Manchester United love a Ballon d’Or clause, Arsenal like to play the Champions League card and Liverpool are used to turning down some pretty smart additions.
Some clubs go all together like Football Manager with transfer clauses. Arsenal are trying to find West Ham’s sweet spot over Declan Rice but an apparent addition regarding the Gunners winning the Premier League and Champions League, as reported by The Times, is unlikely to move things forward.
It is not the first transfer clause that a selling club has rejected out of hand. Arsenal themselves have previously.
Sadio Mane – Liverpool to Bayern Munich
While the perennial German champions eventually got their man, it took a little more finesse than might be expected. Sadio Mane would have moved on to a fresh challenge and Liverpool were happy to commit to a continued restructuring of their attack, but Bayern needed to get serious first.
After an opening offer of £21m plus a further £4m in add-ons was scoffed at by Liverpool, Bayern came back to the table with, as reported by the well-connected Paul Joyce of The Times, a bid that could theoretically reach £2. 30 m. Fair enough. It seems like a perfectly reasonable progress in the negotiations.
Oh hold on. It would only have qualified for that top figure if Bayern won the Champions League and Mane the Ballon d’Or over each season of his three-year deal, triggering a £6.5m payment. In return, Mane became the third player to win three Ballons d’Or in a row, and Bayern the second club to win the Champions League three times in a row. Sounds about right.
A year later, he scored 12 goals in 38 games as the Bavarians were humiliated in the quarter-finals by Manchester City. No wonder Liverpool scoffed at the ‘ridiculous’ bonuses.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka – Crystal Palace to Manchester United
There were a few clauses included in the final deal that saw Aaron Wan-Bissaka leave Crystal Palace for Manchester United. It remains the case that the latter would owe the former 10% of any subsequent sale of the right-back for more than £50m. The £5m worth of add-ons to top up the original £45m fee was believed to be based on appearances, of which he has made 108 in the Premier League and 160 in all competitions.
But Manchester United would have had other unforeseen things written into the transfer if things had gone their way. It was reported during protracted negotiations that Palace were “unimpressed” with the nature of the performance-related clauses, one of which was known to be an extra payment if Wan-Bissaka played 25 Champions League games for a club that had just had qualified for the Europa League; four years later, he is less than halfway on the 12th.
Some outlets went a step further and suggested that Manchester United were promising more money if they won the European Cup, despite not having progressed past the quarter-finals since 2011. In Palace’s eyes, that was accurately deemed by The Guardian as ‘wildly unrealistic ‘.
Hugo Ekitike – Reims to Newcastle
“Newcastle positioned themselves, we discussed it, they gave us an offer that didn’t suit us,” Reims president Jean-Pierre Caillot said of Hugo Ekitike in January. “Since we don’t really want him to go, we have set the price quite high. They offered us 35 million euros all-in, but with a number of bonuses, some of them almost impossible to achieve. Like, for example, winning the Champions League. We want €30 million. and €10 million. in attainable bonuses.”
The Ligue Un club were far more receptive to a summer approach. Newcastle had expected to complete a deal for striker Ekitike to a value of 36 million EUR plus 10 million EUR in what French sources described as ‘easily obtainable’ bonuses. Maybe they started by qualifying for the Champions League first. But an injury put the momentum in doubt and the Magpies went on to other goals long before Paris Saint-Germain struck. Eddie Howe probably does not regret that he waited for Alexander Isak instead.
Shoutout to one of #NUFCthe season’s greatest unsung hero, Hugo Ekitiké ..
Had he not turned down the summer transfer, the club would not have gone after Alexander Isak..
He is now (predictably) warming the bench and sulking at PSG
— The Perennial Pundit (@PerennialPundit) 3 April 2023
Jadon Sancho – Borussia Dortmund to Manchester Unitedd
After bringing in Monaco with a £7.6m addition if Anthony Martial was voted into the Ballon d’Or top three, Manchester United repeated the trick with Bruno Fernandes four-and-a-half years later. They will owe Sporting Lisbon £4.2m for each of the first three times the Portuguese is named PFA Player of the Year or takes a place on the Ballon d’Or podium. The current number is zero in both cases.
United tried again when it came to the complicated talks with Borussia Dortmund about Sancho. Despite having ‘forced the Germans’ in selling the winger in August 2020, Sancho inexplicably remained at the Westfalenstadion for almost 12 more months. Thirteen days after the delayed EC 2020 final, in which the England international missed a penalty, Manchester United finally had their man. But not before Dortmund floated an idea that the total fee would be increased by the typical bonus payable if Sancho finished in the top three of the Ballon d’Or voting.
The last Manchester United player to take a podium place in the Ballon d’Or voting was 2008 winner Cristiano Ronaldo, who was also runner-up in 2007. Before that, runners-up in 1999, David Beckham, Eric Cantona third in 1993 and then bronze for George Best in 1971. It is hardly a regular occurrence.
Kieran Tierney – Celtic to Arsenal
With Kieran Tierney ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury that required surgery in early April 2022, Arsenal may have felt they had already established a substantial enough lead in the hunt for Champions League qualification. The Gunners were fourth, four and six points ahead of Manchester United and West Ham respectively, with a game in hand on both. Tottenham were a place further back and six points adrift, with their north London rivals having 10 games each. It should have been sewn up, but Arsenal’s form collapsed, partly due to the reshuffle that Tierney’s absence forced. Arsenal lost their next three games to Crystal Palace, Brighton and Southampton, then won four on the trot before imploding against Spurs and Newcastle to confirm their drop to fifth.
Celtic never believed them. It was during negotiations for Tierney that the Scottish giants, who had already rejected a £15m bid for the left-back, mocked the structure in a further £25m offer. One of the clauses concerned Arsenal, the Europa League runners-up at the time, qualifying for the Champions League. According to Sky Sports, Celtic were ‘not convinced’ it was a ‘realistic’ result. Four years later, who’s laughing now?
Christian Benteke – Crystal Palace to Liverpool
An absolutely glorious clause, this. So good that it should be preserved in its original form, as Chris Bascombe of the Daily Telegraph wrote in August 2016:
‘Palace offered an initial £23.5m with a further £7m in add-ons. Those additional clauses included £2.5m should Palace qualify for the Champions League, with Benteke scoring 20 goals and playing in 70 per cent of games in such a top-four campaign. These three conditions formed part of the same clause.’
It turns out that ‘this was not considered realistic on Merseyside’. Idiots. Just four days later, Alan Pardew hailed a “courageous” club-record deal worth £27m plus £5m in presumably more sensible add-ons. Remember they finished just 10 places and 35 points behind fourth place – Liverpool, funnily enough – with Benteke scoring 15 goals. But he played 94.7% of their games. So close.