Power of the Premier League dominates transfer market

THE PREMIER LEAGUE spent the equivalent of US$ 2.2 billion in transfers in 2022, according to the latest FIFA Global Transfer Report. Of the top 20 spenders, 11 came from the Premier, with Manchester United topping the list.

FIFA revealed that transfers were up 11.6% in 2022 and exceeded 20,000 transactions for the first time. Surprisingly, only 2,843 deals included a fee and 17,366 had no fee at all. There were just 276 deals of more than US$ 5 million. While 2,679 transfers were permanent, the vast majority, over 13,000 were cases of players being out of contract. In total, transfer fees were up by 33% to US$ 6.5 billion, although this was still below the expenditure of 2018 and 2019. Of this, US$ 5.8 billion was attributable to UEFA members.

Sell-on fees are gaining in popularity, rising by 35% in 2022, but these are feasible only on permanent deals and loans, the true figure is 42.1%. These clauses are more appropriate for transfers of younger players with plenty of upside in their careers, hence 72.8% of transfers of players under the age of 18 include a sell-on. In the age group 18-23, these fees are included in 45.7% of contracts.

The Premier League was involved in eight of the top 10 deals by value, including six purchases and two sales. Among the transactions were Liverpool’s acquisition of Darwin Núñez from Benfica, Manchester United’s purchase of Real Madrid’s Casemiro and the bargain € 60 million paid by Manchester City for Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland.

Brazilian players, as ever, are the most popular in the market, with 2,061 deals in 2022 valued at US$ 843 million. Argentina is next in the ranking with 1,004 transfers totalling US$ 380 million. From a European perspective, French players are sought after, as evidenced by the 921 transfers valued at US$ 592 million. The busiest transfer route is Brazil to Portugal, which accounted for 338 transfers, more than double the next busiest, which was Portugal to Brazil. In terms of fees, the most valuable route was France to England, which generated US$ 355 million in transfer fees.

The Premier League’s ability to lure top talent is demonstrated in Football Benchmark’s top 50 players by value. The Premier has 46% of the 50, including seven with Manchester City and five at Liverpool. Seven of the 50 are English and 16 of the Premier’s 23 are foreign.

CIES Football Observatory calculated that in 2022-23, Chelsea have outspent everyone in Europe, their 15 transfers totalling € 555 million, more than twice the amount spent by Manchester United. One controversial aspect of Chelsea’s market activity has been the length of contracts being offered to some players, notably the seven years offered to Wesley Fofana and Benoit Badiashile. FIFA’s report stated that the average for contracts over US$ 500,000 was 32 months.

The current transfer deadline is still a few days away, but the Premier League has already spent more than £ 450 million, a record for the January window. Whatever else is going on in the world, for the Premier it is business as usual.

Pelé’s finest hour – captured by FIFA

IT IS good to see the official FIFA film of the 1970 World Cup is available to watch on the BBC’s archives at present, a cinematic treat that was very much of its time. Like other FIFA films, there is an air of naivety and cliché around the narrative, a glimpse into “FIFA Land” or at least how the governing body would like the world to look. It has the spirit of a scout jamboree about it.

In 1970, the script centres on a small boy who blags his way into key matches at the World Cup with his mother wondering where the hell her son has gone. This blond-haired, blue-eyed lad was certainly not a boy from Mexico City, but more likely he was plucked out of a drama school in Zurich or Munich. He leaves home in search of Pelé, Charlton, Riva and Beckenbauer, cadging a lift from a US journalist and his girlfriend.

The lack of reality in this story has been made more bizarre by time. The football-mad Martin’s mother would be in big trouble in today’s cynical world. Martin somehow works his way into stadiums, dressed as a cub scout, sitting among a crowd of Mexicans or suited and booted with a jaunty cravat around his neck. There’s simply no way he can be stopped, but meanwhile, his Mama has no idea where he might be, finally spotting him on TV in a stadium while she is nursing another of her children.

We see Brazil in their pomp, all improvisation and agility, as well as the formidable Italians, making their way to the final. England’s game with West Germany is featured with the Mexicans rejoicing and being “ever hostile to England” as the 1966 winners capitulate after being 2-0 ahead.

The legendary “game of the century” between Italy and West Germany gets substantial coverage, with the brave young Franz Beckenbauer taped-up after dislocating his shoulder. This was a riveting contest but the 4-3 win for Italy denied everyone the chance to see the second best side from Mexico ’70 in the final, the exciting West Germans and the competition’s leading scorer, Gerd Müller.

Certainly, you get the feeling the Germans would have made a better fist of the final against Pelé and his ball-juggling pals. It would seem unlikely that they would have lost 4-1 in the Azteca Stadium.

The film is a period piece with stadiums emblazoned with advertising of the time – Cinzano, Martini, Philips, Hertz, Zeiss of Jena and Marlborough. But there are similarities to the modern day in that Brazil – like Argentina 2022 – were the team everyone wanted to win. The reason was primarily to reward an icon of the game – in 2022 it was Lionel Messi, in 1970 it was Pelé, playing in his last World Cup.

It was so marvellously colourful, those Brazilian yellow shirts standing out against the most vivid of crowds in a bold stadium that was built to impress. Little wonder we remember Mexico 1970 and Pelé for leaving us with such wonderful and enduring memories.