How much does it cost in transfer fees to take a club up one place in the PL?

by Tony Attwood

Initially, as the transfer window approached this summer, the story was that Arsenal would have a summer spending limit of £50m.  Then a little later that was raised to £70m.  So the first question I asked was where did that extra £20,000,000 turn up from.

Of course I’m not privy to the inner discussions at the club but it is interesting that last summer Arsenal made a £21m profit.  Maybe it is just a coincidence, but maybe not.  But it could be that Mr Wenger’s profit became available for Mr Emery.

Anyway noting Arsenal’s figures – £21m profit on transfers last summer, £7.9m loss in January and then £68.7m loss this summer I began to wonder how this compared with other clubs.

Let me add that if my previous tables are anything to go by, there will be a mistake or two in here.  But I’m staying with this type of analysis simply because no one else seems to do it much, and the abuse I get tends to reflect (in my view) more on the people who can’t write helpfully and positively, but instead feel the need to call me an idiot.

To try and make things standardised I have taken all the transfer values from one source: the Guardian.  I may have missed one or two (or more) transfers but I’ll do an update when its all over.

But what really got me interested in this was the latest statements by Mourinho at Man U about the way the club is not handling transfers properly.  I just wanted to know what they had spent and how that related to their results.

The columns are fairly easy – the clubs that have been in the Premier League last year and will be this year, where they finished in the league in 2016/17, how much they spent in the next two windows, and then where they finished in the league in 2017/8.

And the question then is, did that money spent take them up a position, or did they fall down the league despite all the money spent.  And from that the big question:

How much does it cost to buy your way up one place in the League?

Of course you need a manager and transfer team who know what they are doing, and you need to buy players who mingle together and complement each other .

There is more explanation, below, but here’s one simple example.

Burnley spent £11.5m across the windows and went up nine places in the league.  That means it cost them £1.28m per place rise up the table.  To be able to include the promoted clubs I have given them pa position of 21st last season (ie outside the league).  I’ll go through more explanations after the table.

Club 2016/7 Lge pos 2017 summer 2018 January 2017/8 Lge pos Cost per pos rise (fall) 2018 Summer so far – net
Arsenal 5 £21m profit £7.9m loss 6 (£-13m) £68.7m loss
Bournemouth 9 £30m loss £0 12 (£10m) £4.5m loss
Brighton Promoted £43m loss £14m loss 15 £9.5m £45.3m loss
Burnley 16 £11.5m loss £0 7 £1.28m £0
Chelsea 1 £80m loss £50m loss 5 (£32.5m) £46.9m loss
Crystal Palace 14 £58.2m loss £9.8m loss 11 £22.66m 0
Everton 7 £46m loss £32m loss 8 (£78m) £23.6m loss
Huddersfield Promoted £33.4m loss £10m loss 17 £10.85m £23.5m loss
Leicester City 12 £13.8m loss £3.5m loss 9 £5.76m £2.5m profit
Liverpool 4 £15m loss £31m profit 4 -£16m n/c £158.8m loss
Manchester City 3 £128.2m loss £61.2m loss 1 £44.7m £33.5m loss
Manchester Utd 6 £136.2m loss £0 2 £34.05m £43.5m loss
Newcastle United Promoted £29.2m loss £0 10 £2.65m £13.1m profit
Southampton 8 £23m loss £55.9m profit 18 (£-3.65m) £36m loss
Tottenham Hots 2 £2.7m loss £25m loss 3 (£27.7m) £2m profit
Watford 17 £36.3m loss £3,1m loss 14 £13.13m £25m profit
West Ham United 11 £16.5m loss £18,8m profit 13 (£-1.15m) £82m loss


To try and explain the figures, the ideal position for any club would be to make a profit and go up the league.  The only clubs that made a profit on their transfer dealings were

  • Arsenal: Down one place, with £13m profit
  • Liverpool.  No change in position with £16m profit
  • Southampton:  Down ten places with £32.9m profit
  • Tottenham Hotspur: Down one place with £22.3m profit
  • West Ham United: Down two places with £2.3m profit.

On that basis making a profit on transfers either leads to the club standing still, or in most cases takes the club down anything from one to ten places.

So of the spenders, who got the most value out of each £1m spent in terms of rising up the league?  Here is the amount spent per position gained:

  • Burnley: £1.28m per place rise up the table
  • Newcastle United: £2.65m per place rise up the table
  • Leicester City: £5.76m per place rise up the table
  • Brighton: £9.5m per place rise up the table
  • Huddersfield: £10.85m per place rise up the table
  • Watford: £13.13m per place rise up the table
  • Crystal Palace: £22.6m per place rise up the table
  • Manchester United £34.05m per place rise up the table
  • Manchester City: £44.7m per place rise up the table

Finally who really, really screwed up, spending money and then going down the table?

  • Bournemouth £10m per position lost down the league
  • Tottenham Hotspur £27.7m per position lost down the league
  • Chelsea: £32.5m per position lost down the league
  • Everton: £78m per position lost down the league

So what do we make of all this?

  1.  Making a profit on transfers might help the club’s books but doesn’t help its league position
  2. To rise up a place in the table can cost anything between £1.28m and £44.7m (an average of £23m per place).  Generally (although not always) it costs more to go up a place at the top than it does in the lower reaches.
  3. It is possible spend money and slip down the league.  Of course one can always claim that the benefits of the money spent will be seen in the future.

To round it all up, the last column shows the net spend so far this window – although this may not be fully up to date.  The top spenders (net) are

  • Liverpool £158.8m
  • West Ham: £82m
  • Arsenal £68.7m
  • Chelsea: £46.9m
  • Manchester United: £43.5m
  • Southampton: £36m
  • Manchester City: £33.5m

On the basis of the above, for Arsenal to rise from 6th to 4th they need to spend £46m.  To get third spot they need to spend £69m – round about what they have spent (these spend figures are always net)

So the projection from these figures is Arsenal will finish third.  That should put the mockers on everything.  (Incidentally I haven’t included the Cups at all in this.  I think I’d need 3D charts for that.

I’ll try and update at the end of the window.  But here’s one thing: such figures take no note of the value of each player.  Find a Matteo Guendouzi and buy him for £8m; that could be the best investment of the summer.  Better for example, than Liverpool buying Alex Ox Chamberlain.



12 Replies to “How much does it cost in transfer fees to take a club up one place in the PL?”

  1. The ‘mistake’ in the chart might be to have taken the whole of the transfer fee and applied it to one (the first) season after it happened. Fees are amortised over the period of the contract and therefore their impact on league position should be similarly spread. That, of course, is a very much more complicated thing to do not least because all of the other factors (change in manager/stadium/games played etc.) need to be factored in.
    A well run club will do this especially if they have an owner who takes a realistic view of return on investment. Arsenal have made a decent transfer fee’s worth of investment on their training and medical facilities over the past two or three years and will judge the return on that by their subsequent need NOT to spend in the transfer market. Risk of getting it wrong will thus be reduced and calculations adjusted accordingly.

  2. I really think that the arsenal prediction based on this analysis could be right only that when it is right, other bloggetas will start using the same method and fail to give Tonny the credit he deserves.

  3. I always start the season ready to see if the playing field is level. Always hoping and looking for a change. But most importantly I’d like to see something that explains why the EPL almost alone among the major leagues feels video refereeing is not for them. The refs who have been more criticised with more statistics than in any other major league, is the one that says, “we don’t need them”

  4. To raise funds to do one or two more incoming transfers this summer window, I think Arsenal will likely sell some senior squad Gunners who have been on the fringes at the Emirates Stadium such as: homegrown Jenkinson, Campbell, Perez,
    homegrown Welbeck, homegrown Akpom who is about being sold.and Ospina. From the selling of these 6 Gunners could fetch Arsenal about £20m to recoup part of the just over £70m they’ve spent on incoming transfers this summer.

    If Chelsea truly want Aaron Ramsey this summer window. Arsenal may oblige them to allow them have him since they can’t meet his high wage demands before he’ll agree to extend his contract at the club. But the deal to transfer him to Chelsea should be players swapped plus cash payment to Arsenal deal by Chelsea. Arsenal could swap Ramsey for Bathuayi plus at least £19m cash payment to Arsenal for the swapped deal. But Bathuayi is a forward who Arsenal can replace Welbeck with if they sell him. And Ramsey is an attacking MF. To replace Ramsey then, Arsenal may need to enter into this summer transfer market again to do a new attacking midfielder signing. And who should that be? I am yet to figure him out. But Ozil, Torreira, Guendouzi, ElNeny, Xhaka, Rowe, Nelson and Maitland (8 midfielders) will all be available to step in to fill the void that will be left behind by Ramsey should he leaves before Arsenal find a suitable replacement for him.

  5. Samuel, pump your brakes a little. Did you just say we’d recoup about £20m selling the 6 players mentioned? Danny Welbeck alone is reported in some places as the subject of a possible Everton bid of £15m. David Ospina is also reported to have had a bid of about £2m for him from Besiktas. https://www.transfermarkt.comrates valuates Lucas Perez at about €7.5m, although mentions Arsenal wanting €8.0m from Lazio for him. Joel Campbell is worth at least €3.0m, Carl Jenkinson another €3.5m. So even judging by their market values, Perez, Campbell and Jenkinson should fetch about £13m. But hey, there might be a fire sale at Arsenal we don’t know about.

  6. OT: ICC in Singapore, and football idiocy in Australia

    BDortmund(1), Liverpool(2), BMunich(7), Man$ity(8) are finished playing games.
    Lyon and RMadrid have yet to start playing games.
    Juventus have played 2 games and have 5 points. They could finish above BDortmund (on points). Arsenal and the spuds have played 2 games, and have 4 points. Theyc could finish equal to BDortmund on points.

    PSG plays AMadrid today, last game for PSG. The most PSG can finish with is 6 points.

    Tomorrow ManU play RMadrid, ManU’s last game and RMadrid’s first. The most ManU can finish with is 5 points. Spuds play Milan, spuds last game. Barcelona play Roma, second game for both. The most the spuds can finish with is 7 points (which would tie BDortmund), with them having 1 less on goal difference than us. They are tied with Dortmund on goal difference at the moment, so to win their last game will see their record be better than BDortmund’s.


    The Islington Gazette had a person in Singapore for the ICC games. I know that the Islington Gazette has people writing articles about Arsenal, who do not seem to be fans of Arsenal. But this person in Singapore seems to be a fan of Arsenal He wrote 2 articles, but how the paper displays the articles makes it not trivial to actually read both of them.


    TheRoar has an article about a football correspondant, who had recently reached the 736 article plateau for TheRoar (which he equates to half a million words). The article talks about some political issues revolving around football in Australia.

    A snippet:

    But then you tune into a televised FFA Cup fixture where one team is forced to tape over a miniscule Italian flag on the back of their jerseys, while the other team runs around in an away kit bearing the colours of that same Italian flag, and you can only shake your head and laugh.

  7. Completely meaningless comment.


    Personally, I think that it would be better to look at the costs to move up one point. I think that the finish in the Top-N is in large part due to random factors. I think the finish in The Rest of The EPL is also due in large part to random factors.

    More points leads to better finish.

  8. I like the analysis, but the number that matters is transfer fees and wages paid, not net spend.

    Here’s why.

    Net spend is relevant only from a business standpoint, but not as a declaration of ambition. A club can take in any amount of cash from sales, but is under no obligation to spend those windfalls (Just ask the Newcastle faithful).

    The number that determines a club’s ambition is wages paid; with wages often the less talked about, but more important number because it is that number that determines agent/player compensation. When you see top players balking at a transfer, it is not because the buying club is not paying a big enough fee, it’s because the personal terms; wages, are not satisfactory to the player and, more importantly, his agent.

    Case in point, Alexis Sanchez. He did not leave Arsenal to win trophies (anyone who thinks players leave a team to win trophies are stupid, delusional or both) or because Man U or Man City were offering huge fees; he left for massive wages. Wages Arsenal could not or would not, pay. Oscar did not leave Chelsea for China for the fee the Chinese club paid, he left for the massive paycheck he’s earning in utter obscurity. Ditto for Iniesta.

    Arsenal this season have spent around €79 million (Transfermarkt), but the club cannot count on being able to sell any of the players currently on their books. Welbeck, Perez, Jenkinson, Akpom, Ospina, Campbell, Cech, and Ramsey have all been rumored out the door. All of them could go or none of them could go. However,the money they bring in might be less important than the money Arsenal end saving on their wages. Those players combined earn about £500,000 per week, or about £25 million, annually. Clearing those financial obligations is probably just as important as earning transfer fees.

    The problem with using wages forocmparison is the real numbers are more difficult to know. Add-ons, performance clauses, and other factors affect them so most cases, players’ wages are not actually known.

    The other reason is it fees paid and wages that signal ambition is, especially at the top of the table (Man U, Man City, and Chelsea), buys are made based on the needs of the club and then sales are made based on who the manager wants to keep, not balancing the books; because to get the players you want you have to buy first; and once you spend, you can’t be sure of how much you will get back in from sales. Obviously teams do their best to balance sales and spending, but for the ambitious clubs, it is all about getting the right players at any price.

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