Spending and activity in men’s and women’s football around the world have broken new records, according to a report by FIFA.

Men’s football clubs worldwide spent a record $7.36 billion on transfers in the summer transfer window (between 1 June and 1 September), representing a 47 per cent jump from the mid-year window in 2022.

Spending on transfers in women’s football doubled over the same period, reaching a new mid-year record of $3.0 million. The number of transfers also rose for the sixth consecutive year, with a record 829 (+19.1 per cent over the previous period) – of which 66 (+83.3 per cent) were for fees.

Who spent what?

In the men’s game, England topped the list during the winter transfer window spending $1.98 billion on transfer fees, while also signing (449) and selling (514) more players than any other country.

The Saudi Professional League clubs have achieved great success in more ways than one, with their summer revenues of $875.4 million taking second place, ahead of the remaining five major European leagues: France ($859.7 million), Germany ($762.4 million), Italy ($711.0 million). . and Spain ($405.6 million).

As a result, clubs in the AFC region accounted for 14.0 per cent of global transfer spending – the first time that teams from a continental confederation other than UEFA have exceeded the 10 per cent share of the total.

Germany has recorded $1.11 billion in profits from its transfer business, the first time that clubs from a single association have earned more than $1 billion in the mid-year transfer window.

Agent fees also reached a new all-time high, with $696.6 million paid during the period, bringing the total agent fees for 2023 year-to-date to $853.0 million, which is 36.9 percent higher than it was in all of 2022 and more than at any other time. another year. .

Analysis of Saudi spending

Saudi Arabia’s spending in the transfer window, which closed on September 7, has exceeded that of four of Europe’s top five leagues, with only the Premier League ahead of the Middle Eastern country.

“This is the first time since 2016 that another international league has outperformed any of Europe’s ‘big five’ during football transfers…” said Izzy Wray of Deloitte’s Sports Business Group.

He added, “European football is still the standard for the game in the world, and Saudi investment in the game will shift its focus towards infrastructure, to raise the level of Asian football.”

Earlier this year, the Saudi Public Investment Fund announced a project to invest and privatize sports clubs, which includes league champions Al-Ittihad, Al-Ahly, Al-Nasr and Al-Hilal, with a group of senior players moving to the league.

The Public Investment Fund owns 75% of each of the four clubs, while its non-profit affiliates own 25% of each.

The biggest transfer move this window has come from Saudi Arabia’s most successful club, Al-Hilal, who spent £86.3m to bring in Brazilian striker Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain.

In addition to Neymar, Al-Hilal also spent a lot of money to sign Aleksandar Mitrovic, Kalidou Koulibaly, Ruben Neves and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.

The Saudi league champion, Al-Ittihad, signed Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante, and Fabinho, while Al-Nasr, led by Cristiano Ronaldo, signed Ottavio, Sadio Mane, Emeric Laporte, Marcelo Brozovic, and Alex Telles.

Al-Ahly, who returned to the professional league after a season in the second division, also completed a series of signings, including Jabri Vega, Riyad Mahrez, Roberto Firmino, Edouard Mendy, Alain Saint-Maximin and Merih Demiral.

“The implementation of the privatization program in the Kingdom is likely to generate a wave of interest around the SPL, which could fuel the current spending pattern of the upcoming windows,” Ray said.

“With the purchasing power of the Premier League already surpassing some of the ‘big five’ in Europe, it remains to be seen what effect this will have on the formation of elite football for generations to come.”

Despite all its expenditures, SPL still fails to achieve some of its biggest goals.

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah has been a target for Al-Ittihad, who reportedly received a £150m bid rejected by the Premier League club, while ambitious offers from Al-Hilal to sign Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe fell through.

Saudi Arabia has made huge investments in football, Formula 1, boxing, tennis and golf in recent years.

Critics accuse Saudi Arabia of using the Public Investment Fund to engage in “sports whitening” in the face of harsh criticism of the country’s human rights record.

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