get into the back of a BMW 7 Series and head to the training ground of a Premier League or La Liga club. When there, he will train once a week with the first team, before being loaned out to a Belgian team, then Southampton, then being sold to Wolfsburg for £6m.
If that sounds cynical, well, that's football, folks.
Clubs Known for This: Chelsea and Arsenal. But when Arsenal does it, the club is cuddly, benevolent and signing players for the good of the sport. When Chelsea does the same thing, it's a malign tumour killing football. Media logic, huh?
3. The Decent Professional
This player will never get a huge cheer from the crowd for some virtuoso piece of skill, mostly because he's always busy mopping up after another Paraguayan showboater has goofed off and lost the ball. Because of this, the player, who is rarely considered interesting enough to be interviewed by television, is considered boring, in spite of being an established pro in the top flight.
If a club tries to sign him, it's a sign of a lack of ambition, according to the press. If a club lets him leave, it will perform worse without him. Expect to hear the manager say how he wishes he had eleven of the player, before letting him leave as a free agent.
Club Known for This: Liverpool signed James Milner, but the king of this kind of transfer is West Bromwich Albion, home of Craig Gardner.
4. The Established International
This player has at least 25 caps for his country, has probably played a World Cup and scored, and is on his second or third club after a series of transfers with increasing fees. He's 26 or 27, and coming to the end of his time as an appreciating asset, and so the cynical agent taking 20% of his salary and transfer fee will try and get one last big payday out of his star client.
So few clubs can afford this kind of player that they all tend to huddle at about six or seven clubs across Europe, which causes fans to moan about an unbalanced or uncompetitive league.
Club Known for This: Manchester City.
5. The Bosman Free Transfer
The Bosman Ruling was a long and boring court decision, but to boil it down, it meant that clubs did not have a right to demand a transfer fee for a player who was out-of-contract. When this ruling came in, it prompted a string of players running their contract down and then moving for free to another club. This is one of the reasons for the rise in footballers' wages at the top level, as if there is no transfer fee, the club can promise more in salary.
This is usually either a young player who wants to decide which of many clubs he will join without the club getting involved (for example, Danny Ings to Liverpool), or an ageing player who is past his best, has been let go by his club, but is still felt to offer something by another club (for example, Robbie Fowler, who moved from Manchester City back to Liverpool for nothing in 2007, and Michael Owen, who joined Manchester United as a free agent).
Clubs Known for This: Swansea City, Everton.
6. The Last-Minute Panic Buy
The domain of badly-run comedy-clubs, the last-minute panic buy is a player who arrives at a club where his position is already filled, often foisted on a reluctant manager who has been complaining to his chairman about the lack of transfer activity.
At Valencia, Rafa Benitez once complained, "I asked for a sofa, but they bought me a lamp!" Well, imagine asking for your landlord to finally fix the leaking toilet, but getting a new kitchen instead, and you have an idea how irritating this kind of transfer is. This transfer is common to clubs that have a chief executive who has no discernible negotiation skills, and wants to save his reputation with the fans.
Clubs Known for This: Manchester United, Liverpool, Milan, Paris Saint Germain.
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