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by Tony Attwood
It has been difficult to get hold of reliable figures as to just how much the Saudi Arabian teams have spent on players this summer, and the figures of net expenditure are warped because the sales of players (“net” being amount paid out minus amount received, of course) being nil in many Saudi cases.
But the Atheltic has done its due diligence and come up with some figures, from which we have constructed a top 12 worldwide net spends this summer.
And yes there are some Saudi Arabian clubs in the list for the first time ever, largely because they didn’t have anyone to sell.
But what surprised us, and might raise an eyebrow in your household, is that in this global list of net spenders only two of the top five clubs were actually Saudi Arabian. In other words, although the clubs were new and were constantly reported to be offering insane figures for anyone they had ever heard of, the Premier League’s finest were up there battling it out with them.
Below is a table of net spenders summer 2023 in world football. All Saudi figures are quoted in Euros, along with European clubs so we’ve used that throughout this table. A Euro is worth 86p. A Pound is worth 1.16 Euros.
- Al Hilal: €353.0m
- PSG: €200.5m
- Al Ahli: €200.2m
- Chelsea: €197.1m
- Arsenal: €167.0m
- Al Nassr: €165.1m
- Manchester United: €151.4m
- Manchester City: €126.6m
- Tottenham Hotspur: €126.4m
- AFC Bournemouth: €126.2m
- Real Madrid: €122.5m
- Al Ittihad: €121.6 m
So half of the top dozen spenders this summer were in the Premier League. One third were in Saudi Arabia’s new superleague, one was in France and one was in Spain. Bournemouth outspent Real Madrid (which tells you a lot about what is going on in Spain at the moment).
So how did Arsenal get right up there and what did they get for their money?
Arsenal spent money in terms of transfer fees on three players: Declan Rice for £105m, Kai Havertz for £65m and Jurien Timber for £38m. Two of those transfers were from other Premier League clubs, keeping the money rolling around the country. Total price £208m or €241m. Only Al Hilal in Saudi spent more at €353m.
Arsenal sold six players this summer.
So £208m spent on players against £78.1m income making it £129.9m net spend. Only two of the newly created Saudi clubs had a higher net spend than Arsenal.
Sqwaka has provided an analysis of net spent by Premier League clubs from the start of 2021/22.
It is an interesting comparison because some of the newly created Saudi clubs were in fact building a team from nothing. And what this table shows is that only Al Hilal would creep into the top five net spend table of the Premier League, and then only just. The Saudi league, despite its ability to tap into the entire wealth of the nation, is not actually challenging the Premier League in any meaningful way.
And interesting to see that Chelsea are in fact now behaving like a newly created Saudi club with its level of spending over the last couple of years. And indeed in a review that Talk Sport did near the start of this year (ie before this summer’s window), they had the value of the Chelsea and Manchester City squads as almost equal, with Liverpool third, Arsenal fourth and Manchester United fifth.
And although of course, it is very early days in terms of this season, the league table is not quite reflecting that. Manchester City are still top while Chelsea are still 12th (both where they finished last season). Liverpool are third (they finished 5th last season), West Ham are up to fourth (from 14th last season), and Arsenal fifth, down from second.
But of course there is plenty of time to go.
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