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.

The sun stops shining for the European elite

AROUND € 6 billion has been wiped off the value of Europe’s top football clubs according to KPMG Football Benchmark’s European Elite (EE) report for 2021. Covid-19 left its mark on the continent’s leading clubs, the top 32 losing 15% of their enterprise value (EV) over the past year. What’s more, the pandemic impacted the financial performance of the top 80 clubs, between them they incurred net losses of over € 2 billion. In 2019, 20 of the 32 clubs in KPMG’s report made a profit, but in 2020, only seven were not in the red.

KPMG’s report comes at a time when the word “elite” is being redefined European football. The aborted attempt to create a European Super League  (ESL) threatened to redraw the game’s global map, but there can be no doubting the influence or intent of the 12 clubs who acted as standard bearers for the breakaway competition.

The EE top 10 comprised eight of the 12 ESL advocates. Real Madrid, for the third year running, topped the list with an EV of € 2.9 billion, followed by rivals Barcelona whose EV is only € 40 million lower. Manchester United were third with an EV of € 2.66 billion. All of this year’s top three were in the € 3 billion bracket a year ago. While Real Madrid and Barcelona’s EV decline was 16% and 10% respectively, Manchester United lost 20% of their value.

All three clubs experienced revenue declines, United suffering a 19% deterioration in their income. United are just one of eight Premier League clubs in the top 32, but the league’s combined EV drop was 18%. While five of the leading pack were from the English league, Arsenal fell out of the top 10, a reflection of the London club’s recent decline on and off the pitch. West Ham United dropped out of the 32, while Atalanta, Fenerbahce and Olympique Marseille the new entrants.

Of Europe’s big five leagues, Serie A and Ligue 1 sustained the most damage from the pandemic, although the Bundesliga endured a 30% decrease in matchday revenues. 

After a period of growth, the top 32 had a combined value of € 33.6 billion and of this total, the 12 ESL clubs contributed € 22 billion. This underlined the power and influence of these clubs. KPMG’s research revealed they also account for 74% of social media popularity among football’s top clubs.

KPMG’s elite included five league champions, six runners-up and 10 clubs who finished third or fourth in their domestic leagues. The lowest-placed member of the 32 was Schalke, who were relegated from the Bundesliga.

The past year has been very traumatic for football, especially in the lower leagues and at grass roots level, but the pandemic has provided an opportunity to reassess the modern game and the business models of the leading clubs. KPMG made a number of suggestions in their report, but they were adamant that the entrenched and long-lasting impact of the covid-19 crisis has accelerated the need for structural change. 


Photo: PA