Each summer, hundreds of millions of dollars change hands as the world’s top football clubs vie for the best players for the coming seasons. But what actually is a transfer, and how does it work?
Why should I care?
There’s crazy money in it. Brazilian superstar Neymar recently moved from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain for 222 million euros ($265 million). This is more than double the previous record of 105m euros ($125m), paid for French player Paul Pogba. And that was only set last year. There’s no cap on how much a team can spend on players. So where does it end?
What is it?
Football is a global marketplace and top players relocate constantly. David Beckham, for example, played for clubs in the UK, Spain, US, Italy and France over the course of his career. Professional players sign contracts with clubs for a fixed term of up to five years. If a player transfers before their contract expires, the new club pays compensation to the old one. This is known as a transfer fee.
When do transfers happen?
Twice a year. FIFA regulations set out two annual periods during which clubs can buy in foreign players, known as transfer windows. The longer transfer window falls between seasons and the shorter one falls mid-season, but the exact timing is set by individual countries’ football associations. In many European countries the summer transfer window closes on August 31. In the US it closed on August 9.
Is that it?
No. The player, their agent, the club and all their lawyers must thrash out a new contract. This includes details of salaries and bonuses, such as signing-on and loyalty bonuses. Players also undergo medical examinations to check they are fit to play. If this reveals previously undetected injuries, it can affect the size of the transfer fee.
Who gets the money?
That 222m-euro sum doesn’t get paid to Neymar. PSG paid it to FC Barcelona to secure his services. Technically speaking, they paid the buyout clause in Neymar’s old Barcelona contract, which was set at 222m euros. Neymar’s father, agent and others will share a 38m euro ($45m) payment for facilitating the move, according to some reports.
PSG will then pay Neymar’s wages – around 45m euros ($54m) a year before tax – and hope to make a profit off his name and image. Image rights can be a big sticking point when negotiating contracts. Clubs generally demand the exclusive right to control how images of the player appear in advertising and publicity. But players are…