Tottenham Hotspur’s signing of Moussa Sissoko from Newcastle United yesterday in the dying throes of the transfer window was certainly dramatic, but it resulted in a great deal of dissatisfaction among Spurs fans. Most of that was due to the absolutely mammoth transfer fee – £30m is a huge amount of money for a player who Newcastle purchased for £2m just three seasons ago and who was viewed as a somewhat inconsistent performer. Yes, he had a very good European Championships this summer for France, but £30m? For Moussa Sissoko?!
However, according to an article that came out in the Standard today, that transfer fee may not be the hard and fast number that was implied, and may further explain why Daniel Levy was willing to countenance such a large outlay for a player who, at 27 years old, immediately becomes an elder statesman in the squad.
Take a look at this excerpt from Tom Collomosse’s article explaining Sissoko’s contract structure (emphasis mine):
Sissoko was valued at £30million and Tottenham finally agreed to meet that price, although the structure of the payments means Newcastle would receive the full fee — in five installments of £6m — only if he stays for the duration of his five-year contract.
Whoa. So, installment plans are incredibly common in football contracts between clubs. So much so that they’re actually the norm -- it’s how clubs are able to sell players within a few years for a loss and still avoid taking Financial Fair Play hits. But usually when the player is then sold on to another club, the outstanding balance is under normal circumstances immediately due to the selling club. I have never before seen a contract set up in installments where the amount due upon a player sale is flexible.
Collomosse also seemed to reinforce this notion in an incredibly incoherent manner on Twitter:
@TomCStandard this 6 mill a year is for full amount yeah and not if he leaves we stop paying? Surely that's not right?— Paul O Keefe (@pokeefe1) September 1, 2016
@pokeefe1 No, but clearly it would be renegotiated if he did leave. Ie, they sell him to Marseille, that would be part of renegotiation 1/2— Tom Collomosse (@TomCStandard) September 1, 2016
@pokeefe1 (2/2) so you don't carry on paying for him if he leaves.— Tom Collomosse (@TomCStandard) September 1, 2016
So I think Collomosse might either be mistaken or might have misinterpreted the details of Sissoko’s contract, because that’s just generally not how transfer fees work. I find it extremely difficult to believe that Newcastle would agree to renegotiate a transfer fee when the club they sold a player to then sells that player to another club. That would be a real sweetheart deal for Tottenham, and potentially very bad for Toon, who would be unlikely to see the full £30m transfer fee that was agreed upon. Imagine what would happen if Spurs were to decide to sell Sissoko for, say, £32m next summer and then could negotiate down the £24m they still owe to Toon. Chaos! Dogs and cats, living together! Mass hysteria!
But if Collomosse IS right, this would essentially be a financial “get out of jail free” card for Daniel Levy, a means of mitigating the financial hit taken if things don’t work out between Spurs and Sissoko down the line. It looks like an escape hatch for if things go south. We don’t know the details of any hypothetical renegotiation, but even a modest reduction in the amount Spurs would owe in that situation would be a very, very good thing for Tottenham’s bottom line. Too good, in fact, to fully believe it.
It’s tempting to believe it, because it reinforces the financial and negotiation genius of Daniel Levy, which we all want to believe anyway. And I suppose there’s a small chance that this is true, and that Spurs were somehow able to finagle a way to get out of having to pay everything that they owe to Newcastle for Sissoko.
But I wouldn’t bet on it. I think it’s a stretch to take Collomosse’s assertions here at their word. Collomosse’s an extremely good journalist and writer, but I think something missed the mark here. It’s far, far more likely that this is a standard £30m transfer fee set in £6m installments over five years, and that Spurs will be on the hook for the full amount if and when he does get sold on.
(And to anyone saying that the Yedlin/Townsend transfer fees offset the cost, I remind you that money is definitionally fungible and can be exchanged for goods and services.)
But wow. The alternative would sure be something, wouldn’t it?