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FIFA research pegs 5 top clubs for skewing $3.7BN international transfer deal market in 2013

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GENEVA - Just five football clubs spent almost a quarter of the $3.7 billion splurged on international transfer deals processed by FIFA in 2013.

Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City, Tottenham and Real Madrid spent $828 million in cross-border trades, according to figures published Wednesday by FIFA which clears such deals only when both clubs involved file mandatory financial details.

The market peaked with Madrid's world record 100 million euros ($132 million) buy of Gareth Bale from Tottenham last August.

"There are just a very few clubs making very big moves and that is skewing the market, but the rest of the market is very stable," Mark Goddard, general manager of FIFA Transfer Matching System (TMS), told reporters.

Global spending rose 41 per cent year-on-year according to the annual TMS report, which excludes deals between two clubs in the same country.

FIFA presented the figures after the international players' union FIFPro this month pledged to legally challenge the entire transfer system as a restraint of labour freedom.

A FIFA-funded research centre in Switzerland also questioned this week if more trading was good for European football, which paid 90 per cent of transfer fees recorded by FIFA.

"The cloud of economic stakes that hangs over sporting logics is flagrant in many clubs and countries," reported the CIES Football Observatory based in Neuchatel, noting a "trend that is difficult to understand."

FIFA's report offered no opinion on the multi-billion dollar market, though cited three main reasons for the spending rise: so-called "super-clubs," the English Premier League's spiraling broadcast rights value and high turnover of coaches at leading clubs.

Monaco's lavish spending — including on Colombia forward Radamel Falcao — followed a takeover by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, while PSG and Man City are backed by the Qatar and Abu Dhabi ruling families, respectively.

Tottenham reinvested after selling Wales winger Bale, while Madrid's commercial income of $703 million last season led all clubs for a ninth year.

England was runaway leader in the league table of nations by net spending in international transfers, FIFA said.

English clubs spent $613 million more than they received, followed by Turkish clubs' net deficit of $134 million.

Agents and intermediaries got $74 million from English clubs, and took $216 million in total worldwide. That increased by $50 million, or 30 per cent, on FIFA's 2012 research.

Earnings of agents acting for players are not logged by the FIFA transfer system.

Despite the Bale deal and Barcelona's reported $74 million fee for Brazil star Neymar from Santos, Spanish clubs topped the net earners in 2013.

Spain collectively received $246 million more than it spent — boosted by Falcao's move from Atletico Madrid for a reported $78 million. Clubs in Brazil earned $239 million and Portuguese clubs got $219 million net.

Cracking down on suspected money laundering and ensuring greater transparency in the transfer market was part of FIFA's stated goal when it made transfer matching mandatory in 2010, and clubs can be disciplined for breaches.

"It's important for us to demonstrate that it's not a paper tiger," Goddard said in a conference call Tuesday.

However, he declined comment on disputed details of Neymar's transfer which forced Barcelona president Sandro Rosell to resign last week.

A Barcelona club member alleges Rosell used false contracts to hide the true value, up to $129 million, of the deal which involved three other companies owning shares in Neymar's economic rights.

FIFA is weighing rules to restrict so-called "Third Party Ownership" after UEFA demanded action against a practice banned in some countries, including England.

Other figures released by FIFA include:

- Nine countries accounted for $3 billion in spending; 14 more — including Brazil, the United States and Qatar — spent a further $516 million; the remaining $115 million was spent by 116 countries.

- 41 FIFA member countries were not involved in any international transfers.

- Of 12,309 transfers processed (up 4 per cent), only 1,628 involved a fee. Out-of-contract players made up 69 per cent of transfers.

- Brazil was the busiest country: 1,558 transfers involving Brazilian players and 1,402 involved Brazilian clubs.

- Clubs in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia combined for net spending of $110m, mostly on players near the end of their careers.

- Libyan clubs signed 107 players from overseas, many returning home after political instability.

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