NBA offseasons have become increasingly wild in recent years. Some even say that the free agent period is better than the season itself! (Which … nah, but I get the sentiment.)
But even the NBA’s offseason madness doesn’t hold a candle to soccer’s transfer window, which closes on Aug. 31. NBA players (generally) have to wait until their contracts are up to switch teams, and there’s a salary cap and player max that restrict the market. No such provisions exist in soccer, though, which means stuff gets really weird.
Explaining how soccer’s transfer window works would take days, but in a nutshell:
- Teams are not bound by any sort of salary cap. There is something called Financial Fair Play, but super clubs like Paris Saint-Germain routinely make a mockery of it.
- Anyone can really switch clubs at any time. Contracts can be bought and sold, transferred, bought out, whatever. It’s much more free market than anything we have in the U.S.
- If a club wants a certain player, they can negotiate a transfer fee with his existing club as compensation for letting said player out of his contract early. That fee could be tiny or nonexistent (if the current club is cool with letting that player go), astronomical (if the club isn’t), or anything in between.
- If the two clubs can agree on a fee — a complicated process often derailed by angry agents, stubborn managers, and the whims of the player himself — the new team then negotiates a new contract with said player.
- There are also loans, where one team agrees on a much smaller fee to essentially rent the player for a year.
- Why would anyone sell a good player? Because they need the cash, and better to recoup and/or reinvest a lot of money before the player’s contract is up and is free to go anywhere. With some exceptions — hello, Arsenal! — clubs understand where they stand in global soccer’s pecking order and act accordingly.