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FIFA publishes Global Transfer Report 2021

On Friday, January 14, FIFA published the 2021 edition of the Global Transfer Report, which charts the transfers of men’s and women’s players in both professional and amateur football.

Although the global pandemic has caused major financial problems for many clubs around the world, the amount of international transfers recorded in 2021 doesn’t seem to reflect this.

Transfers in men’s football back to pre-pandemic levels

In total, 18,068 international transfers were recorded in men’s professional football in 2021, which is an increase of 5.1% compared to 17,190 in 2020. A new record total of 4,544 different clubs from 185 different associations were involved in these transfers.

The prior mentioned amount of international transfers is remarkably close to the all-time high of 18,080 in 2019, which seems to be a signal that world football is heading in the right direction after the major financial hit it took from the pandemic.

This is (at least partly) due to FIFA’s carefully planned assistance for member states, clubs and players, which included financial support packages and amendments to several legislations.

Although international transfer numbers almost hit an all-time high last year, the total spending of transfer fees actually hit a five-year low. In total, 4.86 billion USD was spent on player transfers, which is a 13.6% decrease compared to 2020, and 33.8% below the all-time high of 7.35 billion USD in 2019.

Women’s football keeps growing and growing

As international transfers in women’s football now follow the same procedure as ones in the men’s game (through FIFA TMS), we’re definitely seeing consistent growth.

Although the number of transfers and transfer fee amounts are much lower compared to the equivalent figures in the men’s game, the numbers keep increasing year after year. It’s also safe to say that we would’ve seen much bigger growth if it hadn’t been for the pandemic.

Women’s football continued to show steady growth in 2021, with 1304 international transfers being recorded last year, a 26.2% increase compared to the previous year, which had also seen a 23.3% increase compared to the year before that.

The number of clubs involved in these transfers also increased from 347 in 2020 to 414 last year.

What’s going to happen in 2022?

Although the pandemic certainly had a major financial impact on world football, FIFA’s measures to support member states, clubs and players did a great job of minimising the damage. As world football seems to be recovering, we’ll most likely see an increase in aggregate spending on transfer fees in 2022.

Thinking more about the long term, the number of international transfers is expected to keep growing like it has done over the last 5 years, with the obvious exception of 2020.

As we’ll see more and more (international) transfers happening in the future, involving higher transfer fees, we might also see an increased need for specialised agents and lawyers to guide players in the process of signing new contracts.

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