Aaron Ramsey has signed a pre-contract agreement to join Juventus in the summer in a deal that will earn him over £400,000 a week.
That figure really is astonishing, and one which makes him the highest paid British player.
In June 2017, Arsene Wenger spoke about players running down their contracts.
“In the future, you will see that more and more, players going to the end of a contract,” the Frenchman said “Why? Because transfer [fees] become so high, even for normal players, no one will want to pay the amount of money that is demanded. I’m convinced that in the next 10 years it will become usual.”
The future he saw was one where players sign shorter deals and move more often. That rising transfer fees would mean a collapse of the market, and players would only be bought if teams were desperate, and therefore paying a premium for.
He spoke about the fee-for-loan market increasing. That a club would prefer to pay £10million to secure a player for one-year on loan, then pay £40million to give him a 4-year deal. It has a lot of logic behind it.
Transfer fees in football are odd.
It is pretty much the only sport where you see big money deals. It does not really happen in other sports around the globe.
In American sports, due to less professional teams (there are about 30 professional teams in each major sport in the US. Compare that to hundreds and hundreds of football clubs just in Europe) and little to no external interest in players, transfer fees are pretty much non-existent.
Due to the franchise model, there is a lot more revenue sharing. Teams therefore tend to trade players, draft picks or wait for a player to be out of contract.
In the IPL, cricketers tend to sign 1 year deals. And in the F1, you rarely get longer than the 2 year deal that Lewis Hamilton signed for Mercedes in 2018.
There is simply not a need for transfer fees.
One thing that Wenger did not speak about, however, was that it would also be hugely in a players interest to let their contract run down and move on a Bosman.
We all remember back in 2001 when Arsenal signed Sol Campbell on a free transfer from Tottenham. A report in the Telegraph at the time outlined the deal.
He will not be cheap; conservative estimates suggest that, should he complete his four-year stay and Arsenal enjoy anything near the success they are budgeting for, the central defender will cost more than £20 million. The package is believed to consist of a signing-on fee worth around £2 million a year, £60,000 a week wages, plus bonuses.
18-years on, a £2million signing on fee plus £60,000 a week in wages is low. But back then it was huge news.
Campbell moving from Tottenham to Arsenal did not open the floodgates of free transfers. The only other really big one around the same time (in-fact 2 years prior) was Steve McManaman leaving Liverpool for Real Madrid in 1999.
The size of the Ramsey deal, however, might change things.
In 2018, Juventus signed Emre Can from Liverpool on a free transfer. Reports at the time stated “As a result of the signature of the agreement, Juventus will incur additional costs of 16 million euros (£14m), to be paid over the next two financial years.”
That £14m was basically a signing on fee. Whilst it is not clear who profited from it – likely to be a mixture of agents and the player – it is a huge amount.
The Ramsey deal has much lower “additional costs” – €3.7 million, but that is dwarfed by the huge wages reportedly offered.
Whether a player / his agent receives huge sums in wages or signing on fee it is fairly clear; let your contract run down and get a huge pay day as clubs give what they would have paid in transfer fees to the player.
It is a simple equation really.
Let’s say Arsenal wanted to sign a player under contract. He would cost £50m and wants a £200,000 a week 5-year contract. The total cost to the club would be £91.6m over 4 years.
Now say the same player is available on a free transfer, the club could offer him £400,000 a week and “additional costs” of £3.24million and end up with total costs of just £86.5m.
The buying club saves £5m, and player doubles his wages.
Other players around the globe will look at the Ramsey deal and realise what they can get when they let their contract run down. This will lead them to pushing for shorter term contracts. 4-years instead of 5. 3-years instead of 4.
Clubs will encourage this.
Turned off by huge transfer fees, they will see as a way to cost yearly costs whilst still securing the players they want.
As for the Aaron Ramsey deal, I have seen a few people defend the Welshman by making the claim that “Arsenal withdrew the contract after it had been agreed”. This shows that the PR from Ramsey’s people – trying to make him look the good guy – has worked.
There was a contract on the table that matched Ramsey’s demands, and he and his people were rumoured to have agreed to it. However they did not sign to it.
Whilst Ramsey spoke about his dismay of Arsenal taking a contract off the table that he was happy to sign, the question should be put back on to him, “well why did you not sign it?”
For months Arsenal were in negotiations with Ramsey’s agent – David Baldwin.
Baldwin had recently left Base Soccer to set up his own agency – Avid Sports & Entertainment Group. Ramsey was his biggest client.
Every time Arsenal came close to matching the demands, Baldwin moved the bar higher. He played the game. Constantly pushing the club to offer more and more in wages, knowing that his client would be free to talk to other clubs sooner rather than later.
Eventually Arsenal got fed up of this tactic. After 2 weeks of an “agreed” contract remaining unsigned, it became clear that Baldwin was playing games. He was still talking to other clubs. Arsenal got fed up waiting and pulled the contract.
This apparently upset Ramsey, who did want to sign the contract. For whatever reason he did not sign it – likely to be on the advice of his agent.
The greed of his agent meant the deal got taken off the table, and he had no option but to look around Europe for the best deal possible – pushing Ramsey’s young family to either separate or move abroad together.
Did Arsenal take the contract off the table? Yes
Had the contract been agreed by all parties? Yes
Had the contract been signed by Ramsey and his representatives? No
The fault clearly lies at the Ramsey end of the deal. The delaying tactics by his agent and him not signing the agreed deal led Arsenal to taking it off the table.
This is the future.
As we have seen players and agents can profit more by letting their contracts run down to nothing and leaving on a free.
Eden Hazard has 1-year left on his deal. The same with Christen Erickson. Will there agents now be advising their clients to stick out one last year, and then take a big salary at Real Madrid, Barcelona or Juventus in 2020?
We move on. We have lost better players than Ramsey in the past.