The net spend league: which club (surprisingly) brought in the most money by selling players this summer?

By Tony Attwood

For years and years Tottenham have gloried in making a profit overall on transfers.  They haven’t always spent that money well, but they have made a profit.  But not this year.  

For years Arsenal were known for selling players at a profit, even if they didn’t want to, but not this year.

And for years Liverpool! have spent far more money than they received.  Much, much, much, much more. But not this year.

The one benefit of the lunatic interlull is that after all the frantic hoo-ha of the fractured glass it does give a chance to take a moment and look at all the figures that emerged and consider them in different ways.

One approach that only a couple of commentators have considered was the net spend.  Not the amount of money that poured out of each club, which was the main focus, but how much they spent minus how much they received.  And that is where those opening few comments in this article arise from.

Indeed the surprising thing is not so much how much some clubs spent (Manchester Airport, with their infinite sums of Chinese and Middle East cash, and their free stadium, will always spend the most of course).  But how little some of the big clubs received for players sold.

I tried asking a few friends who tend to be knowledgeable about football facts and figures, who got the most income for players, and everyone was struggling.   We all knew the top spenders, but top sellers?  That took some head scratching until finally the answer emerged.

It was Liverpool! selling over £80m worth a talent – as well as giving away Balotelli in order to save six million euros a year on salary.   I haven’t had time to do it, and would love it if a reader could help out, but I just wonder how much that £80m worth of players actually cost the club in the first place.  Balotelli cost £16m, that I do know.  Still what’s £16m when you haven’t won the league for a quarter of a century, and you are dead sure that spending money is the way to do it.  OK it didn’t work in the past, but just one more push with loads of dosh….

Southampton, much to the disgust of the fans who got onto radio phone ins to complain, sold £64m worth of footballers while Everton got £50m into their coffers from their summer sales.

In the next group down, filling the coffers by between £40m to £49m we have Crystal Palace, Leicester and Tottenham.   Tottenham, as I have intimated, is no surprise, but Leicester?  You win the league and then sell players?   Can you imagine what would have been said in the media if Arsenal, having come second, had done that?   Can you imagine all the chit chat about Arsenal having no ambition, how Wenger won’t spend, how Kronke has his finger in the pie?

Indeed four clubs actually made a profit in this transfer window – despite all the talk of the Premier League going bonkers with its buying: Everton, Swansea, Liverpool and Southampton all came out on the up.

At the other end it is extraordinary how little income some clubs got.  Burnley won the jackpot of nothingness by selling no one for yer actual real live money.  Hull, Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Arsenal, Man U and Man C all brought in under £10m.

As a result the biggest spenders in gross terms, were also the biggest spenders in net terms (ie amount spent minus sales) – Man City, Man U, Chelsea, Arsenal in that order.    Here’s the table in net spend order.

Club Transfer spend Sales Net spend
Manchester City £174.05, £5m £169.50
Manchester Utd £149.55 £8.5m £141.05
Chelsea £123.45m £25.8m £97.65m
Arsenal £91.5m £9.27m £82.23m
West Ham £43.65m £10m £33.65m
Tottenham £70.6m £40.72m £29.88m
Watford £53.9m £27.1m £26.8m
Leicester £67.83m £43.31m £24.52m
Burnley £22.1m £0 £22.1m
Bournemouth £39.4m £18.6m £20.80m
Sunderland £27.1m £7.27m £19.83m
Stoke £18.25m £2m £16.25m
Middlesbrough £20.8m £5m £15.8m
Hull £19.5m £4.5m £15m
West Brom £22.5m £8.02m £14.48m
Crystal Palace £55m £46m £9m
Everton £48.95 £50 -£1.05
Swansea £32.27m £41.9m -£9.63m
Liverpool! £69.9m £84.4m -£14.5m
Southampton £43.8m £64m -£20.2m

Overall the clubs spent £1.165bn, which is quite a lot really.  Serie A spent £590m, the Bundesliga £460m, La Liga £400m and the French Ligue 1 £165m.   Which, if transfer spending means anything to do with winning stuff, suggests that the Premier League clubs should be much closer to dominating Europe now.  But don’t bank on it.  You might recall the occasional Untold article showing that buying players isn’t actually the way to the top of the league.

The top five players bought were

Player Bought by Cost
Pogba Manchester Mourinho £89m
Stones Manchester Airport £47.5
Sane Manchester Airport £37m
Xhaka Arsenal £35m
Mustafi Arsenal £35m

I mentioned to an Arsenal fan who does not share the general Untold view of transfers that Arsenal hadn’t done two badly have two of the top five transfers this summer, and he said, “But it’s not the money that matters, its the quality of player you bring in.”

Apparently we have now come full circle.

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5 Replies to “The net spend league: which club (surprisingly) brought in the most money by selling players this summer?”

  1. Whenever I see all this hype of spending money on players in the transfer market, I relate it to the purchasing of new shoes. Majority of the media sucks the public in to hype of new players, and provides them with a false sense of ecstasy and an adrenaline rush of seeing those new players in your club. This lasts for a very short period of time and public wants more of that rush, that feeling of new players (thanks to the media). City, United, Chelsea and some others are like that, for example they will buy 3-4 possible variants of a new sports shoes, 3-4 office type shoes, 7-8 sandals and slippers… even if they only need 2 of each type.


    I was watching Thailand vs Japan Asian WC Qualifications just to watch Takuma Asano. He started the game, played excellent, scored 1 fine goal, and created 3 clear cut chances. While watching, one of the strangest events occurred.

    Japan were comfortable in possession and two of players felt that the ball was punctured and was deflating when controlled. They called the ref to check it, he checked the ball by pressing with his hands 3-4 times, kept the ball down and showed a yellow card to one of the Japanese players for lying!!! Everyone was confused, with the players telling him to try and control it with his feet. Strange….

  2. Yes. It is not necessarily the amount of money you spend that guarantees success but there is a strong correlation between total amounts spent over a prolonged period of time and how successful your club is.
    Let’s look at the Premiership title as an example, over the last 25 years it has been won by the high-spending clubs on every occasion except the two or three occasions that Arsenal won it and last season when Leicester won it.
    Man City were a useless team that regularly got relegated until the Arab Sheikh gave them a bottomless pot of oil dollars to spend.
    Chelsea was nearly always a mid-table team until the arrival of Abramovitch and his Russian roubles.
    Man United has used the cheque book to dominate British football in recent years.
    Even Blackburn won the league when Sir Jack pumped millions into the club.
    Real Madrid and Barca have used the cheque book to dominate in Spain and in Europe.
    Bayern Munich is the biggest spender in Germany. Bayern dominates the Bundesliga.

    If a club spends big over a period of time and buys wisely too it will dominate or at least compete for dominance.
    If however you are foolish and spend big on average players (such as what Liverpool and Spurs often do … £35m on Andy Carroll, etc.) you will not win the league or progress to be contenders.

    Arsenal has now started to spend big such as on Xhaka, Ozil and Sanchez. These players have significantly improved our team.

    So yes, spending big is an important ingredient for success in football but other important ingredients are:
    Good coaching,
    Good tactics,
    Fair refereeing,
    Good teamwork,
    Good fan base who support the team,
    And other issues (such as luck especially in cup games where the draw of who plays whom and where and when can be significant).

    If everything else is good or very good a club that spends big amounts on quality players will prosper.
    A good player bought by Arsene Wenger will improve and Arsenal will improve.
    A brilliant player coached by not so good coaches (such as Tony Pulis) may not have the desired effects.

    An expensive but average player doesn’t necessarily improve a team.

  3. The shoe comparison is a useful one.
    New shoes are often uncomfortable when new and need time to ‘wear in’.
    Buy enough of them and eventually you’ll find a few of each that are really good, but your preferred pairs aren’t just the expensive ones, and some were definately disliked for a few years until they fitted perfectly.
    Whilst some will never be your preferred option irrelevant of the cost or the exact purpose they were bought for.
    And some look good in the shop but either fall apart or just never fit correctly…

    Oh, and a few start stinking very quickly 😀

  4. Tony a quick look and on four players they made 24.5 million loss and on two players they made a 14.86 million profit meaning they lost on those I could find 9.14 loss overall. Of course that would change on the ones that are not shown these figures were taken from transfer

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