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FIFPro warns days of big money transfers are over amid coronavirus crisis

FifPro General Secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffman explains covid-19's financial impact on even the biggest clubs.
Football lawyer Daniel Geey explains why it's in the best interest for out of contract players to sign extensions.

Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, the general secretary of FIFPro, the international players' union, has told ESPN that clubs will no longer be able to bank on big money transfers in the future. 

With football on hold across the world amid the coronavirus pandemic and clubs having to cut costs to survive, Baer-Hoffmann said clubs are going to have to look at their financial model, with budgets that have for so long relied on selling players up the chain to bigger clubs. 

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"Football sells one product and for the first time since World War Two, that product is off the shelves," Baer-Hoffmann told the Gab & Juls podcast. "That relates back to the transfer system, not as a talent acquisition process but as a funding model which we've been questioning for a while.

"Many of these clubs have been building budgets based on the assumption for how much money they will be able to sell players. Well that transfer market is going to look vastly different this summer and maybe next winter and probably for years to come.

"What I think is important to say is that, you have clubs who are right now asking for pay cuts who hopefully will amend their transfer strategy in the summer. It will be hard to justify to your current squad if they had to pay to keep you afloat, and then two months later you go in and buy players for €30 million, €40m, €50."

Players are under increasing pressure to accept the wage cuts or deferments across all major sport. Many teams and players have already agreed; Borussia Dortmund were among the first then followed by Juventus. The most high profile has been Lionel Messi and his Barcelona teammates, who will be paid 70% less while football cannot be played. 

But Baer-Hoffmann insists work is being done behind the scenes at all major clubs on cuts and there's no need for additional public pressure. 

"The Juventus case gets a lot of public attention because it moved earlier than the rest, but the Italian union is negotiating relevant collective programs," he said. "The same is the case in Spain and the Spanish union was advising the players at Barcelona.

"The situation of Juventus and Barcelona is still very different from clubs 17, 18, 19 in those leagues. In the case of Barcelona, Messi's comments have been well reported. There's obviously been pressure put on these players which didn't seem very necessary, because a couple days later you get such a significant pay cut. That just doesn't happen because somebody leaks something, these players were willing to do something responsible here."

There are more than 500 players out of contract in Europe's top five leagues who have featured for the first team this season. Baer-Hoffmann accepts that player contracts will have to be extended beyond June 30 for the season to be finished, but it may not be straightforward.

"The average contract globally is below two years, which means you can imagine how many players have one year left," he added. "Of course you have two sides to this. On the one hand everybody would probably agree that the spirit of the contract was you stay until the end of the season, and then you're free or you depart back from the loan or you go to the club that you've already signed with.

"But then you have the literal paper in front of you which sets the date and of course where a new club could argue 'well, my risk assessment when signing this player was that he has another, let's say, three months on contract with the old club where he might get injured, now all of a sudden it's six months and that injury risk is increased for me so why would I want to take that gamble?'"

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