By Tony Attwood
The Transfer League web site has produced a table of the amount of money spent by clubs in the past five seasons. They take the amount of money spent in total minus the amount received in total and from that generate a total outflow or inflow of transfer cash. Divide the total by five and you have the average over the past five years.
And fascinating reading it makes to – you can find the original research via the link above. But here are a few pointers.
The top spending clubs averaged over these past five years are as below. The final number (CL) is the number of seasons the club has had in these five years in the Champions League – an important measure because of the massive extra income it brings.
- 1. Manchester United £66.6m (2 league titles) (4CL)
- 2. Manchester City £48.8m (2 league titles; 1 FA Cup) (5CL)
- 3. Chelsea: £37.2m (1 league title; 1 FA Cup, 1 Champions League, 1 Europa League) (5CL)
- 4. Liverpool £28.6m (1 CL)
- 5. Arsenal: £19.8m (2 FA Cups) (5CL)
- 6. West Ham £18.0m
- 7. Sunderland £11.1m
What is interesting here is that although the regular top four are in the top five slots, the difference between them in terms of net spend is massive. Chelsea have a net spend twice as high as Arsenal. Man U over three times as much. But remember this is the last five years – three of which were austerity years for Arsenal.
At the foot of the table things are perhaps not quite what we might expect…
- 18. Everton. £2m
- 19. Watford. £50,000 profit
- 20. Tottenham. £10m profit.
Of course individual sales and purchases can make a huge difference. Had Liverpool not been able to offload Suarez to a Barcelona side who knew that the transfer ban was on the way, they would actually be in third place in the expenditure league, above Chelsea in terms of their annual spend.
Had Tottenham not had the luxury of selling Bale then their average would have certainly been negative, and probably put them on a player expenditure average at a similar level to Stoke City. But still a remarkable achievement on their part to make money out of player dealings.
As for Arsenal’s expenditure figure, as I say that has been greatly inflated by the last two years – go back before that and we were much further down the table.
The table clearly shows that there is some relationship between trophies and the ability to spend heavily in the transfer market – but it is not absolute. WHU have spent nearly as much as Arsenal but not won anything, and are only in Europe now because of a Fair Play place. This might explain the demise of Fat Sam. Yes he took them up the league a bit, but at what a cost!
And we must be fair to Tottenham, because they are entering their period of austerity vis a vis the new stadium, with a lot of extra money in the bank, while still maintaining their position as regulars in the Europa.
And what of Watford? Getting promotion not by spending an absolute fortune, but by making a bit of profit on player sales. Clever stuff.
But then again, consider Sunderland – what have they got for their expenditure?
If we look at the buying clubs the most money has been spent across the five years by Chelsea (£416.5m) followed by Man U (£405.2m). Arsenal are 5th on £253m and in sixth place is Tottenham on £220.4m. Such a figure again emphasises the luck or perfect negotiation skills of Chelsea and Tottenham in off-loading the unwanted for such high sums as to pull the nett figure down.
But Tottenham are top of the selling league with £270.6m brought in from sales in five years, a significant part of that from the sale of one player. Second was Chelsea with £230.3m.
Of course numbers can be played with in all sorts of ways, and I’ve done too much psychology to start believing that numbers do more than give an inclination of what is going on. And one way of getting such an inclination is this – to ask, what have the clubs got for their money?
Here I look at the total spend minus sales across the five years then compared that with major trophies and years in the Champions League.
- 1. Manchester United £327.8m net spend. £163.5m per trophy or £81.95m per year in the CL
- 2. Manchester City. £259.4m net spend. £86.5m per trophy, or £51.9m per year in CL
- 3. Chelsea: £186.2m net spend. £46.55m per trophy or £37.24m per year in CL
- 4. Liverpool £143.1m net spend. No trophies. £143.1m per year in the CL.
- 5. Arsenal: £99m net spend. £49.5m per trophy. £19.8m per year in the CL.
You can see from the highlights the key points. Man U spent more on transfers per trophy than the other clubs. Only Liverpool rivalled them, spending almost as much without winning anything. Chelsea spent the lowest amount for each trophy – but only a few million less than Arsenal.
Liverpool spent £143m in transfers to get into the Champions League once, Arsenal spent a fraction of what everyone else spent, on their year by year entry cost into the Champions League and hence made a profit on their Champions League admission price.
Of course these figures just give us a guide, nothing more, but they show the basket case that Liverpool has been in the past five years, spending, spending, spending and getting next to nothing in return while using the amounts of money that other clubs use to get trophies and regular entry to the Champions League – which is where the money comes from.
Man U’s spending on transfers can be paid for because of their income from world wide marketing, but they are not that good at getting trophies out of these players.
Arsenal’s spend of just under £50m per trophy is not at all bad, but misleading because for this chart I just chose money spent.
Anyway, here’s one more basket case. WHU’s net spend across five years was £90.4m for which they got no trophies and not into the Champions League once. Unfortunately maths doesn’t really like dividing by zero, so I can’t do much with that except giggle.
Anniversary of the day
- 20 July 2004: Martin Keown sold to Leicester City having won the league and FA Cup three times each plus the Cup Winners Cup. He played 17 times for Leicester and then five for Reading before retiring.