The great transfer debate: Buy a player outright, or loan them first?

For every Soucek and Bowen there's a Zaza and Haller, but fans prefer the loan-to-buy option

Given West Ham’s urgent need to bolster the squad this January, the transfer window has split opinion when it comes to the best way to sign a player.

Frustration at a lack of signings has led to significant debate over our preferred route of securing players through loans, instead of buying outright.

To put the argument to rest, I ran a poll on Twitter which revealed that 78% prefer loans with the option or obligation to buy, while 22% voted to buy players outright.

Comparing the two routes of signing a player, there are various pros and cons, and over the years, each approach has had its own successes and failures.

Loans with the option or obligation to buy reduce the risk dramatically, giving us the opportunity to make sure a player fits into our team.

The perfect example of this being successful is the signing of Soucek for £15 million after a £4 million loan. 

At the time, we were also considering Gedson Fernandes, who went to Spurs, failed to hit the ground running and then went on loan to Galatasaray. 

Other players that we’ve signed in this way include Lanzini and Dawson, both of which have played a pivotal part in the club’s recent successes. 

We also benefited from signing Zaza on loan with the obligation to buy, deciding not to hit the number of appearances that activated the clause in his contract and allowing us to terminate his loan at West Ham without buying him.

The problem with loans is that it restricts your options as the best players aren’t available, limiting typical options to those that are out of favour, or play for clubs that need the loan fee.

As an example, Manchester United were willing to loan Lingard to make money and get him playing, but weren’t willing to add a clause to buy him.

On the other hand, players we have bought include Bowen, Coufal, Antonio, Fornals, Zouma, Cresswell and Fabianski. 

The benefit of buying a player outright is that you have time to work with them and make them the best they can be. 

The most obvious disadvantage of this approach, however, is the risk of them not playing well.

Haller is the perfect example of a player that joined with incredible potential, didn’t fit within the squad and ended up being sold for £20 million, just 18 months after being signed for £45 million.

Coupled with the fact that none of the top Premier League sides want to loan us players as we’re now seen as close competition, we’re left in a difficult position. 

Despite the regular uproar that is often seen on Twitter surrounding a lack of permanent signings, it does look to be fans’ favourite route, particularly when buying a player from overseas that isn’t proven in the Premier League. 

There is no doubt that whichever method of signing a player the club chooses, the main priority for fans is to get more players in and improve the squad urgently. 

The debate looks set to continue between now and the summer transfer window.

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