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The value of football transfers globally in 2021 was the lowest for five years as the coronavirus pandemic took its toll on clubs’ finances for a second year, according to Fifa’s “Global Transfer Report”.

Spending on transfer fees was $4.86 billion, a fall of 13.6 per cent compared to 2020 and a decrease of 33.8 per cent compared to the record levels of 2019.

While the biggest transfer of 2021, Romelu Lukaku’s £97.5 million move from Inter Milan to Chelsea, caught the eye, overall transfer spending fell despite the number of transactions increasing.

A total of 18 068 transfers were registered, against 17 190 in 2020, a rise of five per cent.

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The top ten transfers alone generated almost 15 per cent of the total spending while the vast majority of moves – nearly 88 per cent – involved free transfers, suggesting cash-strapped clubs were looking for bargains.

“While all clubs needed to freshen up their squads (with the overall number of transfers at a similar level to the 2019 peak), clubs were not as eager to pay transfer fees,” the report said.

French players were the nationality that accounted for the highest amount of spending, with $643 million, displacing Brazil from the top spot.

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