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Having assessed a particular player and decided that he would be a good addition to your squad, you will need to decide upon a suitable method of trying to sign the player.

The available methods depend on the type of contract the player has and when it is expiring. Contracts can be professional contracts (full time or part time) with a specified expiry date, youth contracts (signed by players when they are under 17 years old) with a specified expiry date, or rolling contracts (non-contract or amateur) with no expiry date. A player may also be a free agent with no contract (he is unattached and has no club).

If you are managing in the USA or Australia then you should be aware that different transfer and contract systems exist in these countries. These are not discussed in this guide.

The four main ways to sign a player are:

Buying a player

In most cases where a player has a professional contract with his club you will need to agree a transfer deal with the club before being allowed to talk to the player. This is done by submitting and, if necessary and possible, negotiating a transfer offer. If an agreement is reached then you can begin contract negotiations with the player. If a contract is agreed then the player will sign for your club at the date specified in the contract. Normally this will be at the start of the next transfer window, or immediately if the transfer window is already open. However, you may have agreed with the club that the transfer will go thorugh at the end of the season.

Signing a player on loan

If a player is on a professional or youth contract then you can make a loan offer to his club. If this is agreed with the club and the player accepts the deal then he will join your club temporarily for the duration specified in the offer, normally no longer than until the end of the season. This can be a useful way of signing good quality players at little or no cost, particularly players who would not be interested in a permanent transfer.

Signing a player on a free transfer

If a player is not on a professional contract then he will have an Approach To Sign button available when viewing him, meaning you are able to negotiate a contract with him straight away (unless the player is on a youth contract and has already provisionally agreed to sign a professional contract on his 17th birthday). The player will sign either immediately or during the next transfer window applicable to free transfers. This can be a useful, and often essential, way of signing players when managing a lower division club. In particular, amateur clubs will only be able to sign players on amateur contracts.

However, for a player on a youth contract you will have to pay compensation to his club if you sign him through this method, the amount payable being shown at the bottom of the Contract Offer screen.

If a player is on a professional contract but the contract is due to expire in the near future then he may be eligible to sign for your club for free on an end of contract agreement, in which case he will also have an Approach To Sign button. If he is not yet eligible then you might want to make a transfer offer in an attempt to unsettle him, which could increase the chances of him not renewing his contract and therefore becoming available for free in the future.

Sometimes you may prefer to make a transfer offer for a player even if he is available on a free transfer. For example, for a player on a youth contract you might want to try to pay a transfer fee that is less than the proposed compensation fee, while for a player whose contract is close to expiry you might want to pay a transfer fee (albeit probably a lower fee than if his contract was not due to expire soon) in order to secure his signature earlier and avoid competition from other clubs.

Giving a player a trial

You can offer a trial to any player at any time, but he is not likely to accept if he already has a professional contract at a club. A trial involves a player joining your club for a specified number of weeks, up to a maximum of four, or until the end of the current pre-season period if relevant. This gives you a chance to observe the player more closely before deciding whether to sign him on a contract (professional, youth or rolling).

A player on trial will only be able to play in non-competitive matches such as friendlies and non-senior squad fixtures, and therefore trials cannot be used to directly benefit your team in formal competitions.

However, trials can be very useful when managing a club in lower divisions and may be used for the following reasons in particular:

  • To reveal a player's attributes if you are using attribute masking.
  • To get reports on a player from all your coaches.
  • To assess a player’s performances in non-competitive matches.
  • To try to reduce the a player's contract demands while he is on trial.
  • To try to sign a player who has recently rejected contract terms, and therefore no longer wishes to negotiate, by offering him a contract after he joins on trial.

You can offer a player a trial from his Transfer drop-down menu.

1. End of Contract Agreements

Generally, if a player is on a professional contract that is due to expire within the next six months then you can start contract negotiations with him without having a transfer offer accepted by his club first, as long as he has not already agreed terms with another club. If a contract is agreed in this way then he will join your club when his current contract expires (or at the start of the next available transfer window after this).

However, if you are managing a club in England then this only applies to players at non-English clubs. For a player at another English club you will not be able to negotiate an end of contract agreement until his contract has one month or less remaining.

Therefore, on the 31st December each year it is highly beneficial to look for players set to be available for free in six months time (due to most player contracts in the major European nations expiring on 30th June). This will allow you to potentially add quality players to your squad without paying transfer fees for them. Furthermore, you may want to try to bring in young, inexperienced players at the end of their contracts, even if they are not likely to be good enough to play for your first team, with the intention of developing them and selling them for a profit in the future in order to significantly improve your finances.

2. Unsettling Transfer Targets

You can potentially develop a good relationship with a transfer target or even unsettle him over a period of time by occasionally declaring your interest in the media and making bids for him. Both of these actions can be done from a player's Transfer drop-down menu.

If a player responds positively to your interest then it will improve his relationship with you and can potentially make it easier for you to agree terms with him, particularly if you are competing for his signature with other clubs. He will also be happier to play under you if he does sign.

A player is more likely to react well if his club has a lower reputation than yours or is in a lower division, and if his manager has a lower reputation than you do, particularly if he has an ambitious personality. A player with a loyal personality is less likely to be impressed.

On the other hand, if no other interested clubs are shown on a player's Transfer Status screen then you may prefer to keep your own interest quiet so as not to encourage competition. Similarly, if you have doubts over how a player will react then it would be best not to talk to the media about him.

Eventually, a player that responds well to your interest may become unsettled at his club, perhaps even requesting a transfer, especially if you make transfer offers for him that are rejected. An unsettled player will be less likely to renew his contract and his club will be more willing to sell him, especially as his contract gets closer to expiry. Ultimately he could become available on an end of contract agreement if a new contract is not signed.

You should be careful not to declare your interest in players too regularly however, as this can make your comments less meaningful and players are more likely to react negatively.

You can view a player's happiness at his current club on the Information section of his Overview screen.