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The amount spent on player transfers in international football fell for a second year in a row to its lowest for five years as the impact of the COVID pandemic continued to be felt across the game, according to figures released by FIFA on Friday.
The study showed that the total spend across the global game for the previous year was $4.86 billion (USD) down from $7.35 billion in 2019 and $5.63 billion in 2020.
However, the total number of transfers increased from 17,190 in 2020 to 18,068 in 2021, with clubs opting to hire more out-of-contract players.
“This means that while all clubs needed to freshen up their squads, clubs were not as eager to pay transfer fees, and therefore the total transfer fees hit a five-year low in 2021,” the report said.
English clubs were the highest spenders in international transfers with a total spend of $1.386 billion, and completed seven of the 10 biggest deals in 2021, with Romelu Lukaku, who signed for Chelsea from Inter Milan for a club-record fee of 97.5 million pounds ($133.88 million), topping the list.
The top 10 transfers generated close to 15% of the total spending on transfer fees in 2021.
While spending on players in women’s soccer remains a tiny fraction of the men’s game, the FIFA study showed that growth in activity continued despite the pandemic.
The amount spent by women’s clubs on transfers was $2.1 million, an increase of 72.8% compared to 2020 ($1.2 million).

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