To protect yourself against this you have two routes of defence. The first is you are allowed to protect the contract of five of your players. When players are protected you automatically renew their contracts at a set - normally similar to current - wage. You also have extra locks for your youth players, but these end when the players reach maturity. You can protect a youth player for different amounts of time depending on what age you signed them:
- 16 - protect to 24;
- 17 - protect to 23;
- 18 - protect to 22;
- 19 - protect to 21.
So basically anyone outside your 5 senior locks and your youth locks goes to a wage auction 24 hours before the end of their contract. This means the highest bidder wins the player, and as compensation you receive their Acquisition Fee (AF) - which is somewhat below the market rate you could get for the player by selling him.
Each lock stays with a player until you either sell/release him or he signs a new contract with auto rebid. Of the five senior players you can protect, if you choose to change the player you want to protect, you have to wait until the current contract of the protected player runs out. You will know who has a lock by virtue of them having a blue closed padlock. If you choose to remove a lock, this becomes a green open padlock until the player signs his next contract, or is sold. You then get that lock back to use again. Sounds complicated but you will get it as soon as you see it.
Now I noticed a suggestion on the forums by our very own Nathan Pollard, who said that players like Pato and Bojan are considered youth players and can get locked under these youth rules, despite being tremendous talents for their age. Since both are 17 at the start of the game, a manager could potentially keep them until they reach 23, using the youth lock and thereby gaining a valuable first teamer without using any senior locks.
Nathan proposes that players with such obvious skills like Pato and Bojan should be classed as senior players, despite their age. I for one don't mind such players being classed as senior players, because they are obviously good enough to compete with any defence in the Game World.
The discussion quickly centered on how to implement such a rule. Most people felt it should be linked to wages, to stop managers from making crazy wage bids for players and ensuring a more even spread of top talents between the various Game World teams.
I disagree with that. If people want to invest in a top youth team, it will cost money. Good prospects will cost money, as we have talents going at 15k or more at the moment. I personally feel 15k is a bit much, but I have a few 8k youth strikers in my squad.
If the locks were linked to money, I would risk my young starlets being classed as seniors, which I feel is unfair. I'm not sacrificing any seniors for the good of the youth squad, so that would mean a rich team could just swoop in end of season and pay an even sillier wage to take my youth star away.
Instead of this wage system, I would like to propose a reputation system. As soon as a young player reaches a 3.5 star reputation, he should no longer be classed as a youth player. Most players won't reach such a status before they hit their early twenties, barring the odd exceptions of guys like Altidore, Messi, Bojan, Pato, Kroos and such talents.
This rule is much fairer on the true youth managers, who wish to develop talents and sometimes have to invest crazy wages to get a player. I sincerely hope SI take my suggestion seriously.