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Fifa open to setting transfer fees by algorithm

Fifa president Gianni Infantino
Fifa president Gianni Infantino open to idea of market value being computer-generated - Anadolu Agency

Fifa president Gianni Infantino is open to transfer fees being set by algorithm instead of the traditional negotiations between clubs to determine how much a player will cost to move.

Clubs paying a transfer fee for a player has dated back to the 1800s but Infantino, speaking at Fifa’s annual law conference in Tokyo, says a debate should be opened over the market value being computer-generated.

While this January has seen spending cut back, last season saw £850 million invested in players as selling clubs held out for their asking prices or chairmen were embroiled in bidding wars. It has led to the Premier League transfer record being broken twice in deals for Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo.

Moises Caicedo in action for Chelsea

But Infantino has cited transparency in the market as one of the factors to push for a Fifa-approved algorithm to determine fees, although he did not expand on how a player’s value would be calculated.

“Now more than ever it is fundamental for us to talk about these and other topics,” Infantino told lawyers. “For example, to discuss about the possibility to use an algorithm to estimate the fair value of transfer fees in order to increase transparency in the transfer system and help the football stakeholders.”

Key factors in determining a player’s value is the time left on their contract, as they can move for free on expiry. When a player gets into the final year of their deal, their market value goes down as the possibility of a Bosman move without a fee nears.

But clubs also set asking prices based on the precedent of other transfers. Brighton wanted more than £100 million for Caicedo as Arsenal had paid that much for Declan Rice, who was a similar age, position and was comparative in terms of performances. James Maddison’s move from Norwich to Leicester, worth more than £20 million, is often cited as the benchmark for the best Championship players moving to the Premier League.

It is also unclear how Fifa’s algorithm would comply with competition law in the European Union. The world governing body for football set up a transfer task force in 2017 reporting to a committee that included delegates from clubs, leagues and player unions, but there was no proposal over changes to fees.

The International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) currently puts values of at least £210 million on Real Madrid’s Jude Bellingham and Vinícius Júnior, plus Manchester City forward Erling Haaland.  The CIES research method weighs factors including the player’s age, length of contract and international record, and the context of their clubs and global economy. Respected football website Transfermarkt also give players a market value.

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