Soccer player transfer spending hits $3.7 billion
Spending on the international transfer of soccer players soared to $3.7 billion in 2013, up 41 percent from the year before, according to a report released by the sport's governing body FIFA on Wednesday.
English teams were the biggest spenders, splashing $913 million on international transfers, an increase of 51 percent from the previous year. They were responsible for a quarter of the global spend.
Italian clubs also threw money around in 2013, spending $475 million on players, a massive 120 percent jump on the year before, despite reports of financial difficulties at many of the top teams.
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France, Spain and Germany followed behind in the list of biggest spenders.
The uptick in spending was driven by record-breaking expensive player signings. Welsh superstar Gareth Bale was signed by Real Madrid from Tottenham Hotspur for 91 million euros ($124 million), while Uruguayan Edinson Cavani moved to PSG from Napoli for 64.5 million euros.
FIFA said England's high spending was fuelled when the country's top division Premier League signed a lucrative television rights deal for three seasons last year. BskyB and BT paid £3.018 billion ($5 billion) for the rights, a 70 percent increase on the previous agreement, allowing them to broadcast Premier League matches.
Overall, FIFA said that 82 percent of spending came from nine countries, England, Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and Portugal, with the European region accounting from over three-quarters of the total market value.
Meanwhile, spending by soccer clubs in both Argentina and 2014 World Cup host Brazil fell this year.
"A currency crisis afflicting emerging economies has reduced Brazilian and Argentine buying power in the international market," the FIFA report explained.
Brazil still remained a key talent pool however, accounting for 13 percent of the total number of players transferred.
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Rising 'conditional transfers'
There was also a significant increase in so-called conditional transfers, where part of the fee is fixed and the rest is performance-based. Fees from such transfers leapt 73 percent to a total of $525 million.
Mark Goddard, general manager of FIFA's Transfer Matching System, said the jump in conditional transfers could be signify clubs were looking to become more financially efficient.
"It is a very interesting trend because the market is becoming more astute, a lot of the transfers are based on either potential performance or past performance, if the players are older," he said at a press conference on Wednesday, according to Reuters.
"Conditions can be represented by a number of performance factors, such as qualification for competitions, relegation, or the players' performance on an individual level.
"Clubs are hedging their bets, trying to be more sensible in how much money they put into the guaranteed section and into the potential section (of the fee)."
—By CNBC's Arjun Kharpal: Follow him on Twitter @ArjunKharpal