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In association football, a transfer is the action taken whenever a player moves between clubs. It refers to the transferring of a player's registration from one club to another. In general the players can only be transferred during a transfer window and according to the rules set by a governing body.

Fees

When a footballer is under contract with a club, he can only leave if the club agrees to terminate this contract. As a way of compensation, the club to whom the player is transferring will usually pay a capital sum. This is known as the 'transfer fee'. As part of the transfer deal, a proportion of the fee may go to the player himself and any agents involved in the deal. The exact percentage is subject to the regulations of the relevant governing body.

Historically, transfer fees were paid to a club even when the player was out of contract. The Bosman ruling ended this practice when the European Union ruled that any club demanding a fee for players out of contract was an illegal restriction on the free movement of workers. UEFA regulations still state that a fee must be paid for players under the age of 23 in consideration for the viability of lower income clubs. This may be arbitrated by a tribunal if it cannot be agreed upon between the two clubs.

Transfers may also involve a part-exchange, in which some or all of the capital fee is paid for by trading another player from the signing club to the selling club. Other methods of paying a transfer fee include:
  • Clauses depending on the player's success at the signing club (e.g. an extra fee if the player scores a total of 20 goals in his first season, or makes a given number of appearances)
  • Clauses depending on the signing club's success following the transfer
  • Clauses allowing the selling club to profit from any future transfers of the player (a "sell-on fee"). A notable example of a club that benefited from such a clause is Accrington Stanley, whose rise from the lower reaches of non-league English football to their current position in League Two was given a significant boost by the sell-on clause that was negotiated in its 1997 transfer of Brett Ormerod to Blackpool. The clause was triggered in 2001 when Blackpool sent Ormerod to Southampton.
  • Friendly matches between the two teams, in which the selling club receives all the gate receipts
  • The introduction of other reciprocal arrangements e.g. the signing club may agree to aid the selling club by the improvement of training facilities, or sharing of resources and coach
  • In lower leagues payment in terms of goods, notably playing kit and equipment has occasionally occurred.


Additionally, a single fee may be used to buy the registration of many players at once.

FIFA's solidarity mechanism

On 19 October 2003 FIFAmarker issued regulations and annexes that cover training compensation and a solidarity mechanism for the movement of players across borders.

If a player moves during the course of a contract, after reaching the age of 23 or after his second transfer (whichever comes first), a proportion (5%) of any compensation paid to the previous club will be distributed to the club(s) involved in the training and education of the player. This distribution will be made in proportion to the number of years the player has been registered with the relevant clubs between the age of 12 and 23.

The nature of the 5% that comes from the solidarity mechanism is in some sense a return in investment for the nursery club.

Medical examination

Players will commonly undergo a medical examination and/or physical fitness test before a transfer completes. Occasionally, previously unknown medical problems will be detected, potentially jeopardizing the transfer or the size of the fee.

Transfer bans

One method of club punishment used by the football governing body FIFAmarker is a ban on transfers.

In 2005 A.S. Roma were given a one year transfer ban by FIFAmarker, beginning on 1 July, when in September 2004 French centre back Philippe Mexès joined the club while still under contract with AJ Auxerre. On appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in December 2005, the ban was reduced to end after the January transfer window, but CAS upheld the view that Roma had "not only encouraged Mexes to break his contract with Auxerre but actively provoked the break".

In April 2009 FC Sion were told by FIFAmarker that they could not sign any players until the 2010 offseason, as punishment for signing Egyptian goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary from Al-Ahly in 2008 before his contract expired. The club appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, who froze the sanction pending a ruling, expected by the end of 2009.

On 3 September 2009 Chelsea F.C. were banned from registering any new players in the January and Summer 2010 transfer windows, after FIFAmarker's dispute resolution chamber (DRC) ruled that French winger Gael Kakuta had breached his contract with French club RC Lens when he joined Chelsea in 2007, and that Chelsea had induced him to do so. Manchester Utd could now face a similar ban after Le Havremarker reported them for signing Paul Pogba. Le Havre President Jean-Pierre Louvel told radio station France Info : "The player had a no-hire agreement, and so had to sign his first contract in France. But he didn't sign it because Manchester United contacted the parents and made astronomical and excessive financial propositions for a 15-year-old boy." However, Manchester United have threatened to sue Le Havre if they repeat this allegation. Manchester United were eventually cleared of wrongdoing by a judge appointed by FIFA.

Highest fees

The following table shows the top 10 highest transfer fees ever paid in GBP. All the transfer fees over £25 million have involved clubs in England, Italy or Spain on both sides of the deal.

European football experienced a "transfer bubble" fuelled by rapidly rising television rights sales between 1999 and 2002, and fees then fell away significantly. The three most expensive transfers since that time were all made by Spanish clubs in 2009, two by Real Madrid and one by Barcelona. In June 2009, Real purchased Kaká from Milan for a fee of £56 million, followed shortly thereafter by their £80 million purchase of Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United. Barça followed a month later with a deal to acquire Zlatan Ibrahimović from Internazionale totaling £60.7 million. Since Internazionale also received top goal scorer Samuel Eto'o from Barcelona, many regard this transfer the most expensive in history. Rio Ferdinand's included performance-related clauses, as may some of the other deals. This leads to different figures being given by different sources. Such performance related clauses have become more common since the bursting of the transfer bubble, meaning that it is harder to produce definitive lists of the largest transfer fees than was the case in the past.

Rank Player From To Transfer Fee

(£ millions)
Transfer Fee

( millions)
Year CPI UK Fee Equivalent

(2005 £ millions)
1 Cristiano Ronaldo Manchester United Real Madrid 80.0 93.1 2009 110.1 72.7
2 Zlatan Ibrahimović Internazionale Barcelona 60.7 69.0 2009 55.2
3 Kaká Milan Real Madrid 56.1 65.1 2009 110.1 51.0
4 Zinédine Zidane Juventus Real Madrid 45.0 78.0 2001 94.2 48.8
5 Luís Figo Barcelona Real Madrid 37.0 58.5 2000 92.8
6 Hernán Crespo Parma Lazio 35.5 53.6 2000 94.9 39.9
7 Gianluigi Buffon Parma Juventus 32.6 49.2 2001 94.2 34.6
8 Robinho Real Madrid Manchester City 32.5 49.0 2008 109.7 29.6
9 Christian Vieri Lazio Internazionale 32.0 48.3 1999 92.3 34.7


References

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