Sustainable Forest – Changing The Transfer Narrative

After over a decade of criticism for recruitment, especially during the Premier League era, Forest are changing the narrative, especially when it comes to their transfer income, with some huge deals completed this past week.

Since arriving in the Premier League – without including this seasons figures – Forest have spent around £250m on transfers, according to Sports stats website ‘Transfermarkt’. £125m average per season over the first two seasons back in the top division, spent on over 40 different players.

Of course, with such a high volume of signings, and a fair bit of money spent, media/fan scrutiny was always going to be present. Forest have been on the receiving end of some scathing remarks from pundits and opposition fans for the best part of two years, but now it seems the tables are turning: huge profits on players, and a major youth recruitment drive. The club are working hard to change the narrative, and show their strategy.

How are Forest changing the narrative? Examples?

Firstly it must be mentioned that the narrative surrounding Forest won’t change overnight, but this window alone – summer 23/24 – is showing highly promising signs for changing it, making some huge moves early to recoup transfer money, and even profit on some players, with the aim of also satisfying the Premier League’s PSR rules, which as of last week Forest were around £20m from satisfying. That is now no longer the case thanks to the clubs sensational recent transfer business.

Moussa Niakhaté signed for Forest from Mainz back in 2022 – a transfer held up, but eventually successful, in a deal worth an initial £8m roughly, rising to £12m. The ex-captain for his former Bundesliga side, he signed with much anticipation, but a length hamstring injury kept him out for almost an entire season. Then an elbow dislocation further disrupted his career. In the times he played, he showed quality, but couldn’t keep Boly, Felipe & Murillo out of the team – meaning he became a depth player. Now, Forest have opted to sell, with some French outlets reporting that the Ligue 1 side have paid around £26m for his transfer, essentially resolving the clubs PSR concerns. The deal was communicated between the owners/presidents of both clubs – Mr Evangelos Marinakis of Nottingham Forest, and John Texter of the Eagles Group, which owns Lyon alongside a host of other clubs worldwide.

Forest also sold Orel Mangala to Lyon – initially a loan deal with a £10m loan fee, the Belgian has signed for £20m permanently after a successful stint with the French giants. Mangala signed for just over £10m in 2022, meaning a profit of around £20m just one face transfer value.

£30m+ in profit on those transfer values for both Niakhaté & Mangala is stupendous business from Nottingham Forest – in fact, it’s something worth ‘raving’ about. The club were challenged by Profitability & Sustainability rules, and have pretty much solved the issue with these two sales alone, meaning they are no longer being forced to sell their biggest assets – most notably Morgan Gibbs-White & Murillo – both valued at over £50m by the club. Of course, the club have made mistakes financially in the past – it is why they suffered a four-point deduction last season for breaching PSR rules – but the club are now turning over a new page, opening a new chapter.

What is Evangelos Marinakis’ vision for the club?

Sustainability. Success. Trophies. Three major things for the Forest owner who has been nothing short of vocal in the last few months. These objectives of his weren’t made from inferences, he said it himself – he wants to create a sustainable club regarding finances, with transfers at the forefront of that.

When asked by the Daily Mail’s chief football writer Sami Mokbel about PSR Rules, Mr Marinakis responded: “I did it [created competition & sustainability at the club] by investing in players whose values would increase in the future,” take in that quote, and re-reference Mangala & Niakhaté – two players who ultimately made first team contribution, to a good level, and whose values increased before being sold on for a total combined fee of around £45m-£55m.

Evangelos Marinakis is thorough with his work – if he wants something, more often than not he gets it. While it won’t happen overnight, his ambitions of creating a sustainable club – even in light of, what he feels, “unfair” PSR rules – are getting closer to becoming a starting reality at the club, which he wants to lead back to previous successes, and create a “new history” at the club.

The points deduction was disliked by the ownership, who felt the Premier League were too strict on Forest, but in light of it, Evangelos Marinakis cited the numerous signings Forest had made that prove they are aiming for sustainability, and eventually profitability. The likes of Murillo, Danilo, Elanga, Hudson-Odoi, etc, were all referenced. Mr Marinakis believes that not only are they some of the players to take the club forward, but proof that the club is making active steps towards promoting what PSR rules should really be about, and strangely/ironically enough don’t fully represent: sustainability & profitability.

Why is “holding the cards” important to achieving a successful club model?

It’s all about leverage. And no, don’t think of suits when hearing that word. This form of leverage is all about the club controlling the value of their own commodities – the footballers.

June 30th is the deadline for clubs to meet that periods PSR rules – although an extension can be granted if there is proof of deals in the works that could eventually satisfy the PSR value needed. Often clubs will be tipped off, or have knowledge that a club needs to raise funds to stay in line with regulations, or face points deductions, often leading to the bigger sides lowballing for some of the stars of the Premier League’s lower in the table clubs. An unfortunate reality under PSR rules that creates somewhat of a ‘vulture culture’ amongst the top earning Premier League sides. Last season, Forest had to sell Brennan Johnson for £47m to satisfy rules, but of course it didn’t quite work out with the timings. But regardless, Forest had to sell, all due to PSR rules.

This year, it’s all about Murillo – the Brazilian star who shone for Forest in his first Premier League season for the reds, after joining from Corinthians in a deal worth around £11.5m last summer. Chelsea, Liverpool & Juventus have all been cited as potential destinations for the player, who recently confirmed he had interest from “big clubs” around Europe – but the landscape has changed since that interest was revealed last week, which brings me to the point about leverage, and its importance, especially in this instance.

As of last week, Forest still had to raise around £20m – profit – in order to satisfy the Premier League PSR rules, given the soon-coming deadline, clubs such as Chelsea started to register serious interest, believing maybe they could secure a deal worth half of what Forest would like – around £60m-£70m – or, exchange a player with smaller sums of cash involved. Trevor Chalobah was cited as a potential part of the deal, but it remains unclear as to how that would bode well with the defender who rejected the club in January, and the transfer chiefs at Forest who suffered that rejection in that time – an awkward reunion. After the sales mentioned, Forest will opt to make a sale for a couple of fringe players, but for now they pretty much hold all the cards when it comes to their biggest stars – no, Forest won’t bow down to lowball offers. While of course negotiation could bring down the value, it wouldn’t be significant, a major positive for the club, for whom many fans expected would have to lose one of their biggest stars just to stay in line with rules. A refreshing reality for a fanbase who have just about recovered from a turbulent end to last season, on and off the pitch.

There is still room for improvement no doubt – the signing of Divock Origi last season was a prime example. Earning around £120,000 per week, while offering no goals in return was a major failure, but one Forest can, and most certainly have learned from. Loan business is where Forest can improve looking ahead to this season.

Slowly but surely Forest are looking more shored up – the future won’t be without its challenges financially, and with league position, but there are a multitude of reasons to be excited.

*Article provided by Jamie Martin (Head Nottingham Forest Correspondent).

*Main image @NFFC the City Ground is ready to welcome new faces.

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