My Thoughts on FIFA Release Clauses

Those who have read my “realistic” rule set will have seen that I don’t have any rules as such on release clauses. This is because, FIFA being FIFA, release clauses can be fairly buggy. Due to this, I didn’t want to make a specific rule regarding them and left them to personal discretion. In my career modes I tend to avoid using them unless the player asks for one. Then at that point it’s still difficult to follow a set of guidelines on how much, based on a specific value and player age, contract length etc.

I guess a solid foundation to build from is, what is a release clause and why are they used? So, without doing too much research, my understanding is: a release clause acts as a way for a club to bypass negotiations with a club by paying a specified fee which automatically gives them the rights to speak to said player about contract agreements. The player then has the choice to possibly renegotiate a deal with their current club or go and play for the new team.

Why would a player have one? In a way they act as protection for players really, to prevent a team holding onto them when they aren’t being developed as they would have hoped, in particular when they have a lengthy contract. This leans itself more towards young up and coming players who don’t want their careers to stall due to being kept in the reserves. They do exist for older players, for similar reasons in terms of game time, but I would say the majority are for younger players.

There are other forms of clauses in the real world. There are specific clauses for buying players and specific clauses that mean a player must be formally informed of a club’s offer if they pay over the agreed clause. E.g. Arsenal’s infamous £40,000,001 offer for Luis Suarez, £1 higher than the clause required to let him know they were interested. This kind of clause doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the price that will be agreed but informs the player of formal interest/intention from another team.

Some career mode users (who lean more towards a realistic rule set) have suggested that if they want a release clause they must have it & if it gets paid you’re not allowed to negotiate a contract. I relate to this idea as it adds a realistic challenge. The problem I hear a lot about how release clauses can’t be negotiated with if they choose a price. I don’t want FIFA determining my release clause. If you find that you can negotiate a value provided you increase their salary then maybe try that but ultimately I don’t feel confident enough in them to set a black and white rule in my list of many rules. One thing I was pondering/testing was the idea that for every year on their contract, you multiply their value by for a release clause. E.g. A player is bought for £2,000,000 on a five year deal. The release clause can’t be higher than £10mil (5 years x £2mil value). Additionally this works when renegotiating contracts. A player’s value at the time of negotiation times be the new length of the contract. I think comparing deals from real life can help explore our valuations and whether it sounds realistic.

https://www.farsnews.com/photo/13980309000280/ (actually found through Kepa’s wiki page, this was the link referenced)

The first real life example I’ll use is a fairly recent purchase by Chelsea for the world’s most expensive goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga; who was bought by Chelsea paying the release clause of £72 million. Kepa was originally a Bilbao player. He signed a contract extension in January 2018 until June 2025 (7.5 years which arent available in FIFA 20). His valuation pre January was £7.2 million. So a release clause of £54.0 million in FIFA would’ve been used. However, the release clause was in fact £72 million. He was sold the following Summer where his pre move value was £18 million. If we assumed we were Bilbao and we had that £54 mil release clause. He would have been classed as a young prospect being 23 at the time so we could have held out for x3 value which, strangely, would have been £54 million and the buyout clause would have been paid.
Quick maths will tell you that the real world release clause was 10x higher than his market value pre signing the contract.

The second real life example isn’t a purchase but is instead a look at what a release clause looks like on an aging player. Toby Alderweireld from Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) is a central defender with a fair reputation. In 2019/20 season he had managed to pick up some consistent game time and his contract was due to expire that Summer 2020. At age 29 he was at the end of his peak and in the next couple of years would start to decline. Spurs initiated a clause in his contract which allowed them to extend the contract for another year, now whether this was a pre-agreed clause is unknown but included was a £25 mil release clause. If we looked at Transfermrkt.com his value was £36mil just before renewal, it was renewed in January 2020 and for a contract renewal of 1 year we’d ask for release clause of £36 mill. Arguably 1.5 years so £54 mil. Not quite in line with reality. But you must consider that this £25 mil release clause may have been written into the previous contract as Spurs executed an extension clause from that same contract. The extension clause may have held details of a £25 mil release clause if Spurs were to undertake said extension. If we compared his value to back when he was signed. Spurs paid £14.4 mil for him. An extension at the end of his contract would be negotiated with probably around 2 years or 1.5 years left. 14.4 * 1.5 or 2 is £21.6 mil or £28.8 mil which is much cloer to the £25 mil release clause. (Yes I can see how I’m fudging the numbers here to make my system make sense!)

The next real life example I will look at is Luis Suarez at Liverpool. After signing from Ajax for £23.85 million on a 5.5 year deal. We could argue a release clause of £131 million. After a couple of shaky seasons and the infamous £40,000,001 offer from Arsenal that meant that Suarez had to be informed of their interest. Suarez extended his contract in December 2013. His valuation in January 2014 was £46.8 million although that was post contract extension. His July 2013 valuation was £37.8 million. For this purpose I will use the Summer valuation, he signed a 4.5 year deal from then so his release clause would have been around £170.1 million. In the end he signed for Barcelona in the following Winter window after agreeing an undisclosed figure which turned out to be £73.55 million (according to Transfermrkt.com). Suarez would have been 27 years old at the time in the regular starting XI so on FIFA with a value of £46.8 million post contract extension we would have rejected that offer only accepting if we were offered £93.6 million.

Another real life (Liverpool) example I looked at would be Philippe Coutinho. He signed originally in 2012/13 winter window for £8.5 million on a “long term deal”. Assuming the deal was 5 years (up to 2018), his original release clause could be £42.5 million. However, in 2014/15 he signed a contract extension 2 years into that original contract. According to transfermrkt.com his value around February 2015 was roughly £22.5 million. Assuming he signed an additional 2 years (up until 2020, that brings him up to a potential release clause of £112.5 million. Again, in January 2017 he signed a 5 year contract that would bring his end date to 2022, officially without a release clause. His value then was £36.0 million, meaning a release clause of £180 million would have been acceptable. Ultimately he left in January 2018 for £130.5 million (plus some dodgy loan fee of £7 million which we’ll ignore) when his market value was £81.0 million aged 25. If we were playing a career mode by those rules I think this would have been very realistic using the release clauses along the way. But we would have rejected the £130 million the following year due to our rules on selling players from a numbers perspective. Coutinho was a starting XI player for us who wasn’t a future prospect anymore so if Barcelona had offered £162 million we would have been forced to accept.

Ultimately Coutinho went on to have a maximum market value of £135 million. But release clauses are not meant to be there to pick the maximum, they’re there to act as a way to say we would definitely sell a player for “this amount”. If you use release clauses it’s important to keep on top of them. Otherwise a player that has a outdated release clause may be able to sold for a very cheap price. So if a player does in fact ask for a release clause that is too low. Try and offer him more money for a higher release clause. If he wants one, it’s important we do try and keep it realistic and give him a release clause, but it’s only fair a realistic clause is put in place; not too high nor too low.

Notes about release clauses:
While you can use this as a base, another thing to consider is the legal requirements of each league. For example in my first scenario in Ligue Un with Lille, release clauses are prohibited according to the LFP, therefore I had to ensure that all my players didn’t have them before the first transfer window.
With La Liga, I’m fairly confident they are mandatory so in that league you’ll have to make sure the players all have release clauses by the first window (which will be a minefield for sure).
There will be league specific requirements everywhere which I won’t detail. I’ll only bring them up in the scenarios I do. Otherwise I will use the basis that if a player requests one, I’ll work one out for them, if they won’t accept I’ll deny it. If they don’t request then I won’t force it either.

Hope you enjoyed this quick instalment. This won’t count as this week’s article, just a bonus update alongside the Lille updates. Let me know your thoughts on release clauses either through commenting or by contacting me directly. Thanks for taking the time to read my content.

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