Welcome back! I hope you’ve all had a good week and enjoyed some of the fantastic European games. I had planned to take a week off from football but predictably that plan did not survive Bayern winning 8-2. 

I’ve really enjoyed my first break but I’m equally excited to come back refreshed and prepare for a brand new season which is just around the corner.

That’s just as well as yesterday I scheduled content for the coming weeks and there is so much on the way. Pre-season is my favourite time of year as all the changes in squads opens up lots of opportunity.

On the way in the coming days and weeks:

  • More on Ligue 1 ahead of the restart this week including scouting of the pre-season friendlies. 
  • Champions/Europa League – Review of the recent games and Preview of the remaining games.
  • FI focused previews of all 5 Major Leagues including transfers, squad changes, and scouting of pre-season friendlies. 
  • Previews of Leagues outside the Big 5 including Holland and Portugal.
  • Plus the regular content like State of the Market, an updated Key Strategy (probably a month from now), regular Scouting as the leagues restart.
  • if time permits I’d like to do a Portfolio Clinic focused on setting up a portfolio for the new season – feel free to send in some examples! I won’t be able to reply to all of them but I’ll pick a couple that showcase some common issues everyone might be interested in. 

So lots to cover. I’m going to start with my thoughts on how the market has been behaving recently and what I expect in the coming weeks.

Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

Market Analysis

A Predictable Focus on Big Hitters

As expected, the relentless grind of Gold Day’s has focused attention on some of the big hitters involved in recent European ties. 

It’s hardly rocket science as these games have been scheduled for weeks and yet if we need another example of how short term minded many traders are here it is.

Lining up your portfolio with the upcoming events that matter in good time is a fairly straightforward thing to do but it gets results. The hard bit is having the discipline/confidence to go for such players when they are unpopular. And of course, knowing who the good players really are.

Not because these players are definitely going to win, we can never guarantee that. But we do know that traders tend to over emphasise what happened last week and what is coming up this week. And wins for obvious good players like Lewandowski can blaze the trail for other similar players like an Immobile to follow in due course.

My first main observation is that some embarrassingly easy profits have been possible. They have flown mainly under the radar because when that player has done well we have seen a rapidly closing spread rather than a major price rise. 

These rises are less obvious as they don’t appear on the FI front page like a big Blue Button price rise does. 

Yet, if you bought at that low bid price before they were popular then 25% to 100%+ profits in recent weeks were easily acheivable on pretty damn obvious players like Muller and Lewandowski. I’ve been banging on about these players for months. Or slightly less obviously – Reguilon from the Europa preview who had dropped again back into value range. 

These are not exactly my most brain taxing finds we are talking about very well known players. But not every trade has to be sexy or new – these profits are possible mainly through having the confidence to go for them at a time when it seems that the majority of people are desperate to sell them.

We knew they were in the CL in August. And we knew they were likely to win. If we have money to spend there is no reason not to just sign them up – don’t wait for it to actually happen and pile in with the rest! This is particularly difficult to do for people who are easily distracted by following the latest social media trend. It eats up their available balance and makes forward planning impossible.

That’s something we want to bear in mind as we prepare our portfolios for the calendar ahead. Who are the players who are unsexy now yet have good reasons to be desirable next week or next month?

We have the remaining CL/European games, Ligue 1, the next Team of the Month, Internationals, then restarts of the new seasons. So buying quality players who are still available on low bids that hit those boxes is as close to a slam dunk win as we are ever going to get. 

And we don’t need to buy the ones who won already. In many recent winners there is still definitely value there. But, we’ve seen lots of good performances from players who were very close to wins yet missed out through little more than bad luck. I’ll cover those when I review the CL/Europa games soon.

We should have been signing up such players for weeks if not months if we had the funds. But the Matching Engine plus gloomy sentiment from many is giving us a longer window than usual to buy great players at value. 

Wins are driving prices. For good players and bad ones.

My second main observation from the last week is that many people still have a very hard time telling the difference between a win for a quality player and a fortunate win for an average one. 

Usually, on a normal Gold Day with hundreds of players in action we need the real cream of the crop – those incredibly FI suitable picks that are capable of regularly getting head and shoulders above the pack. 

But in a single match any goalscorer has a decent crack at the win. The better FI players are still more likely to win and we have seen plenty of expected winners in August. De Bruyne. Lewandowski. Bruno. Neymar. Kimmich. Muller. Banega. The gang’s all here.

But this format also allows relatively poor players to gain traction with soft wins and this is why we need to know who the real quality is through Scouting in order to trade effectively. Brandon Williams an obvious example. Still tanking from his absurd £2+ high but the win closes the spread a little and gives people hope. It shouldn’t. He’s an awful FI fit. 

Alphonso Davies another high profile example. Wonderful, eye catching performance and a soft win has arrested his predictable price slide and given people false hope. If you are judging this objectively by the numbers – that was only one more game amongst many that shows he is a bang average FI player. You don’t score points for being nice to watch. 

You can of course make the argument “but he can develop”. Sure – but for me it is a red flag when a player is playing well and yet is average or worse at FI scoring. It makes an FI friendly change to his style of play less likely because there is no real world need for it. He can do what he does slightly better in future but it’s unlikely to make enough difference to matter.

The difficulty I have with the “he can develop” argument is that it is most frequently used by people who feel forced to justify an overvaluation of a player who isn’t good enough. 

Of course we should speculate on the development of high potential players on the basis of good evidence. But the point is when we are speculating we need a low price that matches the risk of that player not developing as hoped. Most promising young players are going to fail to make it big and even less of those who do will suit FI. We shouldn’t be blind to that.

If we are paying a very high price for a player that must improve significantly to justify it we put ourselves under a lot of pressure. Even if it happens we only got a fair price not a great one. And if it doesn’t, which is more likely, we significantly overpaid. It’s just a bet that is very hard to win and easy to lose.

Huge IPD payouts open up short term opportunities

I am primarily someone who trades over weeks and months rather than hours and days. But with IPDs VERY generous until the 30th September and with more free time than usual I did more of this (apparently I can’t help myself even when on holiday). 

In general day trading is highly time consuming and once you factor in commission and spread doesn’t leave you with as much as I think some on social media make out. 

But the higher IPD’s compensate at the moment. So for example I decided to abuse the tiny spread on Lewandowski before the Barcelona game midweek to sell and then buy back instantly. I needed 2 goals/assists in the Barcelona game to just about cover the cost of that swap which fortunately I got. So anything he gets against Lyon and potentially in the final is all gravy. 

I’ve bought a little free bet with a player I wanted anyway. Am I going to retire on this proceeds? No. But if you have a little time to play around with this it might grub up a few more % profit and why not. If there are tight spreads on players with strong IPD potential it can be worth it at the moment, though it gets less attractive come 30th September when IPD’s return to normal rates.

This I think particularly applies to Ligue 1 which is getting a long run at uncontested dividends and inflated IPD. 

I shake my head when I see that one of the players with the tightest spreads right now is my underdog favourite Ben Yedder at just over 3%. £1.19 Blue Button now, or £1.15 on a bid. 

A couple of weeks ago I did the Ligue 1 preview and he was available for around £1 on the bid. He’s scored or assisted 22 goals last season and Monaco have soft opening fixtures. He’s scored 2 and assisted 1in 4 pre-season friendlies recently.

He can return 5% of that value each time he contributes to a goal. He can also win the match day dividends overall with such limited competition.

You could sell for a 10-15% profit now before he’s even kicked a ball if you want. 

Who are these people selling him for £1 when all of these facts (bar all of the friendly performances) were available weeks ago!? It shouldn’t be this easy to make money! This is enabled by pure short sightedness and should be exploited.

Humble Ben Yedder must be one of the most potentially profitable yet low risk players of the last 12 months when you consider how often it has been possible to refresh his IPD window and buy and sell on the peaks and troughs. And yet hardly anyone talks about him. 

Treacherous Transfer Trading. And Sancho.

Transfer trading is a fickle friend.

If you persist with holding too many gambles into the window itself it’s thrilling when it’s going your way and absolutely frickin’ miserable when it’s not. It’s generally an exciting way to achieve very little.

I’m sure Sancho has been much discussed when I’ve been away and things are certainly on a downer for him after a good run. I wouldn’t pay too much attention to the latest gossip. I didn’t believe it when the deal was a “sure thing” and I don’t believe that it’s definitely off either.

All I care about as a trader is whether the price I’m paying matches the risk/reward.

One of the issues with this trade at this point is that I wasn’t even sure what the good outcome was. He is struggling now the deal is in doubt. But if it went through would the price rise or fall? For every true believer in Sancho there will be a transfer flipper waiting to take profit and you can’t trust these rats! It will need everyone to co-operate to maintain a price this high and it’s not easy.

The personality that chases this sort of thing late in my experience tends to be very fickle and easily influenced by a price drop or negative social media chatter. So throwing your lot in with that at the wrong time is a bad move. 

I underscore at the wrong time for a reason. Because trading in Sancho is absolutely fine to do and even desirable but it’s a case of picking your moments. I think a mistake people make with these is becoming a “fan” of the player. Don’t go down with the ship and get obsessed with “proving you were right”.

If you are sticking in to get that extra dividend – you are allowing others to sell first and then when you want to sell your extra day or two of dividends has likely been wiped out by that hit you take. And you have likely missed an opportunity for an incredible rise or an IPD win in a decent player that doesn’t come with the huge risk of a drop.

This is why I was happy to buy Sancho in January at £7 but went cold by May/June at £13+. You’ve locked in the majority of the profit but haven’t sweated on any of the recent risk.

With transfer trading buying early then selling before the link can really break down is hands down the most reliable way to profit. It is so obviously the correct course of action with most players including Sancho from a rational trading perspective that it is barely even worthy of debate by this point.

We have seen this cycle play out so many times before where the market becomes obsessed with a particular player. It usually, though not always, ends badly for the true believers even if the hoped for hype event does happen.

I don’t think the hype for him is going anywhere though. Another transfer window will come if he doesn’t make the move this time. Ironically this may be exactly what holders want. 

It’s a real danger period for holders if he does move to Old Trafford. He will actually start having to prove he is worth this money and whilst he might, that’s a lot of pressure and holders can bet social media trolls will be lining up waiting for him to fail. Good traders stay well clear of all that in my opinion.

Something I don’t often mention with these trades is how silly the fear of missing out really is. Let’s say by some perfect combination of dramatic improvement and dividend increase Sancho is worth £30 this time next year. 

First point – if Sancho genuinely proves himself worth £30 on a rational valuation we should have no problem paying it. Much as it’s perfectly acceptable to add Neymar or Bruno to your portfolio now. Big price sure, but they warrant it.

Second point – if capital appreciation is what you are looking for getting Sancho from £15 to £30 is extremely difficult and relies on huge dividend increases (not to mention perfect development and performances from him). If we do see dividend increases of that magnitude then Sancho doubling in price will not be even close to the biggest percentage riser by that point. Not. Even. Close.

I think by and large Sancho will stay in that premium bracket – there is lots of genuine true belief out there and it’s not entirely baseless. Even if things start going sour it will take a lot to bring him down because people love him. Mbappé survived for a long time in recent years on little more than hope for example.

But for long periods he did just survive – and was often left behind as others surged ahead. I suspect this may be the outcome for Sancho from here, at least for a little while. If the move is back on there should be a bump but as above once the move happens the pressure is really on to deliver.

In general the FI community are spending way too much time talking about Sancho. Even I am doing it right now. It’s so hard to avoid. He isn’t even the most profitable player around in recent months. Far from it. And he’s not going to be the most profitable player from here in the future either.

The danger is we get sucked into thinking too much about one individual or group of players. It wastes our time and misdirects us. It’s a little like how before the Share Split all anyone wanted was Neymar and a few select others. 

In the very first site Key Strategy I disagreed and instead of following I went to the place everyone would naturally want to go once they were done with the short term hype of the Share Split. That worked out extremely well.

It worked well precisely because everyone had paid too much for a small group of players – leaving me free and clear to hoover up lots of highly desirable yet currently unfashionable players on the cheap.

And I think that’s what we need to do now – forget about chasing transfer rumours or who is winning media this week and just concentrate on setting up a great portfolio for the coming season. 

There are some exceptions on transfers. 

By the window itself I generally want rid of any players that are reaching a silly price that rely on a particular move to justify it. But it’s a different story if they can be held at the existing club. 

Thiago for example I’ve been happy to hold throughout. Liverpool is great if it happens but I largely don’t care where he goes. PSG fine. Stay at Bayern, fine. I’ve very little to sweat on here because I have no reason to believe he will go to anything less than a top tier club.

Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

What's Next?

Transfer Window: 27th July – 5th Oct

Europa League: 5th Aug – 21st Aug

CL: 7th Aug – 23 Aug

Ligue 1: 22nd Aug

EPL and La Liga: 12th Sept

Serie A: Not set but rumoured also 12th Sept

Bundesliga: 18th Sept

FI Promotional Periods:

– 5x IPD – Until 30th Sept

– Media Madness: Until 11th Sept (All days boosted from 24th Aug not just Media Days). 

Nations League: 3rd Sept to 8th Sept (And back in October)

Here’s that Calendar again.

Expanding out further from that we’ve now seen the fixture schedule for the coming campaign and it is hectic

The calendar is squeezed to accommodate Euro 2021 and the late season start. So our usual diet of performance dividends are up for grabs in a very short space of time. We’re going to splurge on them. 

Bottom line – great for strong performance players. Bad for media players. We should not over rely on media to justify prices in the coming season particularly using a justification of some kind of historic “yield”. 

This is always ropey as hell as a way of judging value but it is even worse for the coming year as it is not going to be anything like normal and historic yields mean very little. There are going to be dramatically fewer media days than usual and fewer media dividends are up for grabs. 

I use Media sparingly anyway so for me this isn’t a big deal. However, for your typical whale with his “Buy 10,000 Neymar/Sancho/Pogba/Bruno, sit back, open beer” strategy? It could cause them serious issues.

The logical result of that should be a general shift from media towards performance over the season. Some people may realise sooner than others so it should be gradual. But it is definitely a risk I want to put myself on the right side of.

The focus right now for me is clearly on: Ligue 1 > Internationals > Restarts of the Leagues. In that order of priority.

Generally what I am looking for is high quality performance players that benefit from all of the positive events ahead and I want to sign them up now whilst people are mainly occupied with the Champions/Europa League or transfers.

We don’t want to be sat here in a week wishing we’d bought Neymar or Ben Yedder or Icardi or Thauvin or Renato Sanches or Gouri. Or indeed one of the IPD options like Bouanga or Delort.

As per the preview – these are predictable winners so I want to be going into the season with them rather than chasing them if they do win. 

And similarly – we don’t want to be sat here three weeks from now watching predictable price rises for big international players when the Nations League rolls around and England are tonking Iceland or Germany battering Switzerland.

Just like the CL/Europa has been – these are predictable events. Good traders prepare for them. Mugs react to them.

When will the market pick up? 

We’re still seeing very limited price rises on the Blue Button which is not a shock. It’s bad practice and just plain demoralising to buy at full price when cheap bids are available and I think most people understand that instinctively. 

Even when a player wins we aren’t seeing that huge seemingly automatic price rise as a result. This applies even when the Instant Buy price is actually good value – we all feel better about snagging a cut price deal on a bid and we’re just more likely to do that. Especially as there is still zero commission. 

I expect this to continue for a while yet. For this to change we need the “Offer” side of the Matching Engine to come in, a better mood in the market and more quality players need to prove it as we see more and more matches.

These things should gradually eat up those spreads making cheap bids on high quality players harder to find. In turn, that combined with paying commission will make bidding less attractive and consistent wins from good players plus lower Blue Button prices due to Offers should make Instant Buys more appealing.

But not for a while. And patience is needed. As is mentally preparing for another shock when Offers come in. People seem to think they want it. But what they are likely to see is a drop in their on paper portfolio value unless FI can come up with a clever smokescreen to gloss this over.

If portfolio value is still calculated via the Blue Button price those will be calculated on the current lowest Sell Offer, and that’s going to take a big chunk out of on paper portfolio values, maybe 10-20%. 

FI may do something like have a separate “Print New Share” button which would be higher than the highest Offer. The purpose of this button would be for very quick buys if you feared a sudden price spike and didn’t want to wait for an offer.

A secondary advantage for FI is that they could tie the portfolio value price to that, creating an illusion that portfolio values haven’t really changed as much. I’m just speculating here but a move like this wouldn’t surprise me. Does it matter? Not really when considering true value on offer but in terms of how it causes people to react in the short term it could matter a lot.

Whilst I fully expect us to be stuck in this quite frustrating place for weeks or months yet – I remain very optimistic overall despite the current grumbling on social media and I’ll explain why at the end of the article.

Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

Trend Watch

Straight forward on the trends. 

Champions and Europa League are dropping off as they come to a close but with the seasons so close to restarting this month lays down a marker for how important CL/Europa involvement is going to be in the season to come. Especially when we see Team of the Month results.

With the market as it is we have perhaps seen less immediate big gains when players win like we are used to. This can feel disappointing but I think it’s fine and just a sign of the times.

Wins and good scores are never wasted because they leave a lasting impression and this period of Gold Days has been good not just for the dividend winners but for any well regarded player for a CL/Europa team.

Nations League creeps up on the trends. Two weeks seems a lifetime to most traders! But it will be on us before we know it complete with England wonderkid gossip and all the nonsense it brings. That nonsense is fine to profit from but we just don’t want to come late to it once it appears on social media.

We should also see some huge scores racked up by big teams smashing small ones. These do not* count for dividends but it should remind people we are in a Euros year again. It should lead to discussion about who people want for the Euros and that is another push towards the “Core” player I value in Key Strategy.

*This is a correction from the original – I realised I mixed these up with Qualifiers which do count where as Nations League does not count for FI scoring. Still, it will show the shape of teams and should spark speculation as to who will be first team etc for Euro 2021 so it’s still a decent factor to think about. 

Positive Trends

Performance Players
Rising >> 90%
Players with CL and EL Involvement
Rising > 70%
Age 17 - 21
Stable 70%
Stable 70%
Stable 70%
Age 21-24
Stable 70%
Age 24-27
Stable 60%
January Transfers
Rising > 50%
IPD Players
Falling < 50%
Media Players
Falling < 50%
Age 29 - 31
Rising >> 50%
Euro 2021
Rising > 40%
Stable 30%

Negative Trends

Players without CL or EL involvement
Stable 60%
No Euro 2021 involvement.
Rising > 30%
Age 31+
Stable 30%
Stable 20%
Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019


My outlook for the coming weeks and months continues to be optimistic.

This is in contrast to the general mood out there which feels pretty glum.

Historically, my best periods on FI have tended to come at times when I firmly disagree with the current general sentiment and I feel like that now.

There is a simple reason for my optimism – there is genuine value there at these prices and in this dividend structure. And sooner or later people will come along and find it because they like money.

I do expect more bumps though and particularly when the “Offer” side of the Matching Engine comes in that could be tricky, particularly if FI do not massage the numbers a little to avoid hitting on paper portfolio values. 

It may be a bit like when Bids came in – people initially loved it but then a bit of harsh reality creeps in and then takes over. I recall on the Live Blog being amazed that traders so meekly accepted the death of FI backed Instant Sell. But they hadn’t accepted it – they just hadn’t really understood what it meant! It took a lot of people a little while to catch up. 

This new world of bids and offers isn’t going to be for everyone. If we’re honest FI has been incredibly easy to turn a profit on in it’s infancy. Yes better traders have done significantly better but even bad traders have made decent money.

That means many traders are used to an easy life and have never really bothered to develop good trading skills. They didn’t really have to. These are the people who are going to be frustrated by the realities of operating in something closer to a real market. 

These people may leave – and maybe that would be best for them. That might be bad if money leaves the market short term – but they’ll give some of that money to better traders who are coping well on their way out. And new money will eventually come in to replace it as long as value is there. Which it clearly is.

If a trader has a bad mentality for trading or is unable or unwilling to develop a good trading game then we are probably reaching a point in the next season or two where they will start to get heavily punished. FI is maturing rapidly.

But for those of us who are willing to keep improving and learning there is a ton of real value there even in the current dividend structure. 

And we have good reason to expect further increases certainly at the end of this season. I am not banking on it but I suspect we will see a mid-season increase too. 

I think part of the reason for the smaller than expected increase this time was to keep powder dry so they can offer more later at a better time. A massive dividend increase has not actually been needed as there is so much real value in the market already.

As long as that stays true, the traders who have bought players for less than they are worth are always going to end up happy. And all of the grumbling will just be a waste of time and energy.

This is why I pay so little attention to social media or chat groups. It diverts our attention from what we really need to care about which is finding good value players that match the key events ahead. 

On the surface that’s not all that complicated! But it is hard work and requires lots of player analysis and strategic thought to get right.

I’ll be doing as much as I can to help as always and I’ve got a jam packed content schedule ahead as we head into the next season. 

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