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Football's transfer window: what, when, how, why and who?

It's difficult to escape the term "transfer window" over the past couple of decades but do you fully understand what it is and how your team and others are affected?

Gareth Bale is the most expensive transfer in world football but how does the transfer window work?

What is the transfer window all about?

Ever since the 2002-03 season, when Fifa made it compulsory, football clubs – as well as their fans and the media – have had to get used to movement of players to and from their sides being limited to just a few months of the year. This “registration period”, to give it its official term, was introduced in an attempt to help teams have more stability across the season (is there anything worse than one of the big boys stealing your star player to disturb your momentum?) and to limit the all-year deals that were happening previously. Some like it 

When are they and why do they differ?

There are actually two windows - one in the middle of the season (cannot exceed four weeks) and a longer one between seasons (up to 12 weeks). Individual football associations, however, are able to determine the specific dates of each of those periods hence the reason that deadlines can vary for teams depending on their league. The important thing to remember is that the date set by a country determines the end of players registering into that league. Players can still move out of the league into another with an open window.

When the windows open and close across the footballing world.
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When the windows open and close across the footballing world.Wikipedia (adapted)

What’s the deal with “free agents”?

These are players that have been released from their contract by their club and are therefore “free” to join another club even outside of the transfer window. What’s to stop two clubs getting together outside the window and making this happen to circumvent the rules? Well, the player must have been released prior to the end of the previous transfer window.

Most expensive transfers across Europe

Due to TV and marketing rights, individual owner wealth and prize money from long-term success, among other factors, there are some leagues that can boast spending the most money collectively on transfer fees and salaries. The eleven most expensive players to have been signed in world football have been bought by a club in either Spain or England but here are the top transfers into each of the big five leagues on the continent:

LaLiga (Spain) - Gareth Bale €100.8 million

Premier League (England) - Ángel Di María €75 million

Big money moves don't always work out as Manchester United have found out more than once.
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Big money moves don't always work out as Manchester United have found out more than once.

Ligue 1 (France) - Edison Cavani €64 million

Serie A (Italy) - Hernan Crespo €56.5 million

Bundesliga (Germany) - Javi Martinez €40 million

Did you know that the most expensive goalkeeper even purchased is Gianluigi Buffon when he joined Juventus from fellow Italian side Parma in 2001. The fee was €52.9 million.


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