Another thing that sets American Soccer apart from European Football is transfers, or as we more familiarly know them as; trades. This seems like something very basic that wouldn’t differ too much between continents, but the truth is that the two systems share very little in common.
Trades & Transfers
No Trades? What Gives?
Let’s start by remembering something from the article about the Academy system. In the Premier League, as is the case with the rest of Europe, there is no player draft like in North America.
Here every team, at the end of the year, receives draft picks commensurate with their seasons. The better the team plays, the higher their draft picks will occur.
Across the pond, there is no such thing as a draft, so teams have to rely on their Academy and the Transfer market for new recruits at the end of each season.
Since there are no draft picks to dole out for a hot prospect or a wily veteran, teams are much less willing to send their players the other way in a “traditional” NA trade.
Instead, teams generally pay cash for players, what we more commonly know as sending “cash considerations” to a team. In fact, trades, as we think of them, are called “part exchanges” and are extremely uncommon; most transfer windows do not see a single part exchange take place.
So, instead of the Detroit Tigers and the Texas Rangers trading Prince Fielder and Ian Kinsler a few years ago, football clubs would have instead negotiated appropriate transfers fees for the two players, and money would be exchanged.
The Loan System
While transfers are very easy to wrap your head around, there is another type of transfer which is very common throughout the footballing world that is less intuitive for North Americans. The loan system.
So what happens when a team has an up-and-coming prospect come through the ranks and, but the starter ahead of them would keep them on the bench? Well, instead of sending them to the minors (reserve team), many football clubs try to loan these players to other teams to gain experience.
A good example is Arsenal’s own Jack Wilshere. A few years ago, while he was still a teenager, there were several players ahead of him in the pecking order. The likes of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri blocked his path to first-team action for a few years, so Arsene Wenger decided to loan him to Bolton Wanderers for a season.
More recently, after the 2015-16 season Wilshere was coming off of a long-term injury, so was not match fit for the new season. Instead of denying him play time, Wenger again loaned him out to Bournemouth so he could get regular minutes.
At the end of those two respective seasons, the player was returned to Arsenal, where he will fight for a starting place.
The length of the loan is negotiable, for example, a few years ago Arsenal got Kim Kallstrom on loan (for some reason) for six months instead of a whole year. There have also been eighteen and twenty-four-month loans negotiated in the past.
Teams will often negotiate on who will pay the player’s wages (normally big clubs subsidize their own player’s salary in order to secure them a loan), and sometimes a fee for the loan (as was the case with Wilshere going to Bournemouth), and even clauses preventing a mid-season recall (again as was the case with Wilshere’s loan to Bournemouth).
Transfers, Previous Contracts, and No-Trade Clauses
Remember the example of Prince Fielder and Ian Kinsler being traded? What would surprise a football fan about that trade is that both players kept the contract they signed with their former teams.
In fact, one of the major factors in the Tigers’ decision to trade Fielder was his enormous contract (which he wasn’t able to complete, retiring due to injury in subsequent seasons). The Texas Rangers had to take a chance on that contract and got burned in the end by it.
Football clubs don’t have to worry about such things as much, as when a player moves from one club to another, their former contracts are dissolved, and the player negotiates a new deal with their new club.
So, even after years of scouting and months of negotiation with a team, another club can still miss out on a player if that athlete does not wish to leave their current club.
This brings us to a familiar feature of NA contracts, the “no-trade clause” under which a player as the right to refuse a trade. This is generally only offered to top players, as most teams enjoy being the sole decision-maker when it comes to trades.
An example of this is Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres a few years ago. He was entering his final few months of his contract, which included a no-trade clause, and the Sabres, wanting to cash in, had to first ask the player where he wanted to go.
As per his contract, Miller submitted a short-list of teams which he would accept a trade to. In the footballing world, such clauses are unnecessary because every player has the inherent right to refuse a move.
In NA we have the ‘trade deadline’, so in other words, teams can freely add to their team throughout the season until a certain point. Normally the deadline is closer to the end of the season than to the beginning.
Wouldn’t you know; things are different in European Football.
They have two ‘transfer windows’ in a calendar year, and clubs are forbidden from adding to their squads at any point but then. The only exception is for Free Agents, however, very few players make it to free agency.
The main transfer window occurs during the summer. Teams are free to do business with each other from July 1-August 31, with a few exceptions.
The other time when clubs can move players is during the month of January, right in the middle of the season. So, unlike in North America, teams can only buy and sell for three months out of the year.
That makes the transfer windows frantic and fun!