Doha: Clubs worldwide spent a record $9.63 billion on international transfers in 2023, an increase of nearly 50 per cent compared to 2022, world soccer's governing body FIFA said in its Global Transfer Report published on Tuesday.
After transfer spending fell in 2020 and 2021 due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, outlays on players have only increased, with last year's total spend seeing an increase of 48.1 per cent compared to 2022.
The figure also smashed the previous record set in 2019 by more than $2 billion, with English clubs spending the most with a new high of $2.96 billion while four countries' associations received more than $1 billion in transfer fees in 2023.
England were followed by Saudi Arabian clubs who tried to draw some of the best players from European sides to the Saudi Pro League last year following the marquee signing of Cristiano Ronaldo, which saw several players move to the Middle East.
"Clubs from Saudi Arabia featured among the top five spenders for the first time with a total outlay of $970 million in 2023, compared to $50.4 million in 2022," FIFA said.
"Clubs from Germany were the number one recipients of transfer fees with a total of almost $1.21 billion, the first-ever time that clubs from any one association have received more than $1 billion in transfer fees in a calendar year.
"That being said, three more associations also joined Germany in this exclusive group in 2023: France ($1.19 billion), England ($1.04 billion) and Italy ($1.02 billion).
The top men's transfers include Jude Bellingham from Borussia Dortmund to Real Madrid, Enzo Fernandez from Benfica to Chelsea and Harry Kane from Tottenham Hotspur to Bayern Munich.
"The top 10 player transfers alone generated more than 10 per cent of the entire amount spent on transfer fees in 2023," FIFA added.
Women's football also had 20 per cent more international transfers last year compared to 2022, with the number of clubs involved rising from 507 in 2022 to 623 in 2023.
FIFA said a record 131 associations were involved in 1,888 women's transfers, with the annual outlay hitting $6.1 million -- also a record and an 84.2 per cent increase from 2022.
The biggest international transfers in women's football included Jill Roord from VfL Wolfsburg to Manchester City, Kyra Cooney-Cross from Hammarby to Arsenal and Lindsey Horan from Portland Thorns to Olympique Lyonnais.
However, 84.7 per cent of the transfers were for out-of-contract women's players.
FIFA also said that more than 50,000 amateur players moved across borders to join a club in a new association, with 91.7 per cent of those being male players.