Football’s World Record Transfers – Overview

The inaugural visualisation for Pretty Pictures Tell Stories – an analysis of the top 50 world record football (or “sahcar” for my America friends) transfers.

Running from 1999 to this year, the visualisation shows the total volume and value (in GBP) over time; the positions the players play in; the players nationality; the exporting country (where the player is moving from); and the importing country (where the player is moving to).

Clicking on any element of the visualisation will filter across that dimension – clicking on the 2007/2008 bar will filter down to show you the positions of those players who moved, the nationality of those players, and where they moved from and to; clicking on a position will show the years players moved, nationality, where they moved from and to; and so on.

Some cool top-level observations:

  • Attacking players make up the bulk of transfers – mainly centre forwards, with a huge 20 record-breakers.
  • Only a single goalkeeper, right back, left midfielder and right midfielder have broken into the top 50.
  • Brazil lead the way in Nationalities, with 8 Brazilians involved.
  • Italy lead the way in exports, with 17 players playing there leaving their club and entering the top 50 as a result. The UK and Spain come joint second, with 10 each. Brazil, with 2, falls way behind – meaning that most of the Brazilians breaking the record first moved to another European country for a lower fee, before then moving again to break into the top 50.
  • The UK lead the way in imports, with 16 players breaking into the top 50 when they moved to a club there. Spain are a little behind, with 14. Interestingly, the UK total spend is a little over £595 million, but Spain come in at £703 million, spending far more than any other country on big transfers.
  • The 2001/2002 season really stands out, with the second highest total spend on big transfers, apart from the 2013/2014 season, and the second highest number of moves (8 moves), again only coming behind the 2013/2014 season (9 moves).
  • Looking at players from the UK, 5 of them are included in the top 50: 1 move each in 2002/2003, 2003/2004 and 2004/2005, and two moves in 2013/2014. The players were a centre back (Rio Ferdinand), a centre forward (Andy Carroll), a central midfielder (David Beckham), a left winger (Gareth Bale) and a support striker (Wayne Rooney). 3 stayed in the UK to ply their trade, while two moved to Spain.

Data source:

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