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Monthly Report reveals growing football transfer market inflation

All things being equal, the price of players during the last transfer window went up by 31% compared to the previous year. Since 2014, the annual inflation growth rate on the transfer market for big-5 league footballers has been 26%. With respect to 2011, the same player costs now almost three times more. More exclusive analysis is available in the 47th edition of the CIES Football Observatory Monthly Report.

The amounts at stake on the football players’ transfer market have strongly increased over the past decade. At big-5 league level, the investments in transfer indemnities have grown from €1.5 billion in 2010 to a new record of €6.6 billion in 2019 (+340%). During this period, big-5 league clubs have recorded a cumulative deficit of €8.9 billion. English Premier League clubs alone have a total net negative balance of €6.5 billion, with a record deficit for Manchester City (€1.1 billion).

Despite the increase in spending and a strongly inflationary context, the growing recourse by clubs to payments spread out over several years shows that more and more teams are finding themselves at the limit of their financial capabilities. In an increasingly speculative and uneven environment, a growing number of clubs, even within the most powerful leagues, include the profits made on the transfer market into their financial model. This situation is not without danger for their stability, independence and competitiveness.

Read the Report

Most expensive big-5 league players: Salah behind Mbappé

Issue number 265 of the Weekly Post presents the 100 players from the five major European leagues with the highest transfer values according to the freshly updated and further improved CIES Football Observatory algorithm. Three forwards are in the top three positions: Kylian Mbappé (€252M), Mohammed Salah (€219M) and Raheem Sterling (€208M).

Apart from strikers, the most expensive footballers per position are Alisson Becker (€107M) for goalkeepers, Trent Alexander-Arnold (€130M) for defenders and Paul Pogba (€125M) for midfielders. Lionel Messi (€167M) heads the rankings for players over 31 years of age, while Cristiano Ronaldo (€118M) tops the table for footballers aged 33 or more.

The CIES Football Observatory algorithm takes into account a wide array of variables such as age, contract, position, minutes, goals, international status, team results, etc. The estimates refer to the value for the most likely recruiting club. The price range for all of the big-5 league players can be accessed for free here. Deeper analysis is available on a consultancy basis.

Monthly Report shows development of women’s football

This new Monthly Report analyses the composition of teams participating in the five of the most developed women’s professional leagues worldwide: four European leagues (Germany, Sweden, France and England), as well as the National Women’s Soccer League in the United States. It reveals that the age of players increases, international mobility grows and the concentration of the best footballers within a limited number of clubs independently of their origin pursues its course.

The average age of players on the pitch has risen from 25.1 years of age in 2017 to 25.5 in 2019. The German Bundesliga is the only championship in which the average age on the pitch has fallen over the last three years. It is now the league fielding the youngest players among those covered by the study: 24.7 years of age (-0.8 since 2017). At the opposite end is the United States National Women’s Soccer League: 27.5 years of age (+1.3 years since 2017).

The percentage of minutes played by expatriates has increased for the third year running reaching a figure of 32.4% (+4.4% in comparison to 2017). The most notable increase was recorded in England (+7.5%), where more and more clubs invest in women’s football through reproducing the same mechanisms already observed in the men’s game. The total number of expatriates in the leagues covered increases year by year: from 300 in 2017, the figure reached 348 in 2018 and 379 in 2019.

Numerous teams play with a majority of footballers with international status. The percentage of minutes played by the latter reaches 99.0% at Bayern Munich and 98.8% at Arsenal. It is greater than 90% in three other teams: Wolfsburg, Manchester City, as well as at the multiple European champions Olympique Lyonnais (94.2%).

Though encouraging, the evolution noted shows the importance of reflecting on regulatory mechanisms to limit the negative effects due to market logics already observed in the men’s game such as, among others, the speculation on young players, the concentration of resources and competitive imbalance.

More and more points won by champions

What is the percentage of points won by champions in the five major European leagues? Issue number 264 of the CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post answers this question for the last twenty seasons. The analysis reveals a progressive increase in the percentage of points achieved by champions.

On average, big-5 league champions obtained 69.9% of points for the five-season period between 1999/2000 and 2003/2004. This percentage went up to 73.9% during the following lustrum, to 77.7% between 2010 and 2014, and again up to 80.5% for the last five seasons. This reflects an ongoing trend towards competitive imbalance.

The record figure overall was registered for Juventus in 2013/14: 89.5% of points. At the other extreme is Olympique Lyonnais in 2002/03: 59.6%. All 2018/19 big-5 league champions achieved at least three quarters of points: from 86.0% for Manchester City (second highest score in the English Premier League history) to 76.3% for Barcelona.

Length of passes: the best like it short

Issue number 263 of the CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post analyses the average length of passes by teams from 35 European domestic leagues. The study highlights big discrepancies in playing styles. There are almost 8 meters difference between the teams that executed the longest and shortest passes: Rotherham United (23.42m) and Paris St-Germain (15.85m). 

Many very competitive teams are in the top 25 of the rankings for the shortest passes, including Champions League semi-finalists FC Barcelona (2nd) and AFC Ajax (5th), as well as Europa League finalist Chelsea FC (4th). The vast majority of teams executing the longest passes are in the bottom-half of the table in their respective leagues. Getafe CF is the exception that confirms the rule. 

The analysis per league also reveals the persistence of cultural differences in the approach of the game. Teams from the Scottish Premier League (21.08m) and the English Championship (20.58m) execute on average the longest passes. At the opposite end of the table, we find the French Ligue 1 and the Finnish Veikkausliiga (18.89m in both cases). Data comes from InStat.

Report and Atlas on expatriate footballers disclosed

For the third year, the CIES Football Observatory analyses the presence of expatriate players in 147 leagues from 98 national associations. Brazil is clearly at the top of the rankings for countries exporting the most footballers (1,330 players), ahead of France (867) and Argentina (820). Alone, these countries export almost a quarter of footballers (22.5%). Overall, the number of expatriates increased by 5.0% compared to 2018.

During last year, the number of expatriates has increased for each of the three principle exporting countries: Brazil (+64 players, +4.8%), France (+37 players, +4.3%) and Argentina (+57 players, +7.0%). The number of Spaniards abroad has also strongly increased (+61 players, +14.3%). This is the second biggest increase in absolute terms after that of the Brazilians.

The most frequented migratory route originates from Brazil and ends in Portugal (261 players). The migration of Argentinians to Chili (116 players) is the second principle axis. Two migratory channels departing from England also involve many footballers: the first ends up in Scotland (113 players), while the second leads to Wales (92 players).

England and Italy are the chief importing countries of footballers. The professional clubs of these countries employ 728 and 636 expatriate players respectively. Without taking into account the 139 citizens of the other UK nations present in England, it is thus in Italy that the greatest number of players imported from abroad are to be found.

The CIES Football Observatory research team is also proud to disclose the brand new Atlas of Migration mapping the international flows of footballers.

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