FIFA recently released its 2021 Global Transfer Report, which examined the transfers of men’s and women’s players in both professional and amateur football last year. The report identified the top 5 transfer fees paid in women’s soccer, and OL Reign’s acquisition of Alana Cook from PSG was third on that list.
What does that mean exactly? We have to look a bit deeper at the numbers to answer that question.
Let’s start with the overall status of international transfers in women’s soccer in 2021. The number of transfers and transfer fees recorded has grown each year in women’s soccer as more female players and leagues turn professional. According to FIFA, the number of clubs involved in international transfers rose from 347 in 2020 to 414 last year, a 19.3% increase. Just over 1,300 international transfers were recorded in 2021, an increase of 26.2% compared to the previous year, which had also recorded an increase of 23.3%.
In addition, with an increase of 72.8% compared to 2020, the annual amount spent on transfer fees in women’s soccer in 2021 was $2.1 million, a new record.
When it comes to the transfer of Cook, while sources were not able to share the total fee, FIFA’s report indicates that deal was among the five transfers that generated the highest fees in 2021. Those five alone accounted for almost 60% of the total spending in 2021, which puts them around $1.26 million in total. That’s $252,000, on average, for these five transfers — with Cook’s deal falling in the middle of the top 5.
OL Reign’s partner club, Olympique Lyonnais, was involved in two of the other top transactions — sending Nikita Parris to Arsenal and acquiring midfielder Damaris Egurrola from Everton.
In 2020, the NWSL announced the addition of allocation money — something familiar to fans of MLS, although the NWSL version is a little simpler. This money can be used on players whose salary would exceed the league maximum (with a few other additional qualifications). This is, essentially, a mechanism to entice talent who were getting or could get paid better elsewhere to consider the NWSL. Allocation money can also be used to pay transfer fees, an option that didn’t previously exist.
OL Reign did a lot of work on the accounting side to make room for Lyon stars Eugénie Le Sommer, Dzsenifer Marozsán, and Sarah Bouhaddi in 2021. They also were able to pay one of the highest transfer fees in women’s soccer to acquire Cook from PSG at a time when she was really needed. Cook — who signed a three-year deal with the Reign, with a club option in 2024 — settled in immediately on the backline. She started every game after her arrival in June and was nominated for NWSL Defender of the Year.
Cook averaged 4.5 clearances per game with the Reign while also winning 52% of her duels and 62% of her tackles. Cook also averaged 53 passes per 90, with an 85% pass completion rate. According to FotMob, these stats put Cook seventh in the league in clearances per match and third in passes per match.
After a chaotic start to the season with significant rotation on the backline, OL Reign bet big with a large transfer fee to acquire Cook. In taking that bet, they brought in a player who made the Reign a truly difficult team to break down and who looks to be the future of the USWNT backline. Her play already earned her two recent U.S. Women’s National Team call-ups, first for their two matches in Australia last November and again for their January camp.