According to FIFA’s Transfer Matching System report, there were 14,591 international transfers last year, nearly 1,000 more than in 2015 (13,601), coming to a record total cost of $4.791 billion. European clubs dominated the market, being both the most active in the market and the highest spenders: they accounted for 8,346 (61.36%) of all transfers, spending $3.934 billion.
Although 2016 was the year that saw Chinese Super League clubs’ expenditure hit new heights, the Premier League’s transfer business continues to dwarf that of their closest rivals. English clubs spent $1.372 billion on players in 2016, well ahead of second-placed Germany, whose clubs completed transfers to the tune of $576.4 million last year.
China has seen a rapid increase in the sums of money being spent, rising from being the 20th ranked club in terms of money spent on players ($27.8 million) in 2013 to the 5th highest last year ($451.3 million), behind only England, Germany, Spain and Italy. This outlay was 334.4% more than the rest of the Asian Football Confederation combined; moreover, it is a 168% increase on their total spending in 2015 when they spent $168.3 million, a mere 10.3% more than all other AFC clubs combined.
English clubs spent 43% of the total spent by clubs in Europe’s top 5 leagues (England, Germany, Spain, Italy and France), an increase of 8.7% on the previous year. They also spent the most on commission payments to intermediaries ($122 million). Notably, the only other nation to spend anywhere near the same amount was Italy ($109 million) – German clubs, in third place, spent just $32 million.
Overall Italian clubs were the fourth highest spenders in 2016 with $505.8 million spent on players, but they also brought in $486.2 million (only Spain brought in more revenue through transfers). This marks a notable increase of 44.6% compared to transfers completed in 2015, and nearly three quarters of this revenue (72%) was through sales made to clubs in the cash-rich Premier League ($210.3 million) or La Liga ($139.6 million).
Permanent transfers, though, are only a small part (11.8%) of all the business conducted in the transfer market. Overall, the vast majority of deals were for out of contract players, who accounted for 66.2% of all transfers last year. The remainder is made up of players moving to another club on loan (13.7%) or who were returning from a loan spell (8.4%).