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Whether your club is lacking the finances to compete with the big boys, or you fancy yourself as a Harry Redknapp regen, wheeling and dealing your way through the transfer window, pre-contracts are an extremely beneficial yet underutilised tool in FM.
Unless you’ve got an excellent scouting set-up, or you’ve read the 7000 available ‘cheap wonderkids’ articles on the wonderful worldwide web, then signing the next Kylian Mbappe for peanuts is pretty unrealistic. Signing players on a pre-contract not only allows you to prepare for seasons in advance, but it also allows you to delegate almost all of your transfer kitty on finding the next big thing.
What is a pre-contract?
A pre-contract is when a player who is approaching the end of their contract at their present club agrees a new contract at a different club in advance. You may have seen it recently when Barcelona announced that Franck Kessie had signed a contract at the club despite still playing for Milan, that’s a pre-contract. All players are eligible to negotiate with other clubs when they reach the final six months of their contract, so you’ll often see players run down their contracts intentionally in a bid to build interest from clubs who are unwilling to pay a transfer fee.
However, the six-month rule only applies to players who play in a different country to the club they are discussing a pre-contract with. For example, La Liga players are only able to enter pre-contract talks with interested parties outside of Spain – with the same applying to those in England, France, Italy etc. If you are looking to sign a player from the same league that you’re managing in, you’ll have to wait until the end of their contract to discuss terms.
From an FM perspective, pre-contract signings are pretty low risk. Whilst you may have to offer them slightly more money on their contract, and potentially a sign-on fee, you don’t have to splash out millions on a transfer fee. If the player is good, then you have yourself a bargain. If the player doesn’t live up to your expectations, then you can almost always sell the player on after a season for a profit.
Which players are available to sign on a pre-contract on Football Manager 2023?
To save you the time and effort of searching for players entering the final year of their contract, I have created a team line-up of players that can be signed on a pre-contract in FM23. You’ll have to be quick if you want to sign any of these players, as they will no doubt receive attention from clubs all around the globe looking to get their hands on a bargain.
Disclaimer: Player’s contract situations are subject to change before FM23 is released
Another disclaimer: As FM23 hasn’t been released yet, the stats used in this article have been taken from the most updated version of FM22
Goalkeeper: Altay Bayindir
Straight in with a bit of a rouge shout here, but for those of you not looking to splash the cash on a keeper, then Altay Bayindir is the ideal signing. The 24-year-old Turkish keeper is currently plying his trade at Fenerbahce, who signed him in 2019 for £1.35 million. With four caps for his country, and a handful of appearances in the Europa League, Bayindir is a reliable yet unspectacular keeper.
Sound’s strange to say this, but his biggest strength is his ability to actually save the ball, the most important job of a goalkeeper. FM22 scouts rate his reflexes (17), one on ones (17), aerial reach (16), and anticipation (15) very highly. His best role on the game is as a goalkeeper on defend duty, however his passing (14) and kicking (14) is good enough for him to be able to play the ball out of defence.
Earning just £9k per week in Turkey, and yet to commit to a new deal, Bayindir could be an ideal player to bring in without destroying the wage budget. In my opinion, he’s not quite at Champions League level, but for a mid-table side in one of Europe’s top leagues he would be an excellent addition.
Right Back: Wilfried Singo
Like the England national team, there was an abundance of options I could have selected at right back, Sergi Roberto, Hector Bellerin, Joel Veltman, and Vladimir Coufal to name a few. I’ve opted for Torino wingback Wilfried Singo, who you may or may not have heard of.
The 21-year-old Ivorian was one of the Serie A’s standout defenders last season, seeing him linked all summer with a switch to North London. With the 6’3” defender out of contract in the summer, Torino may look to cash in on him in the January transfer window to recoup some of his value.
Being just 21, Singo has a very good potential rating on Football Manager. His standout attributes are his physical attributes; acceleration (16), pace (16), and strength (14). With excellent determination (17) and work rate (15), the Torino man will be a constant presence up and down your right flank.
Out of all the players in this team, he is the lowest risk pre-contract signing you could make. On just £7,120 per week, the Ivorian will not dent the wage budget at all, and you’ll be signing a player that developed into a world-class right back on FM22. If he doesn’t fit your system, or develop as much as you’d like, then he can be sold on for a profit due to his age.
Centre Back: Çaglar Söyüncü
Now I know what you are thinking, how on earth has a Leicester defender made this list…
Çaglar Söyüncü endured a difficult campaign last year, but given the Foxes’ horrific defensive record this season, it is a surprise to see that the Turkish centre-back hasn’t been given a chance to redeem himself. At just 26, Söyüncü finds himself at a bit of a crossroads in his career. His contract is up in June 2023, and given Brendan Rodgers’s reluctance to play him, he will almost definitely be looking to jump ship at the earliest opportunity.
Whilst his stats may decrease based on last season, his FM22 ratings are actually very good. With his heading, marking, tackling, and positioning all rated 15 out of a possible 20, the Turkish defender is a very good option at centre-back. Average passing (12) and vision (11) stats make him an unlikely candidate to play the ball out from defence, but as a no-nonsense defender, Söyüncü ticks all the boxes. It explains why Atletico Madrid are rumoured to be interested with him in real life, a proper Diego Simeone player.
It is a case of waiting and seeing just how badly FM butcher his FM22 ratings, but if they remain somewhat similar then Söyüncü represents a fantastic pre-contract signing for any mid-table side, even if it is just as backup.
Centre Back: Evan Ndicka
Another player known to FM veterans, Evan Ndicka will be one of the most popular free agents in the game. Over the past few years at Eintracht Frankfurt, the 6’4” centre-back has built up a reputation as one of the most promising young defenders in the world. Still only 23-years-old, the Frenchman has plenty of room to develop even further.
A natural left-sided centre-back with good passing (14) and composure (15) is like gold dust for any football manager, just ask Antonio Conte. Spurs were linked with about a thousand left-footed centre-halves over the summer, with Ndicka allegedly one of them. A move to London never materialised for the Frenchman and with his contract up in the summer, Frankfurt are considering cashing in on him in the January window.
With pace (16) to burn and excellent jumping reach (18), the Frankfurt defender has all the attributes to become one of the best ball-playing defenders on FM23. His defensive attributes such as his marking (12) and tackling (13) may need a bit of fine-tuning, but his aerial prowess alongside his recovery speed make him the ideal signing for those playing with a high defensive line.
Left Back: Ramy Bensebiani
Again, we head over to Germany for this suggestion. Wantaway Algerian star Ramy Bensebiani is out of contract in the summer. Heavily linked with a switch to Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund, the Gladbach stalwart will have plenty of suitors all across Europe.
Bensebiani is a bit of an unsung hero of mine on FM22, so there is potentially a bit of bias with this one. Capable of playing at left-back or at centre-back, the 2019 AFCON winner has the versatility to fill the gaps across the whole back line. Strong defensive statistics including marking (15), tackling (15) and bravery (15) make him a good option in the centre of defence, whilst his crossing (15) and stamina (17) make a compelling argument for him to be deployed at left-back.
Either way, if you’re a top team competing for both domestic and European trophies, then having someone as versatile as the 27-year-old Algerian in your ranks will be extremely beneficial, especially as he enters his peak years.
Right Midfield: Adama Traore
I hope you have lots of baby oil spare in the dressing room, as Adama Traore will become a free agent in June 2023. An academy graduate of the infamous La Masia, the Spanish winger has never quite found the consistency in English football. His acceleration (20) and pace (20) is quite frightening to watch, and he is officially the fastest player on FM22, something I don’t see changing on the new game.
With biceps bigger than my future, it’s no surprise that his physical strength (17) is also very highly rated on FM. The Spanish international has all the physical attributes to succeed in the Premier League, but his mental and technical attributes let him down regularly, just ask any Wolves fan. With single-digit ratings for concentration (8), decisions (7), and off the ball (9), Adama is a fairly limited player on Football Manager.
That being said, as a super sub with his terrifying pace and strength, Traore will cause all sorts of havoc for opposition defenders. The Spaniard is blessed with good dribbling (18) and crossing (14) making him a perfect fit for that right winger role. Tactically you don’t need to be Pep Guardiola to get the best out of the Wolves man, just get the ball out wide and let him run.
Centre Midfield: Youri Tielemans
A household name to Premier League fans, and a familiar name to the FM players of old, former FM wonderkid Youri Tielemans is out of contract at Leicester in June 2023. The Belgian international was heavily linked with a switch to North London in the summer, with Mikel Arteta a big fan of the silky midfielder. Nothing materialised and Tielemans is stuck at Leicester, whose current league position won’t do much in the way of persuading him to sign a new contract.
It feels like Tielemans has been around for years. I remember signing the baby-faced Belgian on FM14 when he was just 16 years old, and it is quite likely that he will be finding his way into my side on FM23, nine years later. Still only 25, the former Anderlecht star has the perfect attributes to play my favourite role in the whole game, the deep-lying playmaker.
With excellent passing (18), first touch (16), technique (17), composure (16), and vision (18), Tielemans has the capability to play eye of the needle passes. Pair him with an advanced forward and some pace on the flanks and the Belgian international will have runners in behind to play his delicate passes to.
Centre Midfield: Douglas Luiz
Another Premier League midfielder that was rumoured to be joining Arsenal in the summer, Arteta clearly has a type. Douglas Luiz has been a key player at Aston Villa since his arrival in 2019, but his time in claret and blue has seemingly come to an end. Despite Steven Gerrard insisting that he would like him to stay, the Olympic gold medallist has yet to put pen to paper on a new deal.
With a rating of 14 for tackling, passing, anticipation, and marking, Luiz can be an excellent addition for those looking for a defensive-minded midfielder. At just 24 years old, the Brazilian still has the potential to improve on his ratings, as well as cement himself as a mainstay in your midfield. Arsenal, Chelsea, Atletico Madrid, and former club Manchester City have all shown their admiration for the Villa man, so you’ll have a fight on your hands to get his signature on the dotted line.
Left Midfield: Paulinho
Excitement built in Leverkusen when the £20 million signing of Brazilian winger Paulinho was announced, but four years on and they still probably haven’t seen the best of him. At just 22-years-old, the Brazilian finds himself out of favour in the current setup, and out of contract in the summer.
Pace (15), natural fitness (16), and flair (15) are all traits that we have come to expect from any Brazilian forward that breaks through, and Paulinho has all three in abundance. With good dribbling (14) ability and excellent balance (16), the Leverkusen winger has the perfect attributes to play as an inside forward from the left, cutting in onto his favoured right foot.
Paulinho is not the finished product yet and this is recognised by FM scouts, who rate his potential extremely highly. In my FM22 save, where I am in the year 2026, the Leverkusen man is now the starting winger for Liverpool, which tells you all you need to know about his development. Available on a free transfer, and just 22 years of age, the Brazilian won’t be short of offers in the game, so you’ll have to act quick if you want to bring him in.
Striker: Memphis Depay
Barcelona’s mismanagement has been well documented in recent months, and Memphis Depay is a player that has struggled as a result. After joining the club on a pre-contract in 2021, the Dutchman has never really established himself in the side. Since his arrival, Barcelona have brought in a wealth of attacking options, most recently Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha, which has significantly impacted the former Lyon forward’s playing time.
He voiced his frustration during the summer and was minutes away from joining Italian giants Juventus on a permanent deal. His contract is up in the summer, and the 28-year-old is highly unlikely to accept a new deal, not that Barcelona can afford to offer new contracts anyway.
Capable of playing on either wing, or through the middle, Depay would be a top signing on FM23. His acceleration (16), pace (16) and off the ball (15) have the potential to cause opposition defences all sorts of problems. Add to this his finishing (15), first touch (16), and dribbling (15), and you have a player capable of leading your club to glory.
Striker: Marcus Thuram
Another versatile forward, capable of playing down the middle or on the left wing is Marcus Thuram, son of France’s most capped player, Lilian Thuram. Not following the same career path as his father, the 25-year-old has spent the last three years in the Bundesliga, playing for Borussia Mönchengladbach. His contract is up at the end of the 22/23 season, and it looks likely that the Frenchman will look to explore his options.
His time at Gladbach has been somewhat of a mixed bag. Unplayable on his day, the main problem that Thuram has faced during his spell in Germany is finding the consistency in his performances. That being said, he actually looks on course to have his best season at the club this campaign, scoring three goals in his first seven Bundesliga appearances.
From an FM perspective, the Frenchman possesses some excellent stats. Capable of stretching defences with his acceleration (16) and pace (16), Thuram also possesses good strength (16) and dribbling ability (15) making him a good candidate both up front and as an inside forward on the left. Versatile, young, and affordable, the Gladbach attacker would represent a quality acquisition for any team with European aspirations.