Analysis of FIFA’s mid-year review of the international transfer market

FIFA’s mid-year review of the international transfer market reported that in the first six months of 2012, professional football clubs saw a 9% decrease in the total number of player transfers on the same time period in 2011.  Almost three quarters (72%) of the 4,973 transfers were for players who were out of contract at the time of their transfer, with the remainder of transfers spread almost equally across permanent engagements (8%), loan engagements (12%), and players returning from loan (8%).  These statistical breakdowns do not represent a significant change over the same time period in 2011.

As detailed in the table below, club to club agreements were dominated by free loans and permanent player purchases.  FIFA notes that 55% of the transfers conducted by means of a club-to-club agreement (permanent engagements and loan deals) involved payments between clubs, a number that is down 3% from the same time in 2011.  Notably, the total amount of financial compensation (through fixed and conditional transfer fees) for player transfers was down to $576 million, a decrease of 34% over the same time period in 2011.  There are a number of potential causes for this significant drop in inter-club financial compensation: the global recession may have tightened credit in the transfer market, spending by the small number of wealthy clubs that have driven higher transfer compensation in recent years may have decreased, and the FIFA Financial Play Regulations may be causing free-spending clubs to reconsider spending tendencies.

The FIFA report also detailed the transfer market both in terms of volume and money spent for each national football association.  Brazil had had the most traffic of any association in the world at 708 transfers, with 478 incoming and 230 outgoing.  Following Brazil with the most combined incoming and outgoing transfers were England (326), Argentina (247), Portugal (217), and Sweden (203).  Clubs in the Russian association spent the most money on players during this time period at over $64 million, followed by Brazil at $62 million.  In addition to being supported by wealthy owners and oil money, the Russian transfer markets were open for a longer amount of time during this period due to the irregular calendar of its league.  Brazilian clubs were the largest recipients of transfer fees at almost $65 million, a number that is likely to rise dramatically in the second half of the year due to Chelsea FC’s recent purchase of Oscar and the potential sales of Ganso to Arsenal FC and Lucas Moura to Manchester United.

While FIFA’s report provides informative statistical insights into major trends for 2012’s transfer markets, it does not incorporate transfer dealings in the now-open summer window for European clubs, when the majority of football’s biggest moves take place each year.  With increasingly competitive domestic league landscapes and the influx of uber-wealthy club owners across the world, the next few months promise to manufacture the usual drama associated with football’s transfer market.

Reporting on the business side of the world's game.