You will see more and more players going into the final year of the contract because no club will want to pay the amount demanded... in the next 10 years, it will become usual.
Beating the market as buyers and sellers
Fiorentina were one of the most active in the transfer market in January 2022, and while they sold their most valuable asset, the Serbian striker Dusan Vlahovic to Serie A rivals Juventus, they reinvested wisely, giving manager Vincenzo Italiano more options in his squad and significantly strengthened the balance sheet.
According to TransferRoom’s Expected Transfer Value (xTV), which provides the most credible, data-led measure of a player’s value in the market, Fiorentina sold players with an xTV of €66.6m for €81.6m, while spending €28m on forwards Cabral from FC Basel and Jonathan Ikone from LOSC Lille, which have a combined xTV of €35.7m.
By selling Vlahovic and having players worth a combined €7.2m set to leave the club for free in the summer, Fiorentina actually lost around €38m, in xTV, off the value of their squad in January.
However, prudent spending (a transfer profit of €53.6m) gave the club an overall squad management gain of €15.54m, according to TransferRoom.
They went on to finish seventh and secure European qualification for the first time since 2016-17, further evidence of their smart winter recruitment strategy.
TransferRoom’s xTV winter window squad management analysis examined a player's book xTV, which ignores the recent transfer fee premium for January transfers - the hypothetical additional fee a club would have to pay to get the buying club to immediately resell the player- and examines the true asset value to their club.
By comparing how this changed for each squad either side of the window with actual cash flow for transfers in and out, we can assess how effectively clubs managed their squad value.
Wenger’s wise words rings true
Back in 2017, then Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger predicted that players running down their contracts will become the norm in years to come due to skyrocketing transfer fees.
The Frenchman said at the time: “You will see more and more players going into the final year of the contract because no club will want to pay the amount demanded... in the next 10 years, it will become usual.”
The COVID-19 pandemic may well have accelerated Wenger’s prophecy, with the majority of clubs’ financial power in the transfer market impacted.
With 18 months left on Vlahovic's contract and the striker showing no intention of staying in Florence, Fiorentina knew this was the window to maximise his transfer value.
It was prudent asset management.
However, by the end of the winter window, more than 320 clubs analysed by TransferRoom across the top two leagues in nine countries across Europe (England, Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Portugal, Netherlands and Russia), had some €1.2bn worth of talent at risk of moving clubs for free ahead of the 2022-23 season.
Paris Saint-Germain topped the list, with close to €90m set to be wiped off their books through players running down their contracts. That figure was almost entirely made up by Kylian Mbappe, who signed a new deal despite being heavily linked with a free transfer to Real Madrid in the summer.
Elsewhere, Chelsea had over €50m of saleable assets preparing to leave the club for nothing in the summer, with defensive trio Andreas Christensen, Cesar Azpilicueta and Antonio Rudiger all out of contract after June. Rudiger moved to Real Madrid at the end of the campaign.
Serie A giants Inter Milan and Juventus both had close to €50m at risk, with Marcelo Brozovic's contract for Inter expiring and Paulo Dybala set to leave Juve.
Other players out of contract in the summer include Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele and AC Milan’s Frank Kessie Frank Kessie, while Bayern Munich’s Niklas Sule and Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne have chosen their next destinations, Borussia Dortmund and Toronto FC, respectively.
|xTV value (€m) wiped off books from expiring player contracts|