FIFA has published a review of the global transfer market over the 10-year period between 2011 and 2020, revealing that US$ 48.5 billion was spent on transfer fees over the course of that particular decade.
In a week in which the biggest transfer news has involved a 36 year-old moving from one elite club to another, there’s a reminder that only 0.9% of all transfers involving fees in 10 years have included players over 35 years of age. Some 35% of fees are actually spent on players half the age of Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
There were 133,000 transfers over the 10-year timeframe, with 15,128 involving Brazilian players and almost 7,500 linked to Argentinians. A total of US$ 7.1 billion was spent on Brazilian players. The highest numbers outside of Europe and South America are the 3,793 from Nigeria and 2,848 from Ghana.
The biggest individual fees have been the deals for Neymar, Eden Hazard, Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele. Barcelona, one of the biggest spenders, were involved in three of those transactions.
FIFA name Manchester City as the top spender with 130 incoming players, Chelsea come in second with 95. According to Transfermarkt, City spent £ 1.38 billion between 2010-11 and 2019-20, one of seven clubs to spend over a billion.
The top 30 transactions have involved Europe’s biggest clubs, led by Barcelona and Manchester United, who have been instrumental in six apiece, either as buyer or seller.
Given the number of players transferred from Brazil, it is no surprise the biggest trade route is Brazil to Portugal, which has included 1,556 transfers. Portuguese clubs have long been experts at player trading and the Lisbon duo, Benfica and Sporting, led the way in transfer income over the 10 years. Furthermore, Porto are not far behind. These three clubs, along with Ajax Amsterdam, were the top clubs when it comes to generating a positive net balance from transfer activity. Benfica, Sporting and Porto were also among the top clubs in the lending market, along with Manchester City and Chelsea.
England, predictably, was the biggest spender in FIFA’s report, a total of US$ 12.4 billion, which is almost double Spain’s US$ 6.7 billion and nearly treble Germany’s US$ 4.4 billion. Consider that in 2011, England’s total spend was US$ 0.52 billion, while in 2020 it was US$ 1.63 billion, a growth rate of 313%. Although the figures are substantially lower elsewhere, Germany and France have seen their expenditure go up by more than 300%.
England had the highest negative result from transfer income and expenditure, some US$ 7.3 billion. The country with the biggest positive was Portugal at US$ 2.9 billion, followed by Brazil (US$ 2 billion) and Netherlands (US$ 1.3 billion).
Unsurprisingly, England paid more out in intermediary commission than any other country. Almost a billion dollars was spent on total agent fees, an astonishing figure. Italy paid US$ 762 million and Germany US$ 375 million.
Considerable time is devoted to players and their contracts but the number of expired contracts that prompt a transfer, at 39%, seems rather high. Conversely, only 44% of transfers have sell-on fees included, which is perhaps low given almost 35% of transfers involve very young players that could go on to greater things.
The signs are the pandemic has acted as a break on the transfer market. In 2020, transfer fees declined by around 25% to US$ 5.63 billion. With the economic impact likely to continue for the next season, the transfer market may be less vibrant than it has been over the past decade. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, the clubs that rely on player trading will almost certainly feel the squeeze. At some point, the market will peak, it might just be now.