By Tony Attwood
Some figures have been released by CIES Football Observatory concerning transfer expenditure over recent years. Unfortunately as I have found before, the CIES figures are not complete and have a rather strange basis for their analysis – in this case they only record purchases between clubs in the top five leagues.
Also because the figures only show the top 20 clubs in Europe for both player expenditure and player income, two of the six top clubs listed for expenditure are not also listed in terms of income.
To try and complete the tables I have used Transfer Market’s figures for the two missing elements in the resultant table that can be evolved for six Premier League clubs – in this case filling in the income from sales for Manchester United and for Arsenal.
All figures are in Euros but the Manchester United and Arsenal income sales, and thus the final net expenditure figures for these clubs need to be treated with a certain level of caution because they come from a different source.
However they have been checked, and they are probably as close as one can get given the way the CIES data was gathered.
|Club||2010/16 spend||2010/16 income||Net expenditure||% of Man City net expend|
As we have seen in recent years, Tottenham’s net expenditure is considerably lower than other clubs – indeed up to a year ago Tottenham boasted that it was making a profit on its sales year by year.
And I thought I would add the final column – something I have not seen in such analyses before, because the numbers are hard to take in by themselves.
What the final column shows is that Manchester City have a net outlay of around three times as much as Arsenal, just under four times as much as Liverpool, and nine times as much as Tottenham. The disparity seen in this way, is huge.
Looking at the figures from CIES (not the completed figures here) the Daily Mail launches its review with the headline
“Liverpool are the ultimate selling club after raking in £384m in transfers” which is a rather interesting take.
This figure is explained to some degree by the sale of a few top players – Andy Carroll for £50m, Luis Saurez for £65m and Raheem Sterling for £35m – good money if you can get it, but interestingly spread out across the whole period measured from 2010 onwards.
Tottenham were obviously in the same line of business as they got £30m for Luka Modric, and £91.8m for Gareth Bale.
Arsenal’s big sales were Samir Nasri £22m, Cesc Fábregas £35m, Robin Van Persie £22m.
Now the phrase “selling club” has always been a pejorative term in football, but it need not be, especially when the sale looks to have been at a ludicrously high price. It is hard to see that Barcelona really got a £35m player in Fábregas, although they then did manage to sell him on for £30m to Chelsea – so yes they got a player for a few years that met their PR requirements, and played a fair number of games – all for £5m – a good deal.
But one may also question whether Barcelona spent £15m wisely in buying Thomas Vermaelen. Or indeed in spending the same amount on Alex Song.
Of course sales like this can only happen occasionally. The chances of Tottenham funding another spending spree from the sale of a second Gareth Bale seems slight, as do the chances of Liverpool pulling another trick along the lines of selling Andy Carroll for £50m.
With Liverpool you could argue that the purchase and sale of Carroll and Suarez were masterstrokes, both bringing in huge profits. With Tottenham, the purchase of Bale for £10m from Southampton might appear like a master stroke, were it not for what the club did in spending the money they got upon selling him.
Basing a club’s finances on selling on top players can therefore work, but it is risky; quite simply what happens if you don’t find one? However it is what Liverpool and Tottenham have done ahead of stadium developments.
A better ploy perhaps is to build up an academy process that pushes players through to the first team, or sells them on with suitable sell-on fees built into the contract. And this last point reveals the flaw in the figures above. Income from sell-on contracts doesn’t count in these figures, as far as I can see.
David Bentley was the ultimate sell-on contract, with each subsequent sale bringing in more and more money to Arsenal. I am told (but of course don’t have access to the books to prove it) that Arsenal did the same sort of trick with the sale of Adebayor. Benik Afobe, it is said, also carried the same baggage, going quickly from Wolverhampton (who paid £2m) on to Bournemouth for £10m. Not all of that £8m profit ended up in the coffers of Wolverhampton.