5 Things You Didn’t Know About Transfers In Football

It has become normal to see transfers occur between teams in club football, as players and managers/coaches occasionally change teams. If you follow football very well or play FIFA or other football-related video games, you would have noticed this.

Usually, these players or managers have binding contracts with their current teams that they need to be released from, hence, the need for a transfer fee. Sometimes, however, transfers involve players without a contract, and these players are usually referred to as free agents. Other times, teams engage in trades to exchange a contracted player for another

However, players do not carry out business dealings directly with clubs except on rare occasions. Instead, they usually get their deals done with clubs through intermediaries such as agents. 

Here’s what you need to know about some things during a football transfer:

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Can a footballer force a transfer?

In the past, we believed player transfers were solely dependent on the clubs involved, but this has been disproved by the number of forced moves today.

Furthermore, according to Article 13 from the Regulations on the status and transfer of players, both club and player are expected to respect the contract that exists between them

FIFA Transfers Article 13

However, forcing a transfer is permissible as long as the details in the contract are respected in the letter. Players can force transfers away from clubs using two methods:

  1. Running down their contract and leaving on a free transfer;
  2. Handing in a transfer request to get sold by their club. 

#1 Running Down Contracts 

Players are able to play for a club while only waiting for the time their contract with the club expires in order to leave. This is usually the case with many players who play for smaller clubs and feel ready to move to a bigger one, but their club’s transfer valuation serves as a hindrance.

An excellent example of this is the ongoing Declan Rice saga. The English midfielder has rejected three contract offers by West Ham United to try and engineer a move to a bigger club due to the club’s asking price of £150 million. Rice believes that signing a new contract would tie him down and make it more challenging for him to move, hence his decision not to sign a deal

This format has also been used in the past by Robert Lewandowski after he ran down his contracts before moving from Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich. Lewandowski joined Bayern in the summer of 2014 when his contract expired with Borussia Dortmund.

#2 Handing in a Transfer Request

The second method is to force the hand of the club by handing in a transfer request. In this case, the player clearly tells the club that he wishes to leave and would like to be sold.

When this happens, the club can decide to sell such a player or not, depending on the state of affairs at the club. 

This scenario has been witnessed on several occasions; one such example was in 2013 when Peter Odemwingie drove 120 miles to QPR’s training ground in a bid to force a move from West Bromwich Albion to the London club. The deal ultimately fell through, leaving him stranded at the Hawthorns.

In an interview two years later, the Nigerian revealed that he regretted his action after the deal fell through. 

Similarly, Steven Gerrard, Carlos Tevez, Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi, and Luis Suarez are examples of A-list footballers who have unsuccessfully handed in a transfer request at some point in their career.

In terms of players who successfully completed transfers after handing in a transfer request, there are the examples of Fernando Torres to Chelsea and Marko Arnautovic to West Ham United. 

When a player requests to be transferred, the club is not obligated to accede to their request. But if they wish for the player to remain with them, they have to negotiate and clear the air with such a player.

The contract that binds a player to a team does not necessitate the player’s sale at his request

Can a footballer refuse to be sold?

A transfer can be agreed upon in football without a player’s knowledge, but the player is not obligated to agree to the move. So long as the transaction is in line with Article 13 of the Regulations on the status and transfer of players, transactions can be carried out between clubs

FIFA Transfers Article 13

Often, agreements are reached between teams, but the players in question may not be willing to complete the transfer. Ultimately, the decision-making power lies in the hands of the player in transfers.

However, when a team agrees to sell a player, it is usually in the player’s best interest to agree to the transfer as they may otherwise have to face the consequences. 

For instance, Kasper Schmeichel never wanted to join Leicester City. The Danish goalkeeper was a Leeds United player and was on holiday in his native Denmark when he received the news that he had been sold. When he confronted the club’s hierarchy, he was asked to leave the club or risk being reduced to training with the youth team. 

Another example was the case of Oumar Niasse at Everton when he was forced out of the first-team dressing room and demoted to the U-23 team by then-manager Ronald Koeman over his inability to find a new club. 

Can a club sell a player without his consent?

A club can decide to sell a player contracted to them as long as the release clause of such a player is matched by the club intending to buy them. This situation was seen in the Schmeichel case when Leicester City triggered his release clause, forcing Leeds United to sell him in 2011.

Another example is the case of Jaap Stam with Manchester United. The Dutch defender invoked the ire of manager Sir Alex Ferguson with some comments in his book, and the manager informed him that the club had accepted a bid from Lazio for him because of what he wrote in his book.

In this case, the club decided to sell him in order to protect its image, and he could do nothing but agree to the move because he had already been relegated to the substitutes’ bench. 

In other words, while a club cannot sell a player without his consent, the player risks being relegated to the substitute bench or the youth team if he doesn’t comply.

Can footballers buy themselves out of their contract?

Footballers are allowed to buy themselves out of their contract in some leagues. For example, the Spanish La Liga requires that players’ buyout clauses be met before they are released from their contract, or the agreed fee must be paid by the player to the league in case of a negotiated price. 

The transfer of Neymar from Barcelona to PSG in 2017 is the best example of this scenario. The Brazilian was handed the whole €222 million by PSG to buy out his contract, and he did.

Similarly, Cristiano Ronaldo was given €100 million by Juventus in 2018 to buy out his contract with Real Madrid and enable him to complete his transfer. 

Several clubs have designed the method of inserting outrageous sums as players’ buyout clause because of the possibility of players leaving without the club once their intending team meets their buyout clause. For example, FC Barcelona has a number of players whose release clause is €1 billion.

Moreover, Real Madrid has several players whose buyout clause is in excess of €400 million

Can a football club refuse to sell a player?

Even though the ultimate decision to sell a player lies in the hands of the player, a club can refuse to sell their players if they feel it would be to their detriment. This is possible only in the case of players who have no release clause inserted in their contract because a club basically ties its hands whenever a release clause is in a player’s contract. 

At other times, clubs can refuse to sell their players for several reasons, some of which may be financial. For example, West Ham United have rebuffed all advances toward Declan Rice because the valuation set by the club has yet to be met.

Moreover, Real Madrid refused to sell Raul Gonzalez to Chelsea in 2003 despite the English club offering to pay around £71 million for the striker

In another example, Manchester United refused to release Jesse Lingard to complete a move away from the club in January 2022 because of the developing situation with Mason Greenwood.

Moreover, Chelsea declined to sell Demba Ba and Carlton Cole to Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, respectively, in a bid to avoid strengthening their rivals.


The football transfer business is quite tricky as clubs usually have several variables to consider before sanctioning a transfer.

FIFA’s stance on player transfers is quite straightforward, with respect for contractual agreements the most important thing to football’s governing body.

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