Subtly, the landscape of the transfer market is changing. Real Madrid fans saw as Kylian Mbappe played his cards right and waited patiently for his dream move from PSG to Real to materialize. The next step in his career seemed set to take place. Monaco to PSG was the first step in his progression to becoming a global phenomenon. And now, he would conquer the sport with the biggest club in the world.
Instead, PSG turned down 200 million euros in an unprecedented move. With all of their financial backing from Qatar and the mandate from the country to win the Champions League at any price, PSG broke an unwritten rule by keeping their superstar with one year left on his contract and even threatened that he would never leave the club.
These events have left some Madridistas in despair. How can Real Madrid – or any traditional club – compete with state-owned clubs? Is any player safe when a team can treat a superstar in this manner? What might a club like PSG or even Newcastle, recently purchased by Saudi Arabia, do next?
I will tell you this. Do not fear. For Erling Haaland, Mino Raiola, his father, and everyone else involved with the Norwegian superstar have come up with a plan that can be easily replicated. It is an ingenious process that takes the power away from super clubs and brings more power back to the players.
Erling Haaland’s release clause is the game-changer
When Haaland signed with Borussia Dortmund in the winter 2020 transfer window, he didn’t just make a brilliant move in terms of getting playing time vs. clubs with a bigger reputation like Manchester United. He also made a brilliant move in not choosing those clubs because it gave him more freedom to maximize his earnings.
Firstly, as I explained in this article about Karim Adeyemi’s seemingly imminent move to Dortmund as Haaland’s future replacement, it is easier for a player to get a move from a club like BVB than it is from a club like, say, United or Juventus.
And secondly, the release clause. Haaland can leave for under 100 million euros. No matter which reported figure you believe, I think we can all agree that Haaland, who has an incredible 51 goals in 51 games for the Black and Yellows, is worth double that money.
A top club would never accept that kind of a release clause. But a club like Dortmund is happy with that. The money generated from the release clause is already a lot more than the measly 20 million euros they paid for him. For Dortmund, profit is profit. On top of that, Haaland fits the club ethos and becomes a marketable star – part of the family, if you will. So Dortmund makes the money there.
Haaland holds the power, not Dortmund
And Haaland wins in the biggest way. Not only does he enhance his reputation, but with the release clause, he is effectively a free agent. He gets to pick where he wants to go. Any top club can afford that release clause. The playing field is level between PSG and Real Madrid. Dortmund do not enter the equation, because the money they receive is the same. There is no negotiation between clubs and thus no need for Dortmund to interfere and pick a club secondary to Haaland’s wishes because the transfer fee is in BVB’s best interests.
As if that were not enough, Haaland gets another benefit usually reserved for free transfers. He could get a massive salary. Since teams save on the transfer fee, Haaland his representation know they can make some serious cash in wages and bonuses.
There is no reason why other players cannot replicate this. Like Haaland, they can sign with a club on the level of Dortmund or RB Leipzig, get regular playing time, leave on a reasonable release clause, and go where they want. Instead of having to pick the team that pays their parent club the most money, they pick the club that either pays them the most or gives them the best sporting project. Or a combination of both.
Now, wait, you may interject, if the decision turns from who can pay the parent club the most to who can pay the player the most, don’t clubs like PSG and Manchester City have the same power? What changes here?
Mbappe is an example of players not always prioritizing the highest bidder
Mbappe has shown us that many players do not care about money first and foremost. They know they will get paid well regardless, and if they are savvy, they also know that the marketing opportunities at a club like PSG are not on the level of the opportunities at United or Real Madrid. And that pays more than salary.
There is a more fundamental positive from the perspective of Madridistas, though. Clubs have more of a fiduciary duty to accept the highest offer, regardless of principles, because there are so many financial stakeholders. Decision-makers could be fired or otherwise held to account for not accepting the best financial offer (excluding hated rivals).
But players only have their own financial interests or personal interests. It is their lives, and, up to a certain point, money won’t matter to many of them. As for agents and other figures who profit off player transfers, they are certainly in the background, but it is, ultimately, in their best interests to appease their clients so they can continue to make money off transfers on that player or on other star players.
All of this helps Real Madrid. More players will take notice of Haaland’s route, which has given him maximal power and taken power away from clubs wielding money. He holds the cards. Other players will follow, and that helps sides like Los Blancos, who do not have the money to throw around transfer fees on PSG’s level, for example, but have the element of prestige/desirability. And, well, Real is not a poor club by any means. So they have the financial power to afford a hefty package to satisfy the wage/bonus demands of the player and his representation.
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So watch closely to see which other players follow in Haaland’s footsteps. But don’t get too confident. In the same way Real Madrid benefit from this approach, so, too, do clubs like Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Juventus. It’s just that, historically, Los Blancos are on a different plane in terms of attracting superstars. Look no further than Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, or, now, Mbappe. And thus, it is not unfair to say that of every club, Real benefit the most from players like Haaland cleverly climbing the ranks and using release clauses to put power in their own hands – and away from the clubs that claim they own them.