Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson admits he was “blown away” by Salford when competing for the same player this summer.
Robinson did beat the Vanarama National League side to the signing of Liam Donnelly from Hartlepool, but the Fir Park boss estimates that half of that division can pay bigger wages than his club.
Motherwell have achieved good results when recruiting from England’s fifth tier in recent seasons, with the likes of Louis Moult and Marvin Johnson earning them major profits in the transfer market.
But Salford showed their financial mettle this week when they signed Aberdeen striker Adam Rooney, who was top goalscorer for Scotland’s second-best team for four seasons running.
And Robinson admits it is getting tougher for Scottish clubs to compete with teams from south of the border.
“We are in a very small market,” said Robinson, who also signed Danny Johnson from Gateshead this summer. “Fifty per cent of the Conference clubs in England probably pay more than the bottom half of the Scottish Premiership.
“I actually competed with Salford for two players. I got one of them, Liam Donnelly, and completely lost out on the other one, who they blew us away with money. That’s a club that’s going places but that’s what you are competing with.
“Obviously they have a lot of backing and a good manager, so they are an attractive prospect for players now.
“It’s a hard one, you see Adam Rooney who has done very well here and scored a lot of goals, dropping down to a Conference side. It’s tough, it’s getting tougher.
“It’s finances. Salford is slightly different, they see their ambition and the people they have got involved in it, but I tried to sign a Conference player and he has gone to a League Two team on double the money of our top-paid player.
“So it does make it difficult. When you do bring them up, you are competing with the bottom half of the Scottish Premiership.”
Robinson has used Motherwell’s profile to negate the financial gap after they reached both domestic cup finals last season.
“It certainly helps that we have had some relative success and a lot of publicity in terms of the cup finals,” said Robinson, who would need to move players out before adding to his six summer recruits.
“Players that are really ambitious, who see what we do and our reputation for recruiting and selling on, in terms of Danny Johnson, that was one of the reasons he signed.
“But money is a big factor, footballers have a short career and they have to make money. So I get it to an extent, when there is a big difference in money, people choose that.”