UK: Football Transfers: Buy-Back Clauses Explained

Last Updated: 21 August 2015
Article by Daniel Geey

Every so often, I receive an excellent question (or set of questions) from readers of the blog. Recently, I received some really insightful queries from Jason Ives in relation to specific transfer agreement clauses. I set out his questions and provide some detail on how such clauses work in the football industry.

Can you please explain how buy-back clauses work – like the one used in Barcelona's agreement with Aston Villa for Adama Traore?

Buy-back clauses in transfer agreements are used primarily to give a selling club the security of being able to repurchase a promising player at a set fee should the player excel in the future. Some high profile examples of such reported clauses include Álvaro Morata (Juve back to Madrid), Casemiro (Porto back to Real Madrid) and Gerard Deulofeu (Everton back to Barcelona). In many cases, the benefit of the transfer extends to the:

  • selling club as they receive a transfer fee for a player that at present probably isn't getting regular playing time with the possibility of requiring the player if he plays well at a predefined fee;
  • buying club who can purchase a playerthat they otherwise may not have been able to acquire had it not been for the clause. In addition, the buyback figure is usually significantly higher than the original transfer fee; and
  • player (who can play regular first team football, probably receive a pay rise and demonstrate their talent).

The buy-back provision is usually based on a number of individual or cumulative triggers including activating the clause:

  • In defined transfer windows (i.e. the selling club cannot buy back the player for a minimum of two seasons);
  • should the original selling club bid a set amount (which could vary depending on the season that the buy-back clause is triggered i.e. €2m in the 15-16 windows and €2.5m in the 16-17 windows).

Should a buy-back provision be triggered, there is usually a contractual obligation to enforce the contract and transfer the player accordingly.

As such provisions are commercial agreements between contracting parties, there is always the possibility of removing a buy-back clause should both parties agree (usually through payment made to the club that has the benefit of the buy-back clause). An interesting situation was reported over the summer with Atletico Madrid defender Toby Alderweireld who was on loan at Southampton for the 2014/15 season. Southampton had an agreement with Atletico when entering into the loan deal that they had the option to purchase the defender for £6.8m. Although not a buy-back provision, the clause gave Southampton the ability to convert the loan into a permanent transfer unless Atletico paid Southampton £1.5m toremove the clause. In the 2015 summer window Tottenham bid around £11.5m which Atletico accepted. Southampton though wanted to enforce the £6.8m purchase clause. It has not been publically reported how the matter was finally resolved but it is likely that Atletico provided compensation to Southampton in order for the player to transfer to Tottenham.

How is it different from a first refusal clause?

A first refusal transfer clause gives the club who has the benefit of the clause the opportunity to be informed of any deal that the selling club is willing to accept for the transfer of the player. This is different from a buy-back clause because usually with a first refusal clause, the selling club retains the power to decide whether to sell the player or not. Typically, a buy-back clause automatically triggers the transfer of the player should specific contractual conditions be met. In practice, the selling club will not have any way of refusing the buy-back offer if the clause is intended to be an automatic trigger and it is drafted appropriately.

What price does the original club have to offer to buy the player back?

The most common way for the original club to repurchase the player is through a set transfer fee that is inserted into the transfer agreement I.e. If the club bids £15m in any of the first 2 transfer windows. In practice, these matters can become more complicated if there are different set fees depending on the year that the clause is activated, if the player is called up for the national team, if he scores a certain number of goals or makes a number of appearances. So, for example, a basic buy-back clause could be structured as follows to ensure that the buy-back fee will be set at:

  • €5m should such a bid be received from the Offer Club in the Summer 2016 Window; or
  • €6.5m should such a bid be received from the Offer Club in the Summer 2017 Window.

An additional €1m fee will be required to activate the buy-back condition should the player[1]:

  • be called up to play in an officially recognised FIFA national team representative match;
  • score 10 Premier League goals in any season consisting of 38 league matches; or
  • play for at least 60 minutes in 50% of all Premier League, domestic cup and UEFA Champions League or Europa League competition matches.

What if a third club comes along with a bigger offer than the original club was offering? Does the original club have to match it? What if the third club then ups its offer in response?

This was a similar scenario to the Toby Alderweireld situation discussed above. In practice, a selling club, just as Atletico did,can havethe benefit of a stipulated transfer amount cancellation clause, which caters for such a scenario where a third club bids more than the stipulated buy-back amount. Whether such a cancellation clause is inserted in the first place can depend on the negotiation position of the parties. If the original seller (who will have the benefit of the buy-back) is in a strong position, there is less likelihood of such a cancellation figure being inserted or in the alternative the cancellation figure being set at a high sum.

If there is such a provision and the buy-back cancellation sum is paid to the original club, then the selling club is free to sell the player and accept a higher amount. If the club refuses to pay the buy-back cancellation sum or there is no clause in the contract, then the original selling club should be able to enforce the buy-back clause so long as it can agree personal terms with the player and that the player wishes to re-join the club (though these factors may not be straightforward in practice!).


[1] Note that for ease of reference the drafting presumes that the player will be playing in the Premier League for the first two seasons. If the player, for example, was transferred after his first season, and that season was not covered by a buy-back clause (which would be very unlikely), the buying club may still have the benefit of a first refusal transfer clause to match any other offers.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Daniel Geey
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.