Another transfer window is approaching and good traders, like good club Chairmen, tend to get their business done nice and early.
Usually, I would do it even earlier than this. But with everything going on with the market as discussed yesterday there have been bigger fish to fry. And prices haven’t exactly been running away from us in recent weeks!
However there is a period ahead where speculation is going to ramp up for some key players, and with many of them at low prices, there will be huge profits available in this area.
I’m going to set out some thoughts on transfer trading with some twists that apply specifically to this window and this nervous market. Then I’ll get to analysis of the key players in question.
For the EPL, the window opens on January 2 and closes on February 1. Same for the Bundesliga and Ligue 1. Serie A and La Liga open 2 days later on January 4.
But in my view the best way to think of it is that the window for transfer trading is open now, and for the most part, will be over by the time the real transfer window opens.
The most reliable way to profit is from the over optimism and hype of other traders. That can be fairly predictable.
Whether the transfer actually happens or not? Very unpredictable. Lots of “news” sometimes even from seemingly credible sources is just click bait. So unless we have some kind of insider information (Better than a friend of a friend who is a steward at the ground who said X player is coming..) I don’t see a particular edge for us here.
I know I’m not any better at calling the transfers than any other informed football fan who spends time reading the gossip. I don’t have a magic “gut feel” for what moves will happen or not.
So I don’t bet like I do.
What I can generally do is predict the actions of other traders. And I can carefully target bets that have multiple positive outcomes – rather than going all in on a specific move happening.
The best time to do that is in the build up to the window, when gossip is rife but actual decisions on a players future are unlikely at that early stage. I will rarely hold a transfer player during the actual window and I’ll discuss that more below.
Holding Sancho at £15 with a live window is just the most recent and high profile example of why holding highly priced players who rely on a very specific move happening during the window is an awful idea. He is just the latest in a long line of them. You could go back through multiple seasons and highlight massive losses that result from this style of trading.
It’s astonishing it took people so long to figure this out – and maybe finally in this more nervous market we will see a mentality change there. But can some people still resist that big rumour? Pogba’s rise yesterday suggests maybe not. Old habits die hard.
A Different Mentality
This isn’t the wild FI of a year ago when people were happy to wildly speculate on any transfer rumour going. There has been tough lessons learned as people take heavy losses because of that behaviour. It’s a more nervous market in general.
Also, the market hit difficulties during the build up to the Summer transfer window in 2020. This created problems for even early transfer traders, in fact possibly especially for early transfer traders, because suddenly you had players you intended to hold temporarily that could not be sold at all.
So it may be that we still have some of those players languishing in portfolios. In many cases, their transfer can come around again, so it’s not so bad. Though holding them 6-8 months longer than intended is never going to be ideal.
At least this time we have some decent spreads to work with. But, in this market, you never quite know how long that will last.
So what I think is key to look for in any transfer trades we go for now is insurance policies.
Ideally, we can treat the move as a bonus. If they are fine just where they are at an existing club, yet might get a great move, that’s probably a really good sign. You might put Ousmané Dembelé in that group. The transfer to the EPL only helps – and if it doesn’t happen – no problem. So he’s fine to hold throughout the window and is no real stress.
Or if they are absolutely nailed on to move and have 3 possible good destinations and no really bad option on the table – that’s helpful. Maybe Szoboszlai or Gravenberch fits that bill.
And of course, they want the sort of age profile where even if the move totally collapses early and unexpectedly, or they have no sell price and you are basically stuck with them – they aren’t going to be a toal dead end.
Milinkovic-Savic would be an example. He missed his Summer move, and couldn’t be sold in 2020 so it is a trade gone bad by any stretch. And yet – his time may come around again. In the worst case Summer transfer scenario possible – we still have a scenario where it turns out alright even if we have to wait longer than we wanted to.
What we really, really do not want to be doing in this nervous market is to be betting on all or nothing moves. Or moves that are likely to be positive for short term media but long term could send the player to a dead end. Out of EPL moves can be a bit like this. I’ll discuss Pogba in the transfers section as at this price that is tricky.
When the price is really overheating, the window is live, and the move might go ahead or break down any day – a good trader is just never going to get themselves in that situation.
If anyone ever cries “bad luck” when holding transfers too long and the move falls over I’m not going to be nodding along. It’s bad trading and we are responsible for avoiding it.
You can say it’s good or bad luck that the move happens or not, we can’t control that bit. But it is bad trading to put yourself in that weak position at all.
There are a very limited set of circumstances where you might hold such players in a live window. Let’s discuss that next.
Sometimes a trade is about more than just speculation.
Maybe, just maybe, that player can actually turn out to be a really promising prospect at the target club.
In this case, it may well actually be worth holding onto them. And the decisive factor here is price.
Ousmané Dembelé is a really easy example. Looking good at Barcelona. If he were to move to Manchester United then he is obviously worth holding (Weak rumour but it doesn’t matter in this scenario) when you are paying £1 as you are now – this is a no brainer. Of course you hold. He’d have to get to £2.50 or £3 at United before you even thought about selling really.
If that player is Fati however – you have to think twice. He’s just as good. Maybe better, even, at least from a hype point of view. But he is well over £3+ already – and that bigger price tag comes with a lot of pressure to deliver immediately.
And it is hard for players to deliver immediately. Most of the time, there will be a period of gentle introduction to the team. It probably takes a good 5-10 games to adapt and we see them at their best. Plus – there is no guarantee a player will pick up exactly where they left off at their old club. Hakimi? The club makes a huge difference.
Werner and Havertz are other examples. Good players both. Both show signs that they may well deliver in future and become major FI assets. But it’s clear now that their big price tags just gave them too much to do early on. And even at £5-6 for a big EPL name – that was too hot for this market to handle unless they were winning consistently.
As another example. I am picking on Sancho but I kind of have to as he’s such a high profile example. He looks great at Dortmund. Alright – he hasn’t won too often but he has been a little unlucky not to win more. And he only needs to improve a little bit and he could be well up there. And he probably will improve, he’s still developing.
However – any assumption that he will be the same player at Manchester United is lazy and risky. Those winger slots are questionable in that team. Greenwood is a good player. Rashford is. Martial is. All of them struggle to dominate on FI and there is zero guarantee that Sancho will be any different. At least under the existing coach, or any of the coaches we have seen since Ferguson left.
This is why these “10 year dividend plans” you see which bend over backwards to justify £30+ valuations are total garbage. Nobody can predict that far ahead.
Now, Sancho is of course a brilliant prospect, including for FI. Maybe one day he will indeed justify a £30 valuation but he has a lot to do to prove it first. And there will be many ups and downs on the way even if he gets there – so it is a bad decision to use that £30+ 10 year dividend plan as your justification for sticking in at £15 because he is “undervalued”. This is awful trading because it puts you in that high risk position discussed above where you are at the mercy of short term events.
There is no reason, whatsoever, that if Sancho did move to United and lived up to every bit of the hype you couldn’t jump on at £20 if that price was justified. We shouldn’t give in to the Fear of Missing Out. There will always be chances where players drift out of fashion and can be picked up later. Nobody is essential.
There are however some very limited situations where sticking in can be worth the risk.
One is the Dembelé type – where the price is so low that the pressure to deliver is minimal and you don’t have to sweat much. Easy.
A more difficult one is when you have a player you think is exceptional, yet you still have to worry about him adapting to a new club. Bruno Fernandes – as FIT veterans from last January will recall, was one such player I continued to hold after the move. Why?
Bruno was a long standing player I’ve traded in and out of for years now, riding the various transfer hype waves. But this time last year around December he was £2.70 or so whilst still at Lisbon. I was happy with that, content to run him into the January window hoping for a Manchester United move.
My reasoning was similar to Dembelé – at £2.70 – even if the move collapsed, I didn’t care. I’d be confident that the hype would return by Summer, and he was always likely to get a decent move even if it was not to the EPL. And I thought him exceptional for FI scoring, so I knew I didn’t have to stress too much about it being a particular club. United was the jackpot – but not the only acceptable outcome.
Fairly standard FIT transfer trading so far. Where it became a bit unusual for me is that when the move actually happened he spiked to £5. That would normally be my trigger to sell – but I chose not to even when many did and he started dropping.
This was indeed a gamble, but a calculated one. I knew from his historic numbers that he was potentially a special player. And at United, he could pull in media, making his potential ceiling in the old dividend structure around £8-9, maybe even higher.
And his attacking midfield slot is much more favourable than the winger or forward positions at United. He was likely to get a good platform to show what he had. And the early performance in Scouting hinted this was so. And it came through – multiple wins powered him to £10+ swiftly. Pretty much the dream scenario.
Good analysis was rewarded. But I needed the luck too – I didn’t know the United move would happen. But the important thing is I was paying a price at £2.70 where even if the United move had not happened I wouldn’t have been too disappointed.
This is the most important thing about this trade. I was never in a weak position where I had put myself at the mercy of a single event I couldn’t control.
By contrast, would I have held Bruno if he was £7-12 before the move and I knew he was going on the wing at OGS’s United? I can think of precisely one scenario – if TV hard man Ross Kemp threatened me with a tyre iron and made me do it.