They used to be settled over a cup of darjeeling and firm handshake.
Now, against a backdrop of rolling news networks, Bosman rulings and ridiculous legislation, negotiating the transfer of a player has become an increasingly complex affair.
A war of attrition, brinkmanship and espionage as the confusion surrounding Gary Mackay-Steven’s future proves.
Sheffield United want to sign the Scotland international who, at present, is employed by their namesakes from Dundee. The trouble is, Celtic do too.
Neither, though, are willing to pay the £250,000 fee being demanded by Tannadice’s board of directors.
So is that the end of the matter? Possibly. But probably not.
With Mackay-Steven publicly acknowledging he is unlikely to extend his deal, which expires at the end of the season, you can understand why neither United nor their counterparts at Parkhead are willing to meet the Tayside club’s demands. But its chairman, Stephen Thompson, knows his hardline stance will curry favour on the terraces and, perhaps even more importantly, inside a bootroom where manager Jackie McNamara is trying to secure Europa League football next term.
Nevertheless, despite having two bids rejected by Thompson earlier this month, Nigel Clough might press ahead with his efforts to deliver the 24-year-old to South Yorkshire. And Celtic, whose interest in Mackay-Steven’s colleague Stuart Armstrong complicates matters still further, will follow suit.
Informed whispers north of the border suggest that the Glaswegian giants will try and strike a pre-contract agreement with Mackay-Steven before next month’s deadline before offering an undisclosed sum, no doubt whilst pointing out the forward’s head has been turned, to secure his early release.
Clough, meanwhile, will be aware that Celtic’s interest is being driven by concerns that Kris Commons, someone he knows well from their time together at Derby County, has yet to commit his future to Ronny Deila’s team. Will he have sounded-out Commons about his intentions? It’s impossible to know but I’d wager a decent amount that someone connected with Bramall Lane has.
Because, if Armstrong doesn’t leave, then Thompson will probably soften his attitude towards selling Mackay-Steven closer to the deadline rather than lose the lad for zilch. Of course, United or Celtic could simply choose to stump-up what Thompson wants. And then watch as, sensing a weakness or deep pockets, other clubs they are holding discussions with alter their demands.
But if Deila does open talks with Mackay-Steven, and persuade him to scribble his name on the dotted line, all of the above will count for nothing.
Confused? I wouldn’t bet against it.
Which makes it even more ridiculous these decisions have to be rushed. Because that’s what this month’s window demands.