English clubs dominate international transfer spend in 2021 with £1bn outlay

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian
  • Fifa report shows English teams did seven of 10 biggest deals

  • Spend in women’s game grows by 72.8% as men’s figure falls


English clubs spent the most on international transfers of any country and completed seven of the 10 biggest international deals in 2021, according to new data from Fifa.

Fifa’s Global Transfer Report, which excludes domestic deals, also shows that clubs in England sold the most players and recouped the most transfer fees too, as the financial dominance of the country’s football in the world game was confirmed, despite an overall drop in transfer spending.

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The report shows that $4.86bn (£3.5bn) was spent worldwide in 2021 in recruiting footballers, falling by as much as a third from the record totals set pre-pandemic in 2019. Nearly 88% of transfers did not involve a fee.

English clubs’ spending fell too this year, from $1.627bn (£1.2bn) in 2020 to $1.386bn (£1bn) last year. At more than a quarter of all spending, however, it was more than $400m higher than the second-highest spenders, Italy.

Romelu Lukaku’s £97.5m transfer to Chelsea from Internazionale was the biggest international deal of 2021, with Jadon Sancho’s £73m move from Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United the second-biggest. Raphaël Varane, Ibrahima Konaté and Martin Ødegaard also feature, but included in the top 10 global deals were some signings who have barely registered in the Premier League to date: Amad Diallo, who joined Manchester United from Udinese, and Bryan Gil, who signed for Spurs from Sevilla. As a transfer within a domestic league,Jack Grealish’s £100m move from Aston Villa to Manchester City does not feature.

Amad Diallo, who has made one appearance for Manchester United, was among the top 10 international deals.
Amad Diallo, who has made one appearance for Manchester United, was among the top 10 international deals. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Tammy Abraham’s move from Chelsea to Roma was the fifth-biggest international move of the year, evidence of English football also being able to recoup money through sales. English clubs took more money in transfer fees than any other country, recouping $548m of the money they spent, and they sold or loaned more players than any other country too. English clubs sold or loaned 885 players, with Manchester City top of the global list with 41, and Wolves also appearing in the top 10, with 30.

Fifa’s report shows the vast majority of transfer revenues stay at the top of the game. There were 2,230 transfers that commanded a fee in 2021 (and 15,838 that did not). The top 100 commanded more than 50% of all fees.

The overall picture was quite different in the women’s game. In 2021 the international transfer spend grew by 72.8% on the year before, albeit to a total of $2.1m – a level very different to the men’s game. There was also a substantial growth in the number of players transferred, the 1,304 international deals up by a quarter on 2020.

Although English clubs were lower down the list of spending in the women’s game, the WSL recorded the biggest international transfer in 2021, when Hanna Bennison joined Everton from Rosengård.

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