US$ 50 billion spent in a decade – the transfer market may have peaked

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.


Tottenham need to sell Kane while the pot is boiling

WE KNOW only too well that footballers can often agitate for a move by suddenly appearing to be uncooperative, petulant and just downright awkward. A number of players have thrown their toys out of their very expensive 4×4 prams in order to make themselves unpopular, so much so their employer cannot wait to cash-in and see them off the premises. That said, we don’t like to think of a player like Harry Kane adopting these tactics, because he’s the England captain, a decent fellow and as far as Spurs are concerned, “one of our own”. 

Kane has spoken out about the news of him refusing to train and being late back from Florida. Apparently, he returned as planned and he was horrified about rumours of him downing tools. Perhaps somebody, somewhere, has been a little economical with the truth. You would assume that Tottenham knew Kane was not due back at the club until a certain date, but if that was the case, why did they not tell the media when the news suggested he was still in FLA and dragging his heels? Why did they let Kane take the flack? And why did it take so long for Kane to respond on an issue that paints him with a very negative brush?

The message has been fairly clear for some time that Kane is disgruntled and wants to win some silverware before he passes his natural peak. Tottenham are unlikely to be the club that does it for him, not in the immediate future, at least. Kane simply cannot afford to wait for Spurs’ future to come along, they are rapidly resembling Arsenal in the period following their FA Cup win in 2005 – a team that never realises its potential. It’s ironic that, like the Gunners in that period, Spurs have a shiny new stadium to pay for. Unlike Arsenal, Spurs cannot look back on a successful period and consider their winning ways on hold until their finances become more receptive. Spurs’ last trophy was won in 2008, their last league title secured in 1961 and their most recent FA Cup won in 1991. 

Football refuses to fully acknowledge that players are employees and for someone to express a desire to leave a club is not about disloyalty or high treason, it’s about getting the best out of a short and hazardous career. Football is not a vocation, is not a calling or a step towards holy orders, but is a highly-paid career at the top level where a player can reap the rewards for around a decade. Kane is 28, he’s won nothing and his club are in a rebuild programme. In 12 months, he will be close to 30 when his stock starts to fall – bad news for him and for Spurs.

If he’s going, it probably has to be now in order for Spurs to monetise the value of their asset. That may sound all a little clinical, perhaps too business-orientated, but at the moment, Harry Kane is probably worth more than he’s ever been worth and in 12 months, he may be valued at a lower price, especially if he has a bad campaign. Spurs are in transition, £ 160 million will just about do it, although any possible signing will suddenly cost a premium after such a sale.

There’s also a club that really wants him who have the cash to meet the terms and conditions of the deal. Manchester City can accommodate Spurs’ demands and also give Kane what he wants and needs. Spurs and their fans can hardly complain, Kane has scored 221 goals for the club and has set a good example on the pitch. There’s been very little drama and he’s generally liked across the nation as England’s skipper. On top of the goals and leadership, earning a big fee for the player when he says farewell represents a successful transaction for Spurs.

Kane is under contract until June 30, 2024, so you could argue he should be going nowhere, but that’s why he is worth so much ion the market. Three years still remaining on his deal, he’s more valuable than if there was just one year to go. So, the fact he is contracted for so long is a positive for Spurs, is it not?

If Kane remains at Spurs, what will his mindset be like? He will surely still be at odds with his situation. More money might act like an emollient, but there’s no guarantee it will work and more cash for already wealthy individuals only delivers a short-term buzz. More significant is the influence he will have on his team-mates and in the dressing room if he is really hankering to get away. Hence, Spurs need to sell him now and move on. And if they do receive that expected windfall, they need to invest it wisely, not fritter it away on sub-standard signings, as they did in the aftermath of Gareth Bale’s departure. Moreover, timing is important, the way football’s economy is deteriorating, you cannot be totally confident Kane’s buyers will be interested in the future.

Kane exiting Tottenham Hotspur will be a blow to morale, but if his transfer funds a new team and improves the squad, then the player’s legacy can be a positive one. Kane is an excellent striker, a talismanic figure, but life will go on without him, as hard as it will seem for some to swallow. At present, they will get the best price for him but delay for too long and the club runs the risk of holding on to a declining asset. The stance being taken by both player and club is all part of a cat and mouse game – Kane wants to go, Spurs give the impression they don’t want to sell, City covet the player, but are keeping their powder dry. At the right price, the deal will surely be done and Kane will get the baubles he craves, Spurs will fund a new team.