Transfermarkt: The ‘Bible’ of the Transfer Market


Twenty years ago, an electronic information portal called Transfermarkt was founded by Matthias Seidel. Today, it has become a reference for the transfer market, with many even considering it the “bible of the transfer market.”

Transfermarkt is present in over 100 countries and has been translated into 14 languages. The website has become a valuable resource for agents and coaches, frequently used during transfer negotiations or contract extensions. So, what lies inside Transfermarkt’s headquarters?

A Football Fan’s Paradise


Inside Transfermarkt’s headquarters, there’s a meeting room with artificial turf flooring, and a large portrait of Lionel Messi hangs by the entrance. The two-story building, where 70 employees work, is adorned with Panini football player cards.

Since its inception two decades ago, the company has built its reputation on an extensive database, providing comprehensive player profiles, including injury history, contract status, goal statistics, and detailed player contact information, as well as their agents.

Over time, the website has evolved into a platform that estimates players’ market values. In 2020, Transfermarkt recorded one billion visits. Its initial success can be attributed to the ingenuity of its founder. In the late 1980s, the Internet was a luxury available only to a few, and MacBooks were still in their infancy, with laptops not being widespread.

Matthias Seidel, a computer engineering student, lived in Bremen, Germany, about an hour’s drive from Hamburg. He was a devoted fan of the local football club, Werder, and in his spare time, he collected anything he could find about his favorite team: local press articles, club press releases, and more. Even after starting his job in 1991, Seidel maintained his passion and continued to add to his manually maintained database.

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People Over Algorithms


Contributors quickly started assessing the value of their favorite players, and the website’s management was responsible for deciding by synthesizing these contributions. The principle remains the same. “This is the foundation of Transfermarkt’s success, a significant step that has changed our direction,” Seidel concluded.

The electronic portal synthesizes the careers of over 95,000 professional players, one million amateur players, and provides data on 100,000 clubs and 2,000 leagues.

“My phone never stops ringing,” said Florian Zerrath, who manages communications with agents. “They constantly call me, asking, ‘Florian, can you put on my player’s page that I’m his agent? The club wants to talk to me, but they won’t until I’m listed on Transfermarkt.'”

Some employees have claimed to refuse gifts to maintain better player market value assessments. Seidel always believed in a cooperative model, even when, in 2008, the German publisher Axel Springer acquired 51% of the company. Transfermarkt’s rule remains unchanged. They always strive for the “wisdom of the crowd.”

Popularized by American journalist James Surowiecki in 2004, this theory is highly regarded in the computer enthusiast community and supports the idea that a large number of people answering a question will outperform an expert.

Transfermarkt aims to highlight the expertise of a young Ethiopian teenager who knows everything about his local club rather than relying on computer algorithms. “When talking about our work, I tell my friends, ‘We have the same goal as an encyclopedia.’ A slightly audacious romanticism is what we are aiming for,” said Joachim Durand, responsible for French football.

The website has never used an algorithm or even accounting firms, unlike in the industrial or financial sectors. Instead, it relies on immutable criteria: potential, age, level of competition, marketing value, injury susceptibility, and contract duration.

This represents a tremendous amount of work. Behind the computer screens overlooking the tree-lined parking lot on Wandsbeker Zollstrasse, employees continuously click to sort through sometimes subjective proposals.

Every employee is cautious to avoid smear campaigns that could lower a player’s value. “We are always careful at the highest level to never make mistakes,” said one of the staff members.

Many clubs have used Transfermarkt’s valuations as a reference for player prices. However, there have also been some complications. In July 2020, Barcelona’s president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, was questioned on a local radio station about the 72 million euros disbursed to sign Brazilian player Arthur Melo from Juventus. When asked, Bartomeu replied, “His value on Transfermarkt is 70 million euros.” Later, Juventus was found to have used accounting tricks to falsify their accounts on Transfermarkt, particularly in the transfer of the Brazilian player.

Some agents remain skeptical about Transfermarkt, such as Christophe Mongai, who stated, “We cannot define a value, as the market will decide it. If no club is interested, a football player will be worth nothing.” However, Christian Schwarz, head of Transfermarkt’s international estimation department, refuted this: “We do not impose our estimates on clubs.”

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