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Manchester City’s Champions League success may have signalled the end of Europe’s club season but the fun does not stop here. It’s transfer window time!

The summer close season — which officially begins today, June 14 — is a big deal for clubs, players and supporters. It is the chance for optimistic squad rebuilds, fresh opportunities for players and revenue generation for clubs also looking to get rid of some dead (and potentially expensive) wood.

And all of it operates in a way that can differ greatly from other sports.

Let The Athletic take you through what the coming 12 weeks represent, how it will work and what could be on the horizon.

What is the transfer window?

It is the only period where clubs can buy and sell players between themselves. They may agree to do this outside of a transfer window, but nothing can be actioned and player registrations cannot be submitted until the transfer window.

There are two windows each season, with the main one taking place during the summer once most European leagues have finished. It usually lasts 12 weeks, starting in mid-June and closing as early into the new season as possible. That is usually the end of August, although dates can vary between countries.

For the 2018-19 season, Premier League clubs voted to close the transfer window ahead of the first game of the season. The idea was to make things fairer. However, some English clubs then felt at a disadvantage compared to their European rivals whose deadline was still a few weeks later, so that idea was reversed within a couple of years.

A second window usually lasts for the month of January. Most clubs look to make only minor changes to their squads, correct any summer mistakes or replace injured stars in this window. Managers appointed after the summer window closed could look to bring in their own recruits, while players struggling at their current club may get opportunities elsewhere.

Come January, clubs will also know whether they are in a survival fight or have a shot at achieving something remarkable towards the top of the table. The winter month offers a chance to make their aims more achievable.

It is often a quieter, more reactive window. When it comes to serious, long-term recruitment planning — or at least the idea of it — then the summer is often key for any clubs’ strategic signings.

When does the window open and close?

This year, the Premier League’s summer transfer window opens on Wednesday, June 14 and closes at 11pm on Friday, September 1. The trading dates are the same below the top flight in the EFL.

Across Europe’s big leagues such as France, Italy, Germany and Spain, the window opens slightly later — on July 1 — and also runs until September 1, although the exact closing times may yet vary.

Keep an eye on other variations too. Netherlands’ Eredivisie closes for business on August 31, while clubs in Turkey (September 15) and Portugal (September 22) will be able to buy players from England long after English clubs have been stopped from buying theirs.

Does this mean no transfers happen until then?

Anyone can discuss plans and agree to moves all year round but players can only alter their current registration to a club — and therefore make a move official — during a transfer window.

Free agents are an exception. They can sign for a club at any point of the year. That is why some players’ contracts will be cancelled during a transfer window, making them unattached when the deadline passes and free to join a new club even while transfer business is closed.

Special dispensation can be given to clubs if they need to make an emergency signing, such as if they have a severe goalkeeping shortage.

On a basic level, how does a transfer fee work?

A transfer fee is essentially financial compensation given to the selling club for its player. It is up to the buying club to offer a fee that receives the selling club’s agreement.

Everyone wants to know the exact final figure, of course. In reality, this can be incredibly difficult to pin down. Fees are often officially undisclosed, which allows both clubs to keep their spending budgets under wraps. They could then also quietly brief a figure towards the lower or higher end of a deal, depending on which they view as most beneficial.

The guaranteed fees are often spread over a predetermined number of instalments to be paid at different intervals. On top of that, the buying club is also likely to agree to additional payments if their new player reaches certain landmarks or helps their new club achieve particular feats. These are usually called add-ons.

The selling club may also benefit years down the line if their former player is sold again. Norwich City sold England midfielder James Maddison to Leicester in 2018 for a deal worth £24million. It included a sell-on clause believed to be worth 15 per cent of any profit Leicester made on a future sale.

So if a £50million move to Tottenham or Newcastle materialises this summer, Norwich could benefit to the tune of almost £4m.

When do clubs start negotiating deals?

Clubs often plan several windows ahead in terms of what they might need. Therefore, conversations about potential moves and player availability take place between player agents and club representatives all year round.

Those include recruitment departments. One of the most important jobs for any scout is getting accurate contract and financial details on a potential target so they can work on what the club could offer to make a future deal happen.

Initial conversations — with the following summer in mind — tend to start as soon as the previous summer window closes in September.

Given January tends to be a more reactive window, those moves may only begin to formulate come November. Once the January window closes and agents have ticked that box for the season, the pace and purpose of summer discussions increase exponentially as June comes into view.

What are the stages of a transfer?

Lots of transfers happen in different ways. Players may become available unexpectedly, while another club could jump on a potential move between two rivals. Still, there is a rough order you can assume to proceedings.

As you have already read, clubs’ recruitment teams will help identify targets and find out their current contractual situation. That helps a club formulate what they will be willing to pay in transfer fee for the potential new signing, what future add-ons they could agree to and then the wage and incentives package they will then offer the player.

Most will likely come with wiggle room and, given it will all be a negotiation, a value they will not exceed.

With a bid prepared, the officials at both clubs can open talks over what a final fee agreement with various additions will look like.

At this point, the buying club will have already spoken to the player’s representatives about the personal terms that would be acceptable. The agent will often have these in place ready to put to the player as soon as the two clubs have agreed on a transfer fee.

That said, the buying club is not permitted to talk directly to the player they wish to buy without the permission of their current club.

Once the two clubs have agreed the transfer fee, structure of payments and future add-ons, they will then give the player permission to sit down with their new club and discuss the final personal terms of the deal. That can include all sorts of finer points, whether financial or sporting. It is often this point at which the manager will get to talk to the player about the move and what it could mean for the player and the team.

The transfers that go wrong are often ones when such permission is granted to the player before all the finer points between the two clubs have been finalised. When pressed with a transfer window deadline day move, that can be the only way to get a transfer completed in time. But it can also throw up some awkward situations if things fall through, such as players having already said goodbye to their former team-mates or being stuck in the car park of the club they’ve just failed to join.

With player and club agreements all in place, the focus turns to completing the medical. This is a series of tests to check the player’s physical condition and cross-reference with their medical history, including any previous injuries and quirks of the body. Players, contrary to popular opinion, do not ‘fail’ medicals. The results of medicals can, though, be used to renegotiate deals.

Once that box is ticked, both clubs will get their press releases, launch videos and interviews sorted in time — if they have the time — for the official announcement. This is usually sanctioned once the paperwork, contracts, work permit and player registration are all complete or a formality.

How does this compare to the system in other sports?

Good comparisons to start with are the National Football League (NFL) and National Basketball Association (NBA) in the US.

There are no transfer fees when players change clubs in either sport but teams can offer picks in the annual draft of players graduating from the college-level feeder system.

There is no equivalent system in football, with the transfer market in operation across the entire pyramid system of divisions.

Swap deals are rare in football but common in the NFL and NBA, with franchises trading one player for another of similar perceived quality, or for several lesser players. They can also throw in some draft picks to seal the deal.

There is a free-agent market in those sports that allows teams to sign out-of-contract players once the season ends, but teams are not allowed to execute such deals until March in the NFL, after February’s Super Bowl, or after the NBA finals in June.

How does the transfer system differ in MLS?

For MLS teams to get most non-MLS players, that player must be on the team’s “Discovery List”. If the player has already been listed by another MLS club, the interested team must pay the other $50,000 in general allocation money (GAM) — an intra-MLS transaction fund — to acquire him.

A player’s transfer or loan fee is added to wages to determine their impact on a team’s league-imposed salary budget ($4.9million in 2022).

There are ways that teams can spend far above their budget, with the designated player rule being the most well-known. That is exactly how Inter Miami have been able to pull off the remarkable signing of Lionel Messi.

MLS has two transfer windows. The primary window runs during the league’s winter off-season into the first weeks of spring. The secondary window happens during the season, from July 5 to August 2.

Is this system used across world football?

FIFA is football’s global governing body and its regulations set out two annual periods during which clubs can buy and sell players.

However, not all domestic seasons run on the same calendar and the exact timings of the transfer windows are set by each country’s football associations.

Do players have a say over their futures?

A player’s signature seals the deal, so no move should happen without their approval.

It is the job of the player’s representative to keep them informed of what is happening and to secure what their client wants.

All options should be run past the player, although it will usually come with their agent’s advice — whether that’s a recommendation on the basis of the playing environment, future opportunities and pathway to a bigger move, the financial package or contract length.

What are the standout possible transfers of the summer?

We may have had two of the biggest deals done already. Real Madrid have agreed to sign Jude Bellingham from Borussia Dortmund for a fee in excess of €100million, although the move is still to be confirmed officially.

Messi arriving in MLS is quite something too, of course. But there are plenty that could yet unfold this summer.

With Kylian Mbappe informing his club, Paris Saint-Germain, that he does not want to activate his one-year contract extension, the France striker is now set to become a free agent in July 2024. That situation may mean PSG look to cash in on Mbappe for a transfer fee this summer, rather than losing him for nothing in 12 months’ time. Real Madrid have been long-time admirers of the 24-year-old.

England captain Harry Kane could be another potential target for Madrid, as they look to replace Karim Benzema. Kane’s Tottenham contract also expires next summer as things stand and the striker has also been linked with a move to Manchester United for several years.

Another player that could join United is England midfielder, Mason Mount, who appears almost certain to leave Chelsea this summer. And without wishing to get too bogged down in England players, how about West Ham’s Europa Conference League-winning captain Declan Rice? He is being courted pretty hard by Premier League runners-up Arsenal. That move was first suggested in January.

The money in the Premier League dwarfs that of almost every other league, which explains the increased focus on England’s top flight. Still, RB Leipzig’s Josko Gvardiol and Napoli forward Victor Osimhen are also names worth following as opportunities to move on from their current clubs in Germany and at the Italian champions respectively.

Some of these moves may happen quickly. Others may only get concluded in the final minutes of the 12-week window. They may even collapse completely and leave player and club to carry on together regardless. To help with that process, you should read the 22 stages of any potential transfer saga.

At this point, you may have also noticed that the transfer window comes with its own language and phraseology. Believe us when we say, this piece will have only touched the surface. To get the full flavour of football’s transfer lexicon so you can dish out as many terms as you wish, enjoy this excellent A-Z of transfer window language.

And with that, you are ready to watch the fun unfold.

(Photo: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)



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