With the new season knocking on the door and deals all finalized, there’s no better time to talk about the dangers of selling too much in football. Sure a lot of clubs have made headlines for some highly-anticipated purchases spanning multiple seasons, like Real Madrid’s purchase of Eden Hazard and Barcelona’s purchase of Antoine Griezmann. You also had clever purchases like Juventus’ free transfers of Buffon and Rabiot and the bang-for-buck purchase of Thorgan Hazard by Borussia Dortmund. But when someone’s buying, there’s a party at the other end who’s doing the selling. A balance needs to be maintained or else you might end up with a lot of money but no decent players, which might seem at least profitable but is not the case in the long run as attention to the club will decrease with a lack of players and so will revenue. Of course, a club needs to sell players in order to make room for more new players to buy. That’s the cycle but one must be clever with it. There have been times when clubs have sold too many of their key players and the road to recovery has not been kind.
Several clubs could face the overselling problem this season. Atletico could be in trouble in the 2019-20 season, having sold arguably two of the players that were responsible for cementing their status as an elite club. Without Griezmann and Godin, it will be difficult for them to thrive in the new season despite having a nice showing in the preseason. Ajax could face the same problem having sold De Ligt and De Jong, the footballers who took them all the way to the UCL semi-finals (among others).
As the saying goes: Don’t overdo it
Case I: Borussia Dortmund
Dortmund is probably the last example you’d take here. They have done some clever business over the season, most recently buying Julian Brandt and Thorgan Hazard for bargain prices. But on the other side, they have sold a lot of players who could’ve benefited them. They made the grave mistake of letting Lewandowski go for free to rivals Bayern and now he’s one of the greatest strikers in the world, leading the scoring stats practically every season. They sold Mats Hummels who went on to win the last 3 Bundesligas. They also sold Mario Gotze to FC Bayern (who has come back a bit too late) and he was terrific in Dortmund. A large chunk of Dortmund’s players have gone to win trophies wearing the Bayern jersey. They even sold Aubameyang to Arsenal who was very important to their attack. As a result, Dortmund has not hoisted the Bundesliga trophy over the last seven years. On the plus side, they have been an exemplar in buying players for cheap (Sancho, Hazard, Brandt) and hopefully they will be able to make them stay in the future.
Case II: Arsenal
Arsenal has been developing great young players constantly but the North-London team has often faced heavy criticism for selling some of their most crucial players. They sold Fabregas who was brilliant with the Gunners and went on to win several trophies with Barcelona and Chelsea. Samir Nasri was another incredible player who was sold to Manchester United. Perhaps the gravest of them all was the sale of Robin Van Persie. He was their resident goalscorer and they sold him. He scored 30 goals for the Gunners in his last season and he was sold to Man United and went on to win the PL while Arsenal’s trophy run remained dry.
Case III: Leicester City
Leicester City appointed Claudio Ranieri and achieved history in 2015-16. They were a team that was nearing relegation in the 2014-15 season and everything was flipped upside down in the season that followed. They became the winners of the Premier League, something that was beyond the expectations of every football fan on the planted. Aside from Ranieri, there were three players who set the football world ablaze with their contributions: Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy and N’golo Kante. In the transfer window that followed, Chelsea didn’t waste any time and signed N’golo Kante. Kante was and still is a world-class central midfielder with a brilliant natural aptitude for reading the game and strong on both attack and defence and Leicester didn’t realize how bad they were hurt after selling him. After finishing no.1, they dropped to 12th on the PL table while Kante lifted the PL again in Chelsea’s jersey. They eventually sold another one who belonged to the great trio and that was Riyadh Mahrez (Man City). Mahrez won the most recent PL and also the Africa Cup of Nations. Leicester City placed 9th. It clearly showed that Leicester might’ve been compensated well, but they lost a lot as a result of selling those players. The difficult thing was that the offers were too big for the players not to be interested. Leicester, not being the most powerful club on the block were unfortunately not able to offer lucrative contracts.
Case IV: AS Monaco
This entry is basically the spokesperson for this piece about how dangerous overselling can be. Whatever problems were caused in other clubs are basically put together and amplified when it comes to Monaco. The French Club were the Champions of the Ligue 1 in 2016-17. They had fantastic players but eventually, the club tumbled. After always finishing within the top 4 from 2014-15 to 2017-18, they ended up just shy of relegation in 2018-19. The amount of key players they have sold is staggering. They sold Tiempe Bakayoko, who played very well in their team. They sold Diallo and Mendy who were crucial to their squad. They sold Fabinho who has become one of the best Premier League players and won the UCL with Liverpool. Rinse and repeat with James Rodriguez. They sold Bernardo Silva, who is currently one of the best players in the PL as well, having an incredible 2018-19 season with Man City, winning the PL twice in a row. They were involved in the 2nd biggest transfer of all time with Kylian Mbappe’s 180 million signing by PSG, where he played on loan. It’s clear that they have made huge amounts of money from selling top-grade talent but have not bought that many high-quality players with the money they’ve made. It is most evident from the fact that they placed 17th in the Ligue 1 after finishing 2nd in the previous season. They were only 2 ahead of Dijon; just 1 more win from Dijon and they would’ve been relegated.
In the end, the moral of the story is that selling for profit isn’t everything. You have to maintain a balance and reinvest your profits into building your team for the better. It’s not as easy as it sounds but as indicated by the last example especially, the consequences could be dire if you're not wise with your money.