Credit: BLAST Premier
$2,500,000 was the number that ticked onto Danny "zonic" Sørensen's screen as he received the conditions for the transfer of a player for his new Falcons roster, which he was hired to assemble in November 2023.
A huge number that would break the transfer record in Counter-Strike, but also a “ridiculous” fee that zonic never would recommend anyone paying for a player.
Teams and players demanding an obscure amount of money from the Saudi organization was just one of the issues zonic faced when he was assembling Falcons’ new lineup.
We have spoken with the successful Danish coach for an interview about his experiences of dealing with the professional Counter-Strike scene in the latter stages of 2023.
When asked about his key takeaway after having talked, discussed and negotiated with several teams, players and agents in the industry, zonic makes it quite clear:
- I think it's a big mess, where people aren’t really respecting the rules and just thinking about themselves, zonic says.
It’s especially the lack of relevant information about the players and the communication between the organizations, zonic sees as some of the biggest issues. However, he may have the solution.
- I would love if we had a transfer page or something, where we could see if there's any public knowledge about expiration dates on contracts or who has what agent. Now we have to go on a player's Twitter profile to see if he has an agent. If he doesn't have an agent, you can't really approach him, because that would be poaching. Then you go to the organization and sometimes they don't even answer you. And sometimes organizations also don't inform the player, even though they are obliged to.
-I feel like the whole poaching thing is more of a gentleman's rule, but it’s difficult to maintain that rule if you’re not certain that the players will get informed when a team shows interest. And I think we should have, not necessarily more transparency, but at least some clear guidelines… I don't have a clear recipe, but I just think as it is right now it’s more difficult than what I expected it to be.
The new Falcons venture with zonic and Lars Robl in charge quickly got labelled as a project with deep pockets and with an endless flow of money, since the organization is from Saudi Arabia.
Something that also ended up complicating things for zonic and company, he explains to Pley.gg.
- We have been asked to pay more than €2.5 million for a player that by far is not worth that amount. I can only think of one player, who might be worth those numbers, and that is ZywOo. I have told Falcons that even though they would disagree, I made sure that I would never recommend paying €2.5 million for a player. Then it would be only ZywOo, and I’m not even sure if Falcons would go down that road. Falcons is not a team that is just throwing away money.
- I mean we had a player who was asking for an extreme amount of salary per month to begin with. And again, that was a hard no. I’m not going to mention any names, that’s between him and Falcons. But yeah, again that’s just the whole narrative about Falcons throwing away money.
- But salary-wise, it’s good salaries in Falcons - but no different to other tier-1 salaries out there, zonic explains.
zonic got to debut the new-look roster at BLAST Premier Spring Groups - Photo credit: BLAST and Stephanie Lindgren
After it came forward that Danny “zonic” Sørensen and his loyal companion Lars Robl were set to join Falcons, a rumour quickly began saying that the Saudi org aimed to build a super team consisting of the likes of Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken, Nikola “NiKo” Kovac and Ilya “m0NESY” Osipov.
We asked zonic about all the rumours and reports floating around in the beginning and how much of it was true.
- So, some of it is true. But I think there is a clear difference between having actual negotiations with players and just asking them what their future plans are. I did reach out to Twistzz, but it was only in case that Magisk said no to us. So, he was a backup plan. Because you cannot just put five players in your basket and then expect everyone to sign, zonic says and continues:
- Obviously, we reached out to a lot of players, but not with the full intention of signing them. I think if I had the full intention of signing all these players and it succeeded, then I would sit here being a coach for more than 25 players. Because we reached out to a lot. Here we made a priority list, saying that if we couldn’t get Magisk, then we would out to Twistzz, if not NiKo, then another rifle.
In the interview, zonic explains that players going public with their information and discussions with Falcons was something that further complicated things but also made him a bit upset, he admits.
- It just disappointed me to see that a lot of these players they instantly went out saying “Hey, I have rejected Falcons”. Because there was a high chance that a lot of them would not have been signed if I could get my first priority. But that’s how it is. I don't hold a grudge or anything. It just complicated my process that everything apparently had to go so public.
In the end – and despite difficulties – zonic and Falcons got their new roster, as they signed a profiled quartet of Marco “Snappi” Pfeiffer, Alvaro “SunPayus” Santos, Pavle “maden” Boskovic and Emil “Magisk” Reif.
The latter followed his coach from Vitality, where the other three players joined from ENCE. The last of the pack is the original Falcons member Mohammad “BOROS” Malhas.
The Falcons squad will be playing in the newly-started and highly prestigious IEM Katowice this week.