The Daily Telegraph

Record Walsh fee brings £1m barrier into sharper relief

Barca move highlights growing investment among big clubs that makes a seven-figure transfer just a matter of time, writes Tom Garry

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As England midfielder Keira Walsh completed a dream move to Barcelona from Manchester City this month, while the Spanish club were taking another big step towards their goal of regaining the European title by adding one of the best midfielder­s on the planet to their ranks, the women’s game also took a major leap forward as the world record transfer fee was smashed.

The total fee eventually agreed, after the English club had previously rejected multiple bids for the Euro 2022-winning player, was just over £400,000 once all add-ons were included. It might sound like small change to top men’s clubs – barely covering the weekly wage of some male players – but for the women’s game this fee surpasses the annual budgets of almost any team that plays outside of the top flight.

Conflictin­g reports have emerged about the size of the upfront payment this summer but nonetheles­s, that overall fee does not just eclipse the previous world-record fee for women’s football but rather it smashes it out of the park.

The now-surpassed-landmark fee, which stood at slightly in excess of £250,000, was paid by Chelsea for their purchase of Denmark captain and forward Pernille Harder from German side Wolfsburg in September 2020.

In the run-up to Walsh’s three-year deal being finalised, Harder was asked how she felt about the prospect of not being the world’s most expensive player and she said it would be a good developmen­t for the sport. “It’s totally fine, I’m happy that it keeps getting higher,” she said. “I wanted to start something new, to start in women’s football that you could actually buy players as well.

“For sure it’s a good developmen­t for women’s football, that players don’t have to play their contracts out but they can actually get sold and the clubs can actually get something out of the players, so it shows that women’s football just keeps developing.”

The exchange of fees is on the rise at a rapid rate of inflation. A report published by Fifa this year found that global spending on transfer fees in the women’s profession­al game climbed by 72.8 per cent in the calendar year of 2021 compared to 2020, rocketing from $1.2million in 2020 to $2.1million in 2021. Before 2020 the annual figure had never surpassed $1million. Yet the five most expensive signings of 2021 accounted for more than 60 per cent of all spending.

That is because, although a total of 1,304 internatio­nal women’s transfers were recorded in 2021, a vast 87.3 per cent of all of those moves were free transfers involving out-of-contract players and just 4.4 per cent saw a fee exchanged, which is partly why Walsh’s landmark move was such a significan­t moment.

It naturally begs the question: when will the women’s game have its first £1million signing?

The answer is soon, with more and more clubs investing in the women’s game and Barcelona, Champions League holders Lyon, English champions Chelsea, big-spending Paris St-germain and women’s football latecomers Real Madrid all determined to spend more in pursuit of trophies.

Chelsea were understood to be prepared to pay more than £400,000 to sign France midfielder Grace Geyoro from PSG this summer, but ultimately the French side decided not to sell as they could not line up a suitable replacemen­t. Such is the rapid increase in players’ value, it would now not be a surprise if the million-pound barrier was broken in the next 24 months.

There are already players in the sport who could command such a fee, in the event that they were to move clubs. Should anybody attempt to prise Ballon d’orwinning Spain midfielder Alexia Putellas away from Barcelona, they would surely need to part with a seven-figure sum, albeit nobody expects her to leave them anytime soon. Arsenal’s iconic striker Vivianne Miedema or Chelsea’s Australia superstar Sam Kerr would also command such a fee. For many, it is an inevitable part of the growth of the game, and that £1 million moment is now closer than ever.

 ?? ?? Marquee signing: Keira Walsh commanded a £400,000 fee
Marquee signing: Keira Walsh commanded a £400,000 fee

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