The Language of Transfers

On this week’s main listening report we look at language related to football transfers. You can listen to the report by clicking on the link below, while vocabulary support (in bold) appears at the foot of the post. There is also a worksheet and football transfer crossword with answers for those who wish to practice their English.
 Worksheet (with answers) | Crossword | Transfer Language Quiz. If you have questions or comments, email us at:


A transfer is when a footballer moves from one club to another and this can come about in two ways: either the club decides to sell the player or the player chooses to leave the club. Simple. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.

  • club managers are working within a tight budget in an attempt to buy the best players
  • players are looking for higher salaries and a better chance of winning trophies
  • agents want to earn large fees from their clients
  • fans are full of hope or dread at the prospect of buying someone new or selling one of their stars
  • press speculation fuels the whole process.

So, here is a brief guide to the language of football transfers in four easy steps.

1. Speculation

The transfer process usually begins in the media with rumours and gossip linking players (and managers) with different clubs. A player may be unhappy with the way he has been treated by his club and is angling for a move away, or if a bigger club is showing interest, the player is flattered and suggests it would be a dream move for him – though we all know that this just means more money. Of course, the player may not wish to move and instead vows to stay and commits his future to the team. Speculation is particularly rife, or common, when a player is nearing the end of his contract as clubs can buy the player at a cheaper price. As we mentioned earlier, the club may well wish to get rid of the player and so they make him available and allow him to contact another club.

2. Contact

Officially, a club is not allowed to talk to another player while he is contracted to a club but they can ask permission to do so, particularly if the selling club suggest they are open to offers for the player. The press may report that officials from the two clubs were seen talking but if this happens while a player is still under contract, then it is known as tapping up and is illegal and could mean a fine or another form of punishment. If the talks go well then the press may suggest that the teams are close to a deal and that they are lining up a bid for the player but if there are any problems then the deal falls through and no one is going anywhere.

3. The Transfer

There are two set periods in the year when teams can buy and sell players and this is known as the transfer window. A club will decide how much a player is worth, a price is put on his head and then will enter into negotiations with another club. When the two agree a fee and the player is happy to move, then we say that he has signed for another club, he has moved, he has been transferred and that the club has sealed the deal. Sometimes, if it has been a particularly quick affair and maybe rather surprising, the press say a player has been snapped up by another team.

Not all transfers involve money. Sometimes a player moves to another club on a free – costing nothing – as he is out of contract, deemed not good enough or that he has been a loyal servant and can make some money from a move (usually at the end of his career). Another transfer that does not involve cash is the loan deal which sees a player being lent or loaned to another club for a set period of time, while a swap deal sees two players changing clubs, one player joining one team and the other moving in the opposite direction.

4. Money

Football is a huge business and the money involved in transfers helps to keep it running. If a player is still under contract at his original club then the new club has to pay some money to secure the player; this is the transfer fee, and usually, the better the player, the higher the fee. The current transfer record is £80 million paid by Real Madrid to Manchester United for Portuguese star Ronaldo. The player will also receive a signing-on fee along with his new contract and, of course, his agent will also benefit. It is not usual these days for a club to pay the full fee up front but rather it is paid in installments which may last for years in some cases.

So, the transfer process is now complete. However, the business of football, the intense media hunger for stories and the fans’ desire for success all mean that transfer speculation soon begins again and before you know it, the transfer window is open once more and the whole procedure starts again.


Here are explanations of some of the words and phrases from the reading above. Download the worksheet for free here. You can also practise the vocabulary with a crossword: PDF version | Answers

linking: Connecting, suggesting a move

is angling for a move away: The player wants to move away

are showing interest: When a club wish to buy a player

is flattered: The player is being praised so he feels good

a dream move: A move (transfer) that the player has always wanted

vows to stay with the club: The player does not want to move clubs, promises to stay

committing his future: The player is determined not to move, he really wants to stay

Speculation is often rife: When there is a lot of gossip about a transfer

to get rid of the player: To fire or sack a player

make him available: Put him up for sale, offer him

open to offers: The team are willing to sell

were seen talking: The clubs are in discussions

tapping up: An illegal approach to sign a player

close to a deal: The two sides have almost agreed on the transfer

a bid has been made: The buying club has offered money to the selling club

the deal falls through: There are difficulties with the transfer and it is called off

a price is put on his head: There is a price tag for the player; how much it will cost to buy him

agree a fee: The two clubs are happy about how much the player costs

he has signed for another club: The player has moved to another club

has moved: The player has moved to another club

has been transferred: The player has moved to another club

sealed the deal: The player has been bought

snapped up: A player has been bought by another team (quickly)

on a free: The player costs nothing to buy

out of contract: The player is a free agent, no longer connected to the club

a loyal servant: A player that has stayed a long time at one club

the loan deal: An agreement between teams that sees a player move to another club for a short period of time but that he still belongs to the first club

under contract: When a player still belongs to a club

a transfer fee: The money paid between the two clubs for a player

transfer record: The most money paid for a player

a signing-on fee: Money received by a player when he joins a new club

paid in installments: To pay a bill in parts, i.e. not the full quantity

Football Transfer Crossword: PDF version | Answers

Check out our glossary of footballing phrases here If you have any suggestions, contact us at
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1 comment
  • Damian and Friends from languagecaster.

    I have no words to thank you for this beautiful site. Here we have full details of words and expressions of the football world that cause us (non native speakers) some problem.

    I loved the podcast, the text here with the vocabulary and to top it off the Crossword seeing that I have published here in Brazil an English book (the most used words and Irregular Verbs) which is based on Crossword and Word Search.

    Onem more time I want to thank you all!

2012-13Episode 18