Here’s my first piece for Spurs Web on what the Saido Berahino transfer (or not as it turned out) saga tells us about Negotiation Theory:

In international negotiating, Time can be unlimited. Issues drag on for decades if not centuries: Cyprus, Korean peninsula, Russia/Ukraine/Poland/Germany. Brexit?

For football transfers Time is in effect fixed: transfers take place only within specified dates. This generates noisy media pseudo-excitement. It also forces to the fore Trust. Are all concerned negotiating in good faith? There are only so many options to be kept open as the transfer deadline clock counts down:

If we keep talking to you, are you serious? Can expect to clinch a deal? If you mess us around, we’ll run out of time to talk to anyone else.

In the extended machinations between Tottenham and West Brom over Berahino, the reputation of the two clubs’ respective chairmen eventually came publicly into play. In other words, a new factor emerged: Pride. Neither person wanted to end up looking ‘weak’ or ’embarrassed’. No deal was done.

This is a powerful example of the importance of ‘subjective’ factors in negotiating. A dispassionate outsider might listen to what the different parties are saying, and identify possible outcomes that are fair and reasonable. But once the parties’ own emotions come into play, pride and stubbornness can take over and lead to everyone getting a bad outcome.

As usual, it’s all about the Psychology of the Individual(s). But does it … matter?

In transfer negotiations no-one knows, including the players concerned themselves, what they might become. For every missed Berahino there is a Holtby who plays well but never quite works out, a Soldado who works like hell but just can’t score, an Eriksen who grows steadily into a world-class talent, a Lamela who flickers brightly but gets injured and hasn’t (yet) quite caught fire, a Wanyama who more than justifies his fee from the first kick, and a Bale who starts off poorly but mutates over a few years into a colossus. And a Dele Alli, whose value is already at dizzy heights.

Football? It’s a hit and miss business!

Within all this uncertainty and with a necessarily tight budget, the best path to success lies in being methodical. Having a strong system, an unrelenting work ethic, and tip-top team spirit. That’s what Tottenham have now, for the first time in decades. If there’s no Berahino in that mix, too bad for Berahino and for West Brom. Pride is expensive.

See also so many international negotiations too.