Spending on men’s international transfer fees over the last decade increased from $2.66 billion in 2012 to a peak of $7.35bn in 2019 with $48.5bn spent overall, while players’ agents received $3.5bn in commissions, a study by world governing body FIFA said.
The study said average transfer fees for players moving to a club in a different country rose steadily between 2012 and 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic strained finances and led to a drop in 2020, when $5.63bn was spent. The top 30 spending clubs are all based in Europe.
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Brazilian players were the most on the move, topping the list with over 15,000 moving between clubs in different countries.
“From 11,890 transfers conducted in 2011 to a peak of 18,079 in 2019, a total of 133,225 international transfers and loans of professional players took place,” FIFA said.
“The transfers involved 66,789 players and 8,264 clubs across 200 FIFA member associations, thus underlining football’s role in the global economy.”
English clubs spent the most in the last decade at $12.4bn, followed by Spain ($6.7bn), Italy ($5.6bn), Germany ($4.4bn) and France ($4bn).
The only non-European country in the top 10 was China, where clubs spent $1.7bn in transfers as they tried to attract high-profile players to the Chinese Super League.
Player agents’ commissions jumped from $131.1m in 2011 to $640.5m in 2019, almost a five-fold increase.
Along with Porto, the three Portuguese sides have had a great deal of success in signing or developing young talent and selling their rights for big profits, topping the list of clubs with a positive net balance from transfer fees.
City and Chelsea both had over 200 players go on loan — more than any other club.