This week I’m going to focus on the market itself and share my thoughts on spreads, real value, and Blue Button vs Red Button prices.
In this market it is tougher than ever to see where the money is really going. When “offers” come in to balance things out it will get easier.
But for now, we might see occasional pushes up in a blue button price but mainly lots of the trading is going on behind closed doors through bids.
The thing we can see moving is the spreads and there is a clear closing of the spreads this week, particularly within the top 200.
If we had a liquidity/spreads crisis a week ago, we don’t now. It’s still an issue but by and large you can get some kind of reasonable price for most players.
So our persistant problem of not being able to sell anything is finally easing up. And should continue to do so.
There has been significant “Market Maker” activity and FI are working behind the scenes to support the market in this transition which is reassuring. (Short explanation of Market Makers – FI pay someone to buy players and create liquidity in the market – something common to all markets so not unusual.)
And perhaps in response to that it’s clear that lots of panic sellers from last week took a cold shower, calmed themselves down, then unlisted lots of players. Good for them.
Listing players in a mass panic is generally a dumb thing to do. You are unlikely to sell them at a time when nobody is buying and everyone is selling. You are however guaranteed to contribute to the downfall and crash your own price, further spiralling things downward. Particularly if you are a very large holder this is quite self destructive behaviour.
Some people (and trading groups) however do this deliberately and it’s just one of those things you have to be aware of and not get too stressed about.
One thing is that we may need to mentally adjust our perception of what a good spread is. Often people might have expected a 5-10% spread in the past because FI were very generous. Hell, many even complained about that.
You can still find those spreads but that is generally for in demand players who you will likely be reluctant to sell anyway.
Lesson for us: A key to optimal profits is going to be selling when a player has reached popularity and lots of people see reason to buy. This was always true but it is going to be even more important going forward.
This is counterintuitive and something people really struggle with in trading. If a player has just won, or is about to start a Euro 2021 tournament, the last thing many want to do is sell them. They want to buy them.
But that may well be the best moment you will get to sell and it’s generally a poor moment to buy.
Our sale doesn’t have to be forever. Likely, a time will come along when attention drifts away from that player and that is when you come back. Much like the Bundesliga now, say.
The spreads are closing but we may have to be more content with a 10-20% spread in some cases. That feels like a lot but as the price for cashing out of a bet we don’t want? It’s not unfair.
So, if spreads are closing in general, let’s look at the cases where they aren’t and see what that tells us.
The obvious losers here are the cheap players. There is an important point to get out of the way on this: the majority of these are bad and deserve wide spreads.
We must stop expecting people to buy bad players for good money.
However. This fear of cheap players means that some of the good ones also have wide spreads and this is a great opportunity. You just have to selective and pick out some good ones.
Quick look at the market for examples – Politano. Just under 30% spread from 87p to 62p for a player who looks a performance contender and just bagged his first Napoli goal. This spread is wide because of ignorance and this should be punished by good traders.
Unai Nunez. Who? A capable defender at Athletic Bilbao often on the radar of big clubs and has already made his Spain debut at 23. Staggering almost 50% spread from 37p to 73p. My word.
Palacios at Leverkusen. Showing great performance potential and has the Europa in just a few weeks time in August. The Blue Button £1.61 would be great value. £1.11? I’ll take it.
I could go on all day. We must abuse all this whilst it lasts if we can.
Another group with wide spreads are players with an obvious setback/misfortune. Just as you might expect.
But traders are tending to over react to this bad short term event with good players. Take Paulinho at Leverkusen. Exciting 19 year old Brazilian. Long been a site favourite but has taken longer than expected to break through.
Did though. Flew from £1.33 in Feb to £2.30 February to May off the back of good performances.
Gets a bad injury, out until next season or early next season. Bad luck. Now over a 35% spread and available for £1.50 again. Given that much of that injury period is over a Summer where he wouldn’t play anyway? Come on.
That spread is near certain to tighten as he makes his way back and the odds of a profit when buying at £1.50 are very high.
And then you have some of the more well known players. Some of these are just the standard overhype then crash players like Mount, Odegaard, Billy Gilmour, Abraham. Maybe spreads around 20% and this is fair – they aren’t all bad but it is going to take time for their prices to settle to a reasonable level.
With these players it isn’t the spread that is wrong – it’s the blue button price that is too high.
One of the features of this market is the general lack of knowledge about who is quality and has real potential and who doesn’t. And people are even worse at putting a value on players.
This is good with a longer term view because if you have better knowledge you can exploit that.
But it can be frustrating in the short term because until those good players make themselves known with huge scores (which will generally take a while particularly in the off-season) they won’t necessarily fare much better than the bad but hyped ones.
The Matching Engine isn’t something that needs to be feared – it creates more value than ever.
But traders are going to have get serious from now on about what a player is really worth. And that always comes back to dividend potential and nothing else.
As a good guide, we want a reasonable chance of getting at least 10% dividend return or ideally 20% per season on the players current price. Less than that and we are starting to overrely on future dividend increases.
We can factor future dividend increases in of course. But leaning too heavily on this is a mistake. It is the primary argument used by people trying to justify paying too much for good players.
It would mystify me why this “career dividends” topic is even debated so heavily on social media if I didn’t know it was coming from people holding too many overpriced players.
Let’s leave aside for a moment that estimating performance beyond 12 months away is very difficult and gets increasingly uncertain the further away you get.
It’s just not possible to know what a player will be returning in 3 years with any kind of accuracy particularly for younger players.
But let’s assume it is for a second and these players progress exactly as holders hope.
The logical flaw in the “career dividends” argument is very clear.
Sure, eventually, if dividends increase enough, then an overpriced player can start to justify his price.
But if dividends increase then the player who is already undervalued benefits more.
Clearly, the underpriced player has even more to gain than your currently overpriced player and so picking them is almost always going to be the better decision.
Buying an overpriced player in hope of a future dividend increase at best will be less profitable than buying something underpriced, even if you do profit.
And at worst it can cause a big loss if something goes wrong i.e that players career does not progress as expected or the dividend increases aren’t as frequent/big as hoped.
This overpriced player is simply under more pressure to deliver and so is more sensitive to events going against them, especially because if a misfortune happens to a premium player it is going to be widely known and therefore very difficult to get out of.
In a world where you can’t dump your bet gone bad on FI cheaply it’s going to be really important not to put ourselves in vulnerable positions like this. Because you can’t fix it after the bad news when everyone wants to sell.
Red Button vs Blue Button
Clearly we are in a big period of change and the Matching Engine has been a shock to many. The gulf between the red and blue button prices is understandably causing concern.
Are players worth as much as we thought?
In some cases they absolutely were not. But in other cases many are likely to be worth more than the blue button and certainly more than the red button.
But when Offers come in, what’s going to happen? Is the Red Button price “right?” Or is the Blue Button price “right”?
My instinct is that both are wrong. Both are just a reflection of collective opinion rather than real value.
The Blue Button is lagging behind current trader opinion because it’s hard to shift and isn’t fully under trader control like the Red Button is.
Doesn’t necessarily make it wrong – in fact it is generally closer to what I’d consider to be true value in a lot of cases than the Red Button.
The Red Button is a good marker of what traders collectively believe a player to be worth now. And we’re seeing the price of the most optimistic person on the red button.
But that’s all it is – an opinion and a collective belief.
And as discussed above – traders in general are still terrible at valuing players. Not because people are thick there are loads of smart people out there.
First of all to make money you haven’t always needed to know about real value so lots of people haven’t bothered to learn. You could always rely on FI to come along with a dividend increase and pull you up anyway. And if it went wrong FI would buy your bad bet cheap.
But people will have to learn now as some of those crutches are taken away.
And then throw in all the social media nonsense and pumping that goes on. And it’s no wonder prices are all over the place.
So here is my expectation for when the “Offer” side of the Matching Engine comes in and traders set that Blue Button price like they do for the Red now.
Prices will shift closer to the Red Button and further away from the Blue.
Unless FI do something radical to stop it “Offers” are going to drop the Blue Button price below where it is now.
Why? Because Blue Button prices will start to reflect current opinion which is likely to track the Red Button price much more closely than it does now.
So it is another natural way that spreads will tighten up.
It’s going to drop prices and “on paper” portfolio values may drop by 10-20% or more. That could freak people out sure. FI are likely aware of this and may support the market through it somehow possibly through increased Market Maker activity.
Is this bad? It’s certainly going to be bumpy and uncomfortable.
But it doesn’t really change true value.
And the Red Button price, current opinion, is often significantly undervaluing players especially after the recent dividend increase.
The panic we have seen in recent weeks has caused prices to crash to insanely low levels in many cases.
If there is value there, people will find it. We can find it now. Others may take longer to catch on. But it is sitting there waiting to be picked up.
This is why I pay very little attention to the current prices and even less attention to what people are currently saying on social media or in chat groups.
The fundamentals are quality, price and trend fit as outlined in Key Strategy. That’s what matters because it’s the only hope in hell we have or working out something close to a reasonable value for the player.
We are not going to learn anything about value by following either red or blue button prices right now or listening to the chatter.
Eventually, maybe 6-12 months from now when the Matching Engine is bedded in prices will start to reflect reality a bit more. But right now they are all over the place and we shouldn’t let ourselves be dragged about by them.
This is why I remain very optimistic. If a player is good enough they will prove it and the prices will go up accordingly. Holders of quality players at reasonable prices or better have very little to fear and plenty to gain.
But it’s going to continue to be bumpy and mental strength will be needed particularly if the introduction of “offers” start chopping 10%+ off people’s on paper portfolio values.
CL and Europa League
Important reminder that the conclusion of this seasons CL and Europa League are just around the corner in early August.
When considering buying I would put players likely to be involved here to the front of the queue.
These are lucrative Gold Days that will come thick and fast in August and with the modifier will also put players in strong contention for team of the month.
Whilst this is as easy to see coming as a freight train and just weeks away the shortsightedness of traders is proven time and again.
Get this business done as early as possible is my advice before people really switch onto it.
And once we see those big scores come in, big dividends won, and big CL/Europa boosted Team of the Month scores it is likely this will turn people towards next seasons CL/Europa too.
You can see the Tweets already. “Wow huge score from XX tonight these CL/Europa boosted scores will be huge for TOTM next season!!!”. Yeah no kidding. But you could have worked that out approximately 6 minutes after the announcement.
We’re now seeing plenty of teams book places for next year in these competitions and this is a huge boost for the core player I describe in Key Strategy.
Involvement in this is going to come with a price premium and losing it will have the opposite effect.
It’s been bumpy. And there is more uncertainty to come as Offers come in no doubt.
But overall I am very optimistic for the months ahead particularly for Key Strategy.
There is just so much value there and so many positive factors for Core Players (and the rest – I still recommend something close to a 50/50 split between Core and the rest of Key Strategy).
Now that we can see some reasonable spreads we will have a better chance to free up some cash and exploit the value there. I am bullish on this and this is a moment where I want what money I can sensibly use out there on the pitch working for me.
Instinctively when things are rough lots of people want to go defensive and hoard cash, selling players for less than they are worth. I think this is a bad move and it feels like a time to do the exact opposite.
Exploit the extreme value whilst it is there.
The one thing I’d caution on is rushing to sell and therefore selling good players too cheaply.
This can be a problem if you only really have good players! Strange as that may sound.
If we know a player is bad it’s easy to drop them but decisions will be a lot more difficult than that if our players are decent. We bought them for a reason right?
If those reasons remain true and there is a reason they will recover later we may be better off just keeping them.
So I envision most good portfolios will want some well targeted surgery with a scalpal rather than hacking at it with a chainsaw.
We are still in a buyers market so tearing up your portfolio and selling very heavily is probably a terrible idea unless you are holding some real garbage.
I’m going to finish each State of the Market with a review of the trends from now on.
I did a major update on the trends last week and there are no changes here.
My main expectation being an increasing focus on CL/Europa League players as discussed above, driven by the August matches.
Media focused players are likely to get a general drag once people consider how the packed football calendar next year whittles down those media days. Plus the relatively modest media increase at the dividend review.
As the current seasons draw to a close we will start to see an increasing focus on preparation for next season which is very close, which should pick up interest in Bundesliga players who are currently at strong value in many cases. But other leagues will follow including Ligue 1.
Aversion to old age should soften up with a long calendar ahead and as these elites win, particularly when they are cheap and have strong CL/Europa/TOTM/Euro 2021 involvement. The 27-30 age range particularly good as they are in their prime but not generally retirement risks.
Very young players and veterans particularly at 31 are both higher risk categories so perhaps consider staking accordingly.
For example I might only go for a small buy on these high risk categories perhaps 1.25% portfolio value when my “normal buy” is 2.5%. For more on Staking Strategy see the home page and the Free Trading Guide section. The one on “Strategy and Portfolio Management” is most useful here.
Nations League and therefore Euro 2021 players should come into it as we get towards September so this is creeping up as a background factor on my radar.
We can expect big scores particularly when a big team faces a minnow (Italy v Bosnia, England v Iceland etc).
And youngsters may get debuts. Signing them up now is smart, buying them a week before? Not so much.
In general the Nations League will focus minds on Euro 2021 – which is why you can never prepare for this too early.
It’s yet another reason why securing those Core Players from Key Strategy ASAP is important.