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Why selling a player with a buy-back clause is better than sending him out on loan

Buy-backs deals are better than loan deals. Here's a short explanation.

Dani Carvajal
Dani Carvajal is another player who was returned due to a “buy-back” clause

The transfer trends in football are changing rapidly. From small amounts in the range of €1000 to the recent deals in the region of €75 million, transfers in football have grown in a gargantuan manner. What was, in the beginning, a direct buy or loan, has now evolved into more complex forms like loan-back, release clauses in contracts, long-term loans with permanent buy options. Among such bizarre options is “selling with a buy-back clause”.

To see how buy-back deal works, let me explain by taking Barcelona as an example. In the previous seasons, the Spanish giants have sold some of their La Masia products and young players to other clubs but have done so in an astute way by making deals involving buy-back option. Take for example Alen Halilovic.

Halilovic, who is hailed as a footballing prodigy by many, has been sold by FC Barcelona to Hamburger SV. The reports suggest that the Spanish side and Hamburg have agreed to a deal involving a buy-back option. This means Barcelona have the option to trigger the buy-back deal by paying a previously agreed amount of money, which is €10 million, then the German club would have to sell Halilovic to the Catalan side.

Halilovic joins the list of Denis Suarez, Adama Traore, Daniel Carvajal, Casemiro, Emre Can (he wasn’t brought back by Bayern Munich) and Alvaro Morata.

Why do clubs prefer such deals? What are the merits of buy-back deals over loan deals? The answer is quite simple – player development without any hassle. We can only explore the detailed answers to these questions by looking at such situations from the point of view of the parties involved. The three partied involved are – the selling club, the buying club, and the player. For the sake of simplicity while explaining, let us assume that the selling club is “Team A” and buying one is “Team B”.

Before going over to the explanation part, let us remind ourselves that buy-back deals involve young players. It makes no sense for the selling club to attach a buy-back tag to a player aged 25 or above while selling him and in most of the cases, it doesn’t happen.

So, for Team A, buy-back deals are always better than loan deals for players who are on the verge of coming out of the youth academies and who can’t be accommodated into the first team right away. It allows the club to sell him, monitor his growth at a different club and under a different coach, assess his progress and buy him back if his development is satisfactory. So, the two end cases for Team A are:

ConditionOption
Player development satisfactoryCan get the player back – Ready for the first team
Player development non-satisfactoryNo problem. Already sold the player for a transfer fee

Since the deal involves a buy-back option, Team B will be indirectly forced to give chances to the player regularly. Why? Because if he impresses, then Team A will buy him back. Moreover, as told earlier, the player will be young. Team B paid a set amount for the player.

It is only justifiable if he plays regularly and fits into the plans of the manager. So, even if Team A doesn’t exercise the buy-back clause, there will be many other clubs waiting in the transfer window. Unlike a loan deal, a buy-back deal guarantees, to some extent, regular playing time for the player.

ConditionOption
Need an extra player?A young player from a good club.
If the player performs wellTransfer money and thus profit!

A great option for players 

From a player’s standpoint, a buy-back deal is safe and fool-proof when considered to loan deals. Loan deals can go very badly. Not all players who go out on loan find playing time which only prompts their parent clubs to offload them to low profile teams. However, in a buy-back deal, the player will be guaranteed a future in one of Team A or Team B. 

When a young player gets more playing time, it only helps him in developing. It doesn’t matter if Team B wins or loses – if the player gets features frequently in the first team, he will then be exposed to a lot of footballing action. In the process, he will commit mistakes and learn from them.

Also, due to more and more playing time, he will learn to perceive the footballing actions around him quickly and effectively. Decision making will become quick and better leading to proper and better execution of actions! If it so happens that the coaches at Team B share the same footballing philosophies of the coaches at Team A, then the player will develop the technical skills, imbibe the contents of the game model (which will also be almost similar), and understand the game better due to similar playing and training environment. 

In the beginning, I mentioned a few players who were involved in buy-back deals. Let’s see how these player’s trajectory took off after being sold. Suarez was brought back from Villarreal by Barcelona after he had a good season with the Yellow Submarines. Carvajal was sold and then brought from Bayern Leverkusen after an impressive season in which he established a permanent position in the first team.

Casemiro was brought back by Real Madrid by triggering the buy-back clause as per the agreement with FC Porto. Can, signed by Leverkusen from Bayern Munich, had one good season with the Werkself. Liverpool signed him the subsequent season after Bayern Munich showed no interests in buying him back.

The recent home coming of Morata is also a good example. Had Morata stayed at Madrid, he could’ve hardly played 30 games in two seasons. But with Juventus he made 93 appearances! Traore had a tumultuous season with Villa. With relegation, managerial changes, and poor performances, he was unable to make his presence felt. 

So, buy back deals are win-win scenarios for all the parties involved – the selling team (Team A), the buying team (Team B) and the player. And yes, the agent of the player too!

Buy-back deals are win-win situations for all the parties involved - Team A, Team B, and the player

As per my observations, clubs with excellent youth academies use buy-back deals as an option when the player coming out of the youth team cannot be integrated directly into the first team. Barcelona and Real Madrid have sold their youth academy products only to bring them back after being impressed with their growth.

In England, teams like Chelsea and Manchester City find it hard to move their players from the youth setups to the main team. This happens prominently because the young players are loaned out to clubs where they fail to make their mark and languish for months with zero progress on their cards.

Such teams can learn a lesson or two from the clubs that deal with buy-back options.

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