This is why the site was developed: to offer a source of knowledge, a reference point and, through its humming chat boards, a place for a community of like-minded (read: slightly nerdy) individuals. But that’s not what it’s known for, not what made it famous.
Trying to attribute a value to an individual soccer player is like capturing the beauty of a sunrise. In the words of Thomas Lintz, Managing Director of Transfermarkt, the frenzied sports business is a “marketplace without many of the classic market factors”. A player can be priceless to one club and worthless to another. Values can go up or down due to a manager’s whim, bad game, or the appearance of a superior rival.
Still, Transfermarkt has been trying for years to use its market values to give a rough guideline of how much each individual player could cost, from Messi to Mozambique: an estimate of the value based on the work of thousands of volunteers and viewed by the site’s 80 employees.
It is this single detail – which is basically just a crowdsourcing rate for a review – that has turned Transfermarkt from a single point of light in the great digital constellation of football to a guiding star that made it unstoppable by a website that was designed to reflect the sport’s ever-bubbling transfer scene into one that defines it now.
The journey from Bremen to Hamburg takes just over an hour. At the turn of the century, Matthias Seidel felt a lot further. As an advertising specialist and passionate fan of Werder Bremen, his local team, Seidel had moved to the media capital of Hamburg for work.
However, keeping up with the fate of his beloved Werder proved almost impossible. As a news source, the Internet was still in its infancy. The Hamburg press made hardly any mention of all the transfer gossip that had been covered so extensively in the Bremen newspapers.
Credit…Alexander Becher / EPA, via Shutterstock
Seidel decided to do the job himself. He set up a website that was originally used to keep track of the players Werder was associated with in the local or national news media. It was rudimentary: he put their names on a spreadsheet, added the few details he could ascertain, and published them.