Learning English Through Football Podcast: The Language of Football Transfers in 4 Easy Steps

The summer transfer window is upon us which, of course, means that clubs are allowed to buy and sell players for a fixed period of time. In this post (which originally appeared in 2009) we take a look at the language of football transfers. You can download the worksheet here and to help you understand there is also a vocabulary list containing the words in bold at the foot of this post as well as a Football Transfer Crossword to help you practise these words. You can read a transcript for this podcast below, while you can also check out our glossary of footballing phrases here and visit our site to access all our previous posts and podcasts. If you have any suggestions or questions then you can contact us at admin@languagecaster.com.

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Learning English Through Football Podcast: The Language of Football Transfers in 4 Easy Steps

DF: Hello everyone, this is Damian from the Languagecaster.com team – I hope you are all doing well. OK, as regular listeners will know we are taking a short break after posting football language podcasts every day during the Euro 2020 Tournament but here is an additional podcast from our archives on the language of transfers. This post first appeared in 2009 as a reading text so we have made a few changes and of course added some voices to it!


The summer transfer window is upon us which, of course, means that clubs are allowed to buy and sell players for a fixed period of time. In this post we take a look at the language of football transfers. Now, we have lots of vocabulary support for this podcast and we also have a worksheet and a Football Transfer Crossword – jsut come along to our site here at languagecaster.com.

So, 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. The whole process is a complete mess because:

  • club managers attempt to buy the best players within their budgets
  • players look 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.

Stinger: You are listening to languagecaster.com (in Vietnamese).

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 they have been treated by their 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 them – though we all know that it just means more money. Of course, the player may not wish to move and instead vows to stay and commits their future to the team. Speculation is particularly rife, or common, when a player is nearing the end of their 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 them available and allow them to contact another club.

2. Contact

Officially, a club is not allowed to talk to another player while they are contracted to a club but they can ask permission to do so, particularly if the club suggest they are open to offers for the player. The press (the media) 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 this 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 a bid has been made 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 their 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 they have signed for another club, they have moved, they have 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.

Now not all transfers involve money. Sometimes a player moves to another club on a free – so costing nothing – as they may be out of contract, deemed not good enough or that they have been a loyal servant and can make some money from a move (usually at the end of their 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 htheir original club then the new club has to pay some money to secure the player, and this is called a transfer fee, and usually, the better the player, the higher the fee. The current transfer record (2009) was £80 million paid by Real Madrid to Manchester United for Portuguese star Ronaldo. The player will also receive a signing-on fee along with a new contract and, of course, the 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.

Stinger: You are listening to languagecaster.com (in Japanese).

Good Bye

DF: Yes, you are listening to languagecaster.com – that message was in Japanese. Don’t forget that there’s a transcript and a worksheet for this podcast and lots of vocab support which you can access by coming along to our site. OK, that’s it for this short podcast – we hope you enjoyed our look at some of the phrases connected to football transfers and we’ll be back with more football language soon. Maybe you can tell us how to say some of these phrases in your language. Don’t forget that you can also come and find lots of football language on our site here at languagecaster.com. Enjoy all the football and we’ll see you again soon. Bye bye.

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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 wishes 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 them available: Put the player up for sale
  • 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 their head: There is a price tag for the player; how much it will cost to buy them
  • agree a fee: The two clubs are happy about how much the player costs
  • 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 they still belong 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 they join a new club
  • paid in installments: To pay a bill in parts, i.e. not the full quantity

Football Transfer Crossword: PDF version | Answers

Learn English Through Football
Learn English Through Football

Free football language podcast for learners of English brought to you by Damian and Damon. Interviews, match reviews, predictions all with full language support for football fans around the world who wish to improve their English language skills.

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