As the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Kane have found out over recent seasons, it’s not always possible for football players to get the transfer they desire if they don’t have a release clause in their contract.
Kane was keen to join Manchester City in 2021 but his current club Tottenham Hotspur held firm. With no buyout clause the England striker struggled to force through a move and one year later Pep Guardiola’s men signed Erling Haaland instead.
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Ronaldo, meanwhile, was desperate to force a move away from Man United in 2022 after they failed to qualify for the Champions League.
Atletico Madrid, Napoli and Sporting Lisbon were among the clubs unable to prise the player away from Old Trafford, with no exit clause in the Portugal great’s deal, prompting Ronaldo to burn his bridges with an explosive interview and have his deal terminated with United.
Increasingly, high-profile players are negotiating minimum fee release clauses in the contracts they sign with clubs, and ensuring they are set at realistic levels.
Such a step ensures that if a team trying to buy a player pays the required transfer fee – which in some cases may only be triggered on or after a certain date – they will automatically have that offer accepted, and then begin negotiating personal terms.
It is a step that often appeals to younger players. For example, they may join a top-flight club and hope to perform well enough to secure a move to even bigger teams like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Chelsea, Man City and Man Utd if they perform well enough.
However, their current clubs may then be reluctant to sell a star player and attempt to put those top teams off by slapping high valuations on them.
In the Premier League in particular, many clubs even in the middle or bottom of the table have huge financial firepower to hold firm if a top side comes calling, so a release clause can be a powerful tool.
Buyout clauses are not limited to up-and-coming players, though.
Haaland and his agents negotiated a buyout clause even after he joined Man City in 2022.
In a move that will reportedly encourage Madrid to sign him down the line, Haaland has a release clause that comes into effect in the summer of 2024 that is worth €200m.
The Norwegian superstar then has a second minimum fee release clause that will be activated in the summer of 2025 that stands at €175m.
City would be powerless to prevent Haaland leaving if they receive a transfer bid that matches those amounts from the dates specified, but they can’t complain too much – they only paid €60m after also matching a release clause in his Borussia Dortmund contract that was activated at the end of last season
In some leagues, such as La Liga, rules and tradition mean every player has a release clause included in their contract – so in some cases clubs have made them inordinately high to discourage potential buyers.
At Barcelona, Lionel Messi was given a contract in 2009 that included a buyout clause of €250 million, a fee that was seen as unreachable at that time.
The figure was later increased to an astonishing €700m when he signed another of his new deals at Camp Nou in 2017. This came in response to PSG shelling out €222m to reach Neymar’s release clause, which was also a figure that was considered to be too great for anyone to pay.
More recently, Madrid and Barca have even started listing some release clauses at an incredible €1 billion! The Catalans have seven such players to have these astronomical prices placed upon their heads, the latest of which is teenage midfield sensation Gavi.
Clubs often try to resist seeing these clauses being put into a deal.
This past summer RB Leipzig were seen to have pulled off an impressive feat by tying star player Christopher Nkunku down to a new contract that did not contain the €60m buyout clause the player had initially sought.
Here, FootballTransfers has compiled a list of some of the most notable players in world football who are widely reported to have a release clause in their contract.