ERIC WEIL in BUENOS AIRES: FIFA says 10,454 international transfers were registered in the first nine months of 2013 for a total of $3,360m. But the devil, for the rocky health of the world game, is very much in the detail . . . and, in certain instances, the lack of it.

Details for the rest of last year were not available but, while the number of transfers was slightly inferior to 2012´s 10,513, the cash was 29pc higher at $2,619m.

Gareth Bale: heart to heart, Spurs to Madrid

The world federation also says that, in those first nine months of last year, some 5,018 clubs from 164 countries were involved in the international transfers.

However, above details are based on FIFA’s transfer matching system for which both clubs are obliged to give details to specify where – and to whom – the money goes.


FIFA is right to be worried about the increasing cuts going to agents who took an average of 28pc commissions from transfers, some $163m last year of which $59m alone was paid by English clubs.

The world governing body wants to limit the amounts agents earn from transfers. It also wants to wind up the agents licensing system which has proved ineffective though this is partly the responsibility of the clubs: in older (and wiser) days transfers were arranged directly between clubs and a lot of money was saved which now flies straight out of the game.

Now between 25pc to 30pc of transfers are handled by unregistered go-betweens (lawyers, accountants, relatives and unregistered agents masquerading as any of the three).

According to FIFA, most transfers were between Brazil and Portugal (132) followed by Argentina and Chile (98) but the highest values were from Spain to England ($227m for 38 players) and Italy to England ($148m for 25 players).

No surprise to see documentary evidence that English clubs are the biggest spenders in the world game.

Now the world players union (FIFPro) has demanded a change in the transfer system and says it is prepared to go to law. FIFPro president Philippe Piatt says the current system fails most players, harms clubs and the world’s most popular game.

Piatt charges that the present system favours a small percentage of rich clubs and this will ruin the game.

He may be right but then action should have been taken years ago.

FIFPro’s other complaints concern thousands of players not paid on time or not at all, the amount of money paid to agents which is lost to football soccer and the ownership of players by third parties.

Right again . . . but FIFPro’s pursuit of total freedom of movement of players would only make things worse.

Meanwhile, UEFA president Michel Platini is somewhere in the middle. He also supports more freedom of movement for players but wants to keep a reformed, albeit shortened transfer windows system; he has described the current arrangement as “robbery”

Bale and Neymar

The world record €100m transfer of Gareth Bale from Tottenham to Real Madrid last summer is popularly supposed to have sparked the current debate but what really started the ball rolling was Neymar’s move from Santos to Barcelona.

This raised eyebrows because the Brazilian club received ‘only’ €17.1m of a €57.1m fee. What happened to the other €40m is now the subject of legal action in Catalonia by opponents of the club’s president, Sandro Rosell.

As for Argentina, up to the end of the Initial Championship in December clubs had sold 18 players abroad for a total of $54m last year – three more players than the year before but still a long way short of the 33 sold in 2010.

The money was 14pc more than the year before, but no information was available of the ‘real’ amount received by the selling clubs which, whatever the amount, was not used to ease their debts.

Almost half the amount mentioned was obtained for three players -Diván Zapata from Estudiantes de La Plata to Italy´s Napoli for $9.83m, Facundo Ferreira from Vélez Sarsfield to Ukraine’s Shakhtar Donetsk for $9.24m and Ignacio Scocco from Newell’s Old Boys to Internacional Porto Alegre for $6.5m.

Argentinian clubs sell cheaply because of their need of urgent cash, often ‘merely’ to balance their accounts for the year though the total debts increase.

Sadly players’ agents frequently urge players to move just to earn commissions. Yet in many cases, they arrange transfers of players who are not likely to make the grade abroad where they receive few first team chances.

It is no secret that a great deal of laundered money and tax evasion is involved in transfers; certainly within South America triangular transfers to evade taxes are devised. This involves a player moving from one club to a third before moving to the club which originally bought him.