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Transfer facts

Twice a year, a “transfer window” permits the world’s top football clubs to bid for the best players for the coming seasons. It’s a big deal. A time when hundreds of millions of pounds will change hands for the cream of the crop.

What else is there to know about the transfer market?

A Brief History

Before the beautiful game introduced the idea of professionalism in 1885, there was no transfer market in place.

Players could move freely and compete with any team they wanted. Not unlike a game of footy in the park with friends.

This changed when The Football Association (FA) introduced player registration. This meant players had to register with one club at the start of the season. A rule introduced to limit the amount of movement there was between clubs.

The player was then unable to move to a different club without asking permission, from the FA and the club he was registered with.

Of course, this was also a way for clubs to control fees and restrict any one team being able to gather all the best players.

THIS marks the moment money became key in the transfer market


Part of the deal with player registration meant, even if a player’s registration had expired, they were still held by that club. The club was not obliged to pay wages, or even play the player.

This meant players were in limbo until their club gave permission for them to be released.

Naturally, clubs realised they could demand a large sum of money as compensation for allowing players to move elsewhere.

The transfer market was born!

The Transfer Market Today

Flash forward to the 1990s and the idea of a “transfer window” is proposed and discussed by national associations. However, an official and compulsory transfer system, which FIFA instructed all clubs to follow, did not come to fruition until 2002. This system was introduced to provide clubs with stability and to prevent football agents from making deals all year round. Something premierleague.com notes could “interfere with players’ focus and disrupt team unity.” At this time, money in football was a big deal – but nowhere near what it is today. Today. It’s a COLOSSAL deal.

Up to speed? Check out this infographic to read transfer market highlights:

Money, Money, Money

As funny as it may seem, 40 years ago, signing a player for a million was a BIG deal. In fact, long before the concept of a “transfer window”, the first million-pound player was Trevor Francis in 1979. That fee was paid by Nottingham Forest to Birmingham City.

Now, players are swapped for hundreds of millions. In fact, in the table below, you can see the top 10 most expensive football transfers worldwide:
Almost 200 MILLION for Neymar? How far we’ve come since Trevor Francis and Patrick William “Willie” Groves. (N.B. Groves is widely considered to be the first player that cost over 100 to be transferred from one club to another.)

Closer to home, in the table below, you can see the top 10 most expensive football transfers between Premier League clubs:
As part of their research into the transfer market, football tickets site livefootballtickets.com took the 10 most expensive transfers between Premier League clubs (listed above) to find out which player has cost their club the most per appearance.

For example, in 2017, Romelu Lukaku transferred from Everton to Manchester United for a fee of £75,000,000.

To date, he has made 66 appearances for Man U.

This is equal to £1,136,363 per appearance.

The results can be seen here:

playerFeeAppearancesCost Per Arrearance (£)
Aaron Wan-Bissaka£50M6>8,333,333
Riyad Mahrez£60M35>1,714,285
Virgil van Dijk£75M60>1,250,000
Romelu Lukaku£75M66>1,136,363
Kyle Walker£50M73>684,931
John Stones£47M71>669,014
Gylfi Sigurdsson£45M73>616,438
Nemanja Matic£40M67>597,014
Fernando Torres£50M110>454,545
Raheem Sterling£44M138>318,840

To achieve the data, livefootballtickets.com took 3 steps:
  1. The 10 most expensive transfers between Premier League clubs were identified
  2. Player appearances at each “new” club were extracted using premierleague.com
  3. The estimated fee paid to each player was divided by the number of appearances

Results Highlights:

After making just 6 appearances for his club Manchester United, ,b>Aaron Wan-Bissaka tops the table with the highest cost per appearance.

In 2019, Wan-Bissaka’s transfer fee was estimated to be around £50M, which roughly equates to £8,333,333 per appearance; yards ahead of any other player analysed.

Virgil van Dijk and Romelu Lukaku, receivers of the highest transfer fees paid between Premier League clubs, are worth noting too.

The biggest transfer fee (£75M) paid for a defender at the time (2018), van Dijk has made 60 appearances for Liverpool so far at an astonishing cost of £1,250,000 per game.

But it now looks like a massive bargain after the agile Dutchman played an influential role in helping the Reds secure the 2018/19 Champions League trophy.

Similarly, in 2017, a fee of £75M was paid by Manchester United to Everton for Lukaku. Subsequently he has made 66 appearances at Manchester United. A costly breakdown of £1,136,363 per game during his time at Old Trafford.

Meanwhile, certain clubs have got their moneys worth from players like Fernando Torres and Raheem Sterling.

In 2011, a fee of £50M was paid by Chelsea to Liverpool for Torres. Since then he has gone on to make 110 appearances for Chelsea, at a bargain price of £454,545 per game.

No one is a better deal than Sterling.

In 2015, a fee of £44M was paid by Manchester City to Liverpool for Sterling. Since then he has gone on to make 138 appearances for Man City. A breakdown of just £318,840 per game.

Not bad considering that the dynamic English superstar has gone on to win multiple individual, as well as team, honors and establish himself as one of the best players in the game.