The phrase commonly used in the football transfer dictionary is “include add-ons”.
Rarely is there a direct fee between the two sides without a stipulation that more money will be paid to the selling club if the performance-related incentives are met.
One of the most famous examples in recent years was Anthony Martial’s move from Monaco to Manchester United in September 2015. The two teams agreed a £36m ($42.1m) fee, but it soon emerged that United might have to spend £60m.
“It’s only funny in hindsight, but it was a deal where Monaco was proving themselves in the future because he was seen as one of the most talented young players at the time he moved,” said one agent.
Given that Martial was 19 years old in 2015 and became the most expensive teenager bought by a British club, you are right to wonder why the Premier League side had to pay an extra £24m.
This is where “add-ons” come into the equation, and it’s usually almost always done by “potential” or “include”.
To get the deal done and for Monaco to let one of their greatest talents leave, United had to agree to several clauses that could pocket them later.
Monaco were entitled to three separate payments of £7.6m. But for that to happen, Martial had to score 25 Premier League goals, make 25 caps for France, and be nominated for the Ballon d’Or.
The 26-year-old earned his first two, although he has yet to be awarded as one of the best players in world football.
Explaining why add-ons are now common in most trades, one broker explained: “They were done to protect you from the success or failure of the conversion.” “It’s a way of saying to your owner, ‘We have £20m, £15m is coming in now, and we’re going to have another £5m in extras.
“As an agent, you will know if the club will meet the asking price for a player, and if not, extras can be a good way to achieve that as they often see the lower figure.”
Nottingham Forest raised eyebrows when it announced a £25m deal to sign Morgan Gibbs-White from Wolves earlier this month. It soon became apparent that they would have to pay an additional £17.5 million, bringing the total package to £42.5 million.
Those clauses include appearances being met, surviving in the Premier League, and another payment that Steve Cooper must guide his team to Europe.
“People used to add paragraphs to win the Champions League, even if the club they went to had spent the past 10 seasons in 14th place,” said one agent.
“People see it now. You used to be able to get these idiots out there because the clubs were thick, and they wouldn’t even think about the possibility of that happening.”
The broker itself has highlighted Dele Alli’s move to Everton as an example of what not to do with add-ons. The England international was redundant at Tottenham and joined Everton on the February deadline.
It was a two-and-a-half year deal that could have been worth as much as £40m if all of Alli’s extra jobs were fulfilled. For every 20 games he made for Everton, Tottenham were set to receive £10m.
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So had he played 80 games for Frank Lampard, the argument goes that Everton would have had a player in their hands who rediscovered his form, and Tottenham received a transfer fee worthy of the 26-year-old’s ability.
As it were, Dele played 13 games for Everton and was sent on loan to Turkish club Besiktas after it became clear that Lampard would not use him this season.
“Dele Alli, for example, shouldn’t have gone to Everton about that deal because you don’t give them an incentive to play with him,” the agent said. “You have to motivate the clubs, not make them think, ‘Oh, if we’re really unsure about him, playing with him a few times would cost us £10m.'”
However, Dele’s camp may argue the move is worth the risk given that he was clearly not in Antonio Conte’s plans at Spurs.
The book Football Leaks by Michael Wulzinger and Rafael Buschmann has revealed a string of transfer deals.
One involved Sergio Aguero’s move from Atletico Madrid to Manchester City in 2011.
They revealed how City committed to an initial fee of £25m and agreed to pay Atlético an additional £200,000 for every 15 goals the striker scored, up to a maximum of £1.5m. Another clause stipulates a payment of 200,000 pounds to the Spanish club for every 25 games, with a maximum of 1.5 million pounds. Given Aguero’s longevity and success in City, all of these additions have paid off.
“If you’re the selling club, and another team doesn’t want to meet the asking price of £18m all at once, you might be getting creative and saying, ‘Okay, give us £15m up front and another £3m in add-ons,'” explains a broker “These three million pounds can be offset by payments of one million pounds for every 30 games the player plays, up to 90 games.”
Football Leaks published details of the transfer of another City striker, Wilfried Bony, from Swansea in January 2015 on a four-and-a-half year deal.
He explained how Swansea earned a fee of £25m and was entitled to £1m each time City won the Champions League until the 2018-19 season.
Other payments included £600,000 each time they won the Premier League, £300,000 each time they won the FA Cup and £300,000 each time they reached the semi-finals of the Champions League – all until 2018-2019 season.
In 2016, Bonnie was loaned to Stoke for one season and then sold again to Swansea in August 2017. During that time, City did not win the FA Cup or the Champions League, but they reached the last semi-final in 2016.
The Guardian reported that Philippe Coutinho’s move from Liverpool to Barcelona, at an initial cost of £106m in January 2018, contained several potential additions.
Barcelona had to pay Liverpool £4.5m for every 25 games up to 100 matches, and the Premier League club could potentially get another £18m. An additional £4.5m was to be paid if they qualified for the 2018-19 Champions League and another £4.5m was to be paid if they won the competition.
These Champions League clauses were repeated in the 2019-20 season, meaning Liverpool could have earned £142m from the deal.
In total, Coutinho made 106 appearances for Barcelona and qualified for the Champions League – but never won the tournament – while at the club. He joined Aston Villa on a permanent deal this summer after an initial loan spell.
“It’s collaborative in the sense that the three parties – the buying club, the selling club and the agent – are all working on the extensions,” said a good source. “If you’re doing it right, you should be driving it to get ideas for what the add-ons should be.”
Another element worth considering in regards to add-ons is how clubs calculate them.
A good source explained how to assess any potential extras that might need to be paid for throughout the year and budget to ensure they are met.
For example, if the money is owed to another club, they will include it in the player’s total budget. At the same time, if this is the income that they can get due to the additional job, that will also be excluded.
So if they are going to buy Harry Kane for £100m and there are extra £20m extras, they are going to rate what it is every season.
If the £5 million was to be paid when Kane scored 10 goals in the Premier League, then £5 million would be added to the player’s total budget for the year. The focus was on doing this annually rather than budgeting a hypothetical £20m where he could only score X number of goals once a season.
The idea of using add-ons – whether as a buy or sell club – isn’t new, but it seems to be becoming more and more popular.
And if properly negotiated, both teams can – depending on the terms involved – benefit from being entered into a deal.
(Editor’s note: All of the people interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity due to their proximity to high-profile deals.)