Coronavirus: 'Fire-sale prices' will be negotiated in next transfer window, says finance expert

5 months ago

The coronavirus pandemic could lead to increased inequality in European football, according to a football finance expert.

Elite European clubs will be able to sign players at "fire-sale prices" in the next transfer window due to the financial pressure brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

That is the view of football finance expert Kieran Maguire, who expects teams with stronger balance sheets to be able to pick up bargains when the market re-opens.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has sent major sport across the world into disarray, with the majority of Europe's top-flight leagues on hold and looking unlikely to finish before the end of June.

Maguire thinks the situation could lead to an increase in disparity between the biggest clubs and the rest.

He told Stats Perform: "If we look at the transfer market it is discretionary spending, so what can happen and what will happen is the finance director will sit down with the director of football, with the head coach, with the manager, whoever it is, and say this is the budget and this is how much money you've got to spend. 

"That's going to be significantly lower than the conversations that were taking place 12 months ago. What we will see is both buying clubs and selling clubs will be willing to negotiate lower prices. 

"There will be many clubs in Europe who are under financial distress and therefore they will be trying to sell off assets and willing to accept fire-sale or liquidation-sale prices for players they thought might have been tens of millions of euros or sterling in this summer's market.

"Similarly, the buying clubs will say, 'We did have a budget of X million and now that's half-X, because we don't have the money coming in ourselves'.

"There was a report from CIES in Switzerland that was talking about a 30 per cent reduction in transfer fees this summer. 

"I think that's quite a modest anticipation of what's going to happen if the pandemic continues over the course of the summer and the transfer window is extended."

He continued: "Those organisations that are strong – and it doesn't have to just be in the football industry – will be able to pick up bargains.

"That will be the case very much in the Premier League and other leagues throughout Europe, whereby the stronger clubs, the clubs which have run themselves financially as tighter ships, or those with billionaire owners who are willing to fund an expansion into players.

"They will be able to pick up bargains in the market without a doubt.

"That's how football has always operated - there's always been a strong and a weak. What we will see is an acceleration of the gaps between them. It's how capitalism operates. Fairness doesn't exist in football.

"It's always been due to money and if you look at the correlation between wages and football success, that correlation is very, very positive."

Despite the pandemic the likes of Jadon Sancho, Harry Kane and Philippe Coutinho continue to be linked with huge transfers in the close season, but Maguire does not anticipate any deals exceeding £100million.

"I think it is highly unlikely. There are very few players who I think would be priced before the summer market at that level, but also clubs will have less money to spend," said Maguire.

"What we have seen is over the course of the last two to three years, the mega transfers haven't been a success.

"If you look at Ousmane Dembele, if you look at Coutinho, if you look at Antoine Griezmann, all of those were big signings – with the exception of perhaps Cristiano Ronaldo going to Juventus.

"Ronaldo is in a world of his own and he's been one of the two best players in world football for a decade or more and everybody knows therefore exactly what you're getting.

"Some of the other players I've mentioned were bought for potential as well as their existing achievements and they failed to match the anticipated level of performance.

"As a result of that, many clubs in Europe are going to look at younger, mid-tier players who they can develop."


Kieran Maguire is the author of The Price Of Football, available now, with all proceeds going to charity.

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