Football: English clubs spend most, but Fifa report highlights Covid-19's impact on transfer market

Fifa registered a total of 17,077 international transfers, compared to 18,047 in 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP, REUTERS) - The number of international transfers of male players in 2020 dropped by 5.4 per cent compared to the previous year, while total transfer fees were down significantly, by 23.4 per cent, due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, a Fifa report published on Monday (Jan 18) revealed.

In its Global Transfer Market Report, world football's governing body said that the total amount spent on transfer fees of US$5.63 billion (S$7.48 billion) was down by US$1.7 billion on 2019, a fall of nearly a quarter to the lowest cumulative amount since 2016.

The total was the lowest amount spent on players since 2016 when US$4.6 billion exchanged hands over deals.

The bulk of transfer spend comes from European clubs and most faced a stoppage of play after lockdown restrictions were brought in from March.

Unsurprisingly, English clubs spent by far the most, with transfer fees totalling some US$1.63 billion, followed by Italian clubs who spent a combined US$731.5 million on international moves. Spanish clubs received the most, the report said, with US$785.7 million.

Without giving a specific figure, Fifa said that Chelsea spent the most of any club in Europe ahead of Manchester United and Manchester City, followed by Barcelona, Juventus and Leeds United.

Meanwhile Manchester City reported the most outgoing transfers of any club, with 45, two more than Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb and Watford.

Fifa registered a total of 17,077 international transfers, compared to 18,047 in 2019 and the first decline from year to year since 2010.

There were still more transfers than in all of 2018, but Fifa said "the downward trend is clearly due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic". The report reveals that only 11.6 per cent of all transfers involved players making permanent moves from one club to another, while a large majority - some 62.5 per cent - involved transfers of players who were out of contract.

The number of big-money deals is a small part of the overall market - in terms of international transfers with transfer fees the majority (55.7 per cent) involved fees of less than US$500,000.

Indeed, only 1.3 per cent of all transfers involved a fee of over US$5 million, with much of all the money spent concentrated on a select few players.

The report lists the top 10 transfers in the men's game, with Kai Havertz's move from Bayer Leverkusen to Chelsea featuring prominently alongside the likes of Arthur Melo's transfer from Barcelona to Juventus, Victor Osimhen going from Lille to Napoli, Bruno Fernandes joining Manchester United from Sporting Lisbon and Ruben Dias leaving Benfica for Manchester City.

While spending on players in women's football remains a tiny fraction of that in the men's game, the Fifa figures showed that growth in activity continued despite the pandemic. Fifa said this reflected "the impressive strides being made as more and more female football players are turning professional every year".

Clubs completed 1,035 deals, an increase of 23.7 per cent on the previous years. Most deals in the women's game continue to feature out-of-contract players with no money exchanged (87.6 per cent).

The biggest transfer in the women's game was Pernille Harder's switch from Wolfsburg to Chelsea, followed by the transfer of Malawi's Temwa Chawinga from Sweden to Wuhan Jiangda in China.

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