It is the first time a team from outside the Maghreb region (North Africa) occupies this spot in the global transfer report, with Arab clubs on the continent having dominated this space in previous years.
However, the latest Fifa Global Transfer Report, which looked at the transfer activity of all clubs in 2022, places the runaway log leaders in the 2022/23 campaign ahead of Tunisian giants Esperance SC, record 10-time African champions Al Ahly, Egyptian moneybags Pyramids FC and five-time African Champions Zamalek, who complete the top five.
Sundowns and their opponents in this season’s Caf Champions League group stages, Al Hilal Omdurman from Sudan, are the only two clubs from the Sub-Saharan African region featured in the top 10.
The Brazilians, who won their maiden Caf Champions League title in 2016 under former coach Pitso Mosimane, signed a total of 10 players over the course of the year, including in the January and June/July/August transfer windows.
These included Chilean Marcello Allende, who is reported to have cost the club in the region of R54-million (at the current exchange rate) when he was signed from Uruguayan club Montevideo City Torque.
Other big-money deals in the main window of 2022 included the arrivals of SuperSport United duo of Ronwen Williams and Sipho Mbule, with the Bafana Bafana goalkeeper not coming cheaply after Sundowns had to beat strong competition from Orlando Pirates.
Just over R7-million is believed to have been paid for the services of Moroccan international defender Abdelmounaim Boutoil, who signed from Botola Pro league side SC Chabab Mohammedia and is yet to make his debut for Downs.
Bafana left-back Terrence Mashego, who is currently injured, also arrived on a high transfer fee – understood to have reached double figures in millions of Rand – from Cape Town City, while Bongani Zungu arrived on a free transfer after leaving French side Amiens.
Earlier in the year, Sundowns brought in four players reported to have cost just over R30-million at the time, with midfielder Teboho Mokoena believed to have been worth around R16-milion from SuperSport United, while Erwin Saavedra was signed from Bolivar in Bolivia for R12-million.
Striker Abubaker Nasir arrived from Ethiopian Coffee SC for a reported R6-million and 35-year-old Surprise Ralani, who also signed from the Citizens, cost around R4-million.
According to Fifa’s GTR, an all-time record of 71,002 cross-border transfers were made in 2022, with 21,764 involving professionals (men and women) and 49,238 amateurs (men and women).
There were 20,209 international transfers in men’s professional football in 2022, representing an increase of 11.6% compared to 2021.
Commenting on the transfer activity in 2022, Fifa Chief Legal and Compliance officer Emilio Garcia Silvero, said: “The two-year negative trend in clubs’ spending on transfer fees was turned around in 2022, with last year’s total outlay reaching USD6.5 billion (R112-billion) – an increase of 33.5% compared to 2021, yet still below the all-time high of 2019.”
For Sundowns, this transfer report comes at a time when a debate on the domestic front is raging about the need for Financial Fair Play (FFP) controls as they continue to dominate the South African football scene – now chasing their record-extending sixth Premiership title in a row.
This follows two decades of multi-million Rand investments in the club by the Motsepe family that could see Sundowns dominating football in the country for years to come.