English clubs break billion-dollar net spend barrier on international transfers

Paul Pogba became Manchester United's record signing when he joined from Juventus
Paul Pogba became Manchester United's record signing when he joined from Juventus

Net annual spending by English clubs in the global transfer market has exceeded one billion US dollars for the first time.

The landmark was revealed in the report on 2016 international deals by FIFA’s Transfer Matching System (TMS).

English clubs’ net spend of 1.06 billion dollars on players who were previously registered with other national associations equates to £840million.

It is more than double the amount paid out by Chinese clubs, who sit second on the global list with a net outlay of £350million (440.9 million dollars) internationally last year.

China in turn achieved double the net spend of German clubs, who are third on the list with a total of £173million (217.7 million dollars).

The report described the increase in China’s spending as “unprecedented”, with Chinese Super League clubs shelling out two and a half times what they spent in 2015.

China’s spending ranks behind only England, Germany, Spain and Italy, and their clubs recouped only negligible income from overseas player sales in 2016. The Chinese government recently warned clubs about “irrational spending”.

The huge investment from China in overseas talent is one of the report’s main talking points, with the Chinese Super League teams spending more than the rest of the Asian Football Confederation combined, but English clubs remain in a league of their own when it comes to spending on foreign players.

Fuelled by huge deals for the likes of Paul Pogba and Leroy Sane, who left Juventus and Schalke to join Manchester United and Manchester City respectively, FIFA figures show that English clubs invested almost £1.1billion in cross-border transfers last year, up 8.7 per cent, and recouped almost £250million in sales, down 41 per cent on 2015.

German clubs were the greatest recipient of English clubs’ money, taking a cumulative £190million, making German to England the top ‘transfer stream’ in global football, with France to England second, Spain to England third and Italy to England fourth, which underlines just how central English spending is to the global market.

But that market is growing almost everywhere, too, with the number of international transfers rising every year since it became mandatory for clubs to log overseas deals with FIFA TMS, an online platform set up to introduce more accountability and transparency to the system.

Overall, there were 14,591 international transfers in 2016, up 998 on 2015 and 2,586 more than on 2012. Two thirds of these, however, were for out-of-contract players, with a fifth being loan deals.

This means only one in seven transfers was a permanent deal involving a fee. These 2,105 deals, however, totalled a record £3.8billion in fees, with European clubs accounting for more than four fifths of the total. Clubs from the Oceania Football Confederation, on the other hand, did not complete a single transfer with a fee in 2016.

Spanish teams brought in the most money in fees, a total of £434million, with Italy, France, Portugal and Germany completing the top five and England in sixth place.

English clubs, however, topped the intermediaries’ fees table, with £97million going to agents last year for work on 259 transfers. This number does not include the money agents earn when representing players in deals.

English clubs also tended to buy younger players, with the average age of an arriving player being 22 years and eight months. Only Mauritius and Austria signed players from abroad with a younger average age.

In a conference call with reporters, FIFA TMS head of integrity and compliance Kimberly Morris said: “After so many years of using the transfer matching system, clubs know how much information they have to put in the system and we’re seeing more and more transparency in terms of the declarations of the transfer fee, which includes solidarity contributions and training compensation payments. So that’s very positive.”

Top 10 associations by net spending (figures are provided by FIFA in US dollars, sterling alternative is according to exchange rate on January 26, 2017):

1. England: 1.06 billion dollars (£840million)

2. China: 440.9 million dollars (£350million)

3. Germany: 217.7 million dollars (£173million)

4. Mexico: 52 million dollars (£41.3million)

5. Italy: 22.2 million dollars (£17.6million)

6. Saudi Arabia: 16.1 million dollars (£12.8million)

7. Greece: 11.9 million dollars (£9.4million)

8. United Arab Emirates: 10.8 million dollars (£8.6million)

9. United States: 9.1 million dollars (£7.2million)

10. Canada: 6.5 million dollars (£5.2million)