Arsenal had 2nd largest transfer spend in England, but how does this rank in Europe?

By Tony Attwood

The transfer window is far from over in Europe, but with the exception of taking on out-of-contract players, the Premier League is done and dusted.   So I thought I might put together a state of play index showing all the Premier League’s clubs along with a few of the major European clubs in terms of money spent or, in a few cases (indicated by a + sign) a profit.

All the figures in what follows come from the Guardian’s chart of transfers and reflect the officially released prices for each player moving to the club.

One thing to say before we go on, there have been a number of attempts to re-write Arsenal’s expenditure to bring it in line with, or even below, the definitive statement made by Arsenal Supporters Trust who claimed that Arsenal would have a net spend of £45m.

In response to this the Swiss Ramble twitter account gave us ten different ways of calculating Arsenal’s spend this summer, and indeed by finding your favourite accounting approach, the total can be taken down to £40m.   But then, to make this comperable, we’d have to adjust everyone else’s summer spend in the same way, and that would leave Arsenal in the same position as we see here – second in the Premier League’s expenditure league, but behind Europe’s big spenders – Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Inter Milan.

However the approach adopted is much simpler – taking the amount declared as the cost of each player, irrespective of whether it is to be paid in one go or over time – and it applies to each club, irrespective of how and when they intend to pay the money.

Looking at the top of the Net Expenditure table we can see just three teams that have (so far at least, given that their windows are still open) exceeded the spend of the English clubs.

In the Premier League, top of the table are Aston Villa, who after three years outside of the top division seem to be determined to stay in the top league and not slip back again.   Indeed Villa clearly see themselves as a PL club with a top division heritage, reflecting the fact that in 1990 and 1993 Villa came second in the top division and in 1981 won the league, winning the European Cup the following season.   Including wins in the early days of the competitions Villa have won the league and the cup seven times each.  But many of these were a very long time ago.

At the other end of the English scale there is Norwich, also promoted, who look to be quite happy to see how things go, and if necessary take the money and a relegation, presumably with the aim of building up the club over time.

The window in France, Germany and Spain closes on 2 September, so they have a lot of time to play with.  I’ll try and remember to update this table when it is all over.

Net loss table Net expenditure Selected European Net expenditure
Real Madrid £162.9m
Aston Villa £146.3m Barcelona £112.9m
Inter Milan £103.2m
Arsenal £90.5m
Manchester U £74.7m
Wolverhampton £73.2m
Manchester C £72.8m AC Milan £74.1m
Totttenham H £64.4m Bayern Munich £62.5m
Brighton & HA £60,5m
Sheffield Utd £44.5m
Everton £29m
Newcastle £29m
WHU £28.3m
Southampton £24m
Watford £17.5m
Leicester City £16m
Bournemouth £8.5m
Burnley £6.5m
Norwich £1.1m
Net Profit Table PSG +£0.8m
Juventus +£15m
Liverpool +£28.1m Atletico Madrid +£29.7m
Crystal Palace +£39m Lyon +£61.9m
Chelsea +£78.9m Hoffenheim +£82.9m
Lille +£89.6m

Obviously anything can still happen on the European front.


26 Replies to “Arsenal had 2nd largest transfer spend in England, but how does this rank in Europe?”

  1. The sole intention of AST is to cast Arsenal in a bad light. They’ve been doing this for years and certainly don’t look like stopping now.

    Swiss Rambler is of course trying to validate his often claimed stance that Arsenal always had more money than they said they had, and where a) Either just tight, or b) Simply badly run.

    But doing what he has done to fall in line with AST’s £45 Million claim is typical creative accountancy.

    Of course you can legitimately do that if you take one year in isolation, but the bottom line is the difference between Gross income and Gross outgoing, or Nett loss/gain, has to be ‘accounted’ in the end.

    In other words simply manoeuvring the money about (creative accountancy) by spreading the lose over a number of years is unsustainable.

    For example if we account our transactions over the next 4 transfer windows in the same way, (ie by incurring an actual yearly Nett loss of £90M but showing just a £45M yearly Nett loss) by the year 2023 we will of accrued unaccounted losses (on the books anyway) of £225 Million.

    Not only do these losses have to be ‘accounted’ for eventually, they have to be paid.

    Just because you can make an actual £90 Million deficit look like a £45 Million deficit on the books doesn’t change the fact it’s a £90 Million deficit.

    So as you say Tony, over time, simply taking each seasons Nett loss/gain is by far the simplest, and in the end most accurate way of seeing exactly how much a club is spending on players.

    Save the fancy creative accountancy for what it’s used for best. Allowing big business and the rich to avoid paying their taxes.

  2. @Nitram

    I wouldn`t call it creative accountancy at all. Costs that have a longer life expectancy like a car or in this case a football contract is spread over the expected life line. This is simply to stabilize the accounts so you do not get large swings from year to year on new investments and costs, over the years it is easier to get a clearer picture of the accounts and if the business is sound.

    However, this has nothing to do with cash reserves. A cost and a payment are two very different things. If you agree to buy a player for £25 million in one go, you take that money out of your bank account straight away, but the costs are divided by expected life line (like 5 years). Now the club has £25 million less in the bank account, but the cost is for that year will be listed as £5 million.

    A lot of the things you have listed in your post are categorically wrong and not how things work.

    All Arsenal fans I know that work or are educated in economics regard SwissRamble as a God.

  3. So, in a simple term that the not vast in accounting knowledge will understand what is actually the amount of money in 8ritish Pound Sterling in simple accurate figures of money without any dillydally on it to manipulate the figures have Arsenal spent on signing players during the last summer transfer window?

  4. Samuel

    The following is from an earlier article by Tony, without, as you ask, any dillydally, or ‘creative accounting’ as others may call it.

    “We spent £138m according to the Guardian’s calculator of such things, while receiving £44.6m excluding the undisclosed amounts for Daley Campbell, Amaechi and Jenkinson.

    The Iwobi figure they give is £28m – others are quoting quite a lot more, but I’ll stay with this so that I have taken all the data from the same place.

    That gives us an income of around £47m or £48m at most.

    Taking £48m that means the nett expenditure was £90m or just about double of the higher estimate from Arsenal Supporters Trust and their hangers’ on”

  5. There are many Gods, all of which, in my opinion are false.

    Swiss rambler is no exception.

    Actually, idolising something or someone to that degree simply leads to acceptance of anything they say as incontrovertible.

    I would advise that rather than a God, Swiss Rambler is viewed simply as an accountant who, like all accountants simply makes the figures say what he wants them to say, or even what he believes his ‘audience’ wants him to say.

  6. “I wouldn`t call it creative accountancy at all. Costs that have a longer life expectancy like a car or in this case a football contract is spread over the expected life line. This is simply to stabilize the accounts so you do not get large swings from year to year on new investments and costs, over the years it is easier to get a clearer picture of the accounts and if the business is sound.”

    I understand that, but as Tony says, if you are going to analysis Arsenals spending in that manner then you have to do the same with every club.

    You know and I know that the £45 Million quoted by the AST was a figure meant to be used in comparison to the supposed much larger amounts available to, or being spent by others.

    You know and I know the £45 Million figure used by the AST was a way of accusing the current incumbents of either incompetence or simply being tight in order to leech away money for themselves.

    But if you want to do that using the £45 Million as your stick, then you must analyse everyone else’s ‘Nett’ spending using the same method of accounting, and as again Tony says, if you do that we still come out as ‘big’ spenders.

    The £45 Million was a clear attempt by the AST to discredit the club and as events have transpired they have been shown of fallen well short of their objective, irrespective of which way you play with the figures.

    I repeat, ongoing, a simple comparison of Gross spend versus Gross income, on a yearly basis is the clearest and easiest way of determining how much (NETT) a club is spending on players.

    When and where it appears in the accounts is by and large irrelevant.

  7. @ Nitram & Freddie

    Firstly, as Tony said, if one judges Arsenal’s spend this year over several years as per Swiss Rambler then surely there needs to be a comparison with other clubs to ensure a proper perspective. Rambler did not do this.

    Secondly, if we are to spread this seasons spend over five years, surely one has to account for 20% of each of the last five years of net transfer fees in the current year.

    It’s simply absurd to look at one year in isolation if the argument is that the cost is spread over five. As Freddie says, “that’s not creative accountancy”………… it’s deliberately misleading.

  8. I’ll put this one other way.

    If you go to ‘’ you will see that they quote figures using the simple gross income versus Gross outgoing equalling a ‘Nett’ spend method.

    Just as an example If you look at say Chelsea and Arsenal over the period ’03-’04 to ’13-’14 and add all the seasons ‘Nett’ expenditure you will see that over those 10 years Chelsea spent around £500 Million Nett and Arsenal around a zero Nett.

    How they accounted those sums on the books in each individual year is of course important for the respective Clubs with respect to their business, but from our perspective of simply trying to asses how much money our club is spending, in real terms, on transfers, that is largely irrelevant.

    The bottom line is Chelsea had a Nett spend of around £500 Million and Arsenal Nil.

    How it was ‘accounted’ is, as I say, by and large irrelevant.

  9. Mikey

    “Secondly, if we are to spread this seasons spend over five years, surely one has to account for 20% of each of the last five years of net transfer fees in the current year.

    It’s simply absurd to look at one year in isolation if the argument is that the cost is spread over five. As Freddie says, “that’s not creative accountancy”………… it’s deliberately misleading.”


    Just what I’ve been trying to say, only not so eloquently.

  10. As SwissRamble has posted on his twitter account, there are numerous ways a club can do the accounting which takes different considerations into effect. He only took the transfers of this window to try and explain in isolation 10 different ways they can be looked at account wise.

    I am not arguing the net spend or figures quoted for this window, or how much x players cost. Also I never did have much belief in a set amount of £45 million which was being thrown around because thats just not how it works. Deals and contracts are more intricate now than that. Furthermore I think that AST used the £45 million quoted by the media and added the numbers that would add up to be as much (no evidence, just a hypothesis).

    The only logic behind a set amount of money made available for a transfer window must be the available bank balance to spend on transfers that window. Therefore, if you buy x player for £25 million with a downpayment plan of 5 years with equal amount each year, you spend £5 million that year of your cash balance. Then you are left with £40 million to spend/cash balance that window.

    I have seen different places and people use this model as an answer to our net spend this window. In this case they would put our net spend as £5 million.

    When selling players with a downpayment plan, it has become very normal to sell the downpayment plan to a credit institution and receive most of the money straight away (minus whatever the credit institution charges in percentage). An example would be the Pepe deal where Lille did exactly this.

    So if you take all this into consideration, you can sell a player for £50 million on a 5 year downpayment plan but receive lets say £45 million after selling that debt. Then you pay those £5 million on that player that cost £25 million. You are left with a net earn of £40 million account wise that window. The reason being you have sold your debt and received the close to full amount. Your cash balance would in this case would increase by £40 million. If you decided not to sell the debt, your cash balance would only increase by £5 million.

    The easiest and most correct way would be to look at sales income and expenditure and leave out payment plans. Then you can say we spent £200 million and sold for £100 million. Our net spend would then be £100 million. This is by far the best way to compare clubs over x amount of years (As Tony pointed out). It is close to impossible if you start comparing spreadsheets unless you have full transparency within each club.

    I hope it at least gives an idea that a quoted £45 million doesn’t necessarily mean we can’t buy players for £200 million, or that we can maximum spend £45 million. It is always about the cash balance available and how the deals are structured.

    I could write for ages about this topic. This is just a small simplified way of looking at it, there is also the question if wages are to be taken into consideration on the spending budget.

    The most important thing I have left to say when it comes to accounting is that there is a huge difference between a payment and a cost (which in effect is what I have tried to explain somewhat)

    To finish off I didn’t mean Tony was wrong in his post, moreso your first comment Nitram.

  11. The Times of Malta has a blog entry tracking transfer issues. There is no Arsenal news there at the moment.

  12. The Straights Times is pointing out that Man$ity just got a $500,000 fine and no transfer ban, for something similar to what Chel$ea got ^00,000 Swiss Franks and 1 year transfer ban for.

    Could be double standard? Nah, FIFA is such a fine upstanding organization, it would never do something like that. Sort of like Shawcross would never deliberately ….

  13. Amortisation in football is the standard accounting practice that is used to write off the cost of an incoming player.
    So say a £50m player signed on a five year contract has a book value of £40 million after one season and £30 million after two and so on. If after two years you sell that player for £50 million in accounts you show a profit of £20 million.
    Any player sold be it for a profit or indeed at a loss ( for less than their book value) then that transaction is reflected at the point in time it happened.
    As I say when you buy a player in the accounts their fee is written off over a set period. It is futile to to take player sells from player purchases and gain any true or remotely accurate snapshot of how the cash flowed in and out.
    Many clubs pay transfer fees over the period of a contract some don’t. Arsenal don’t pay all the fee up front indeed if you look at the accounts a key component in the operating model was that they hold on deposit ( cash reserves) the sums still owed for toast transfers. They are almost unique in that respect and although not understood by most it’s why Arsenal’s spending was more restrained.
    AST never said that Arsenal’s transfer spend would be £45 million here’s what they said

    “Given the known conservative approach from Arsenal it is accordingly estimated that the only spare cash available at present is that which has been generated in the season to May 2019 (before players sales). As the first table above shows this in the region of £40-50m. “

  14. cont

    Therein is the difference between what was expected to be spent and what actually was spent is that much of those fees is being funded from future income and not being on deposit .Nothing wrong with that and indeed it’s how most clubs operate.

  15. One might accept that Mike T and Freddie make valid points.

    What I do not accept for one moment is that the media in general were attempting to portray the story in the same way. It was quite clear that the message was Arsenal are rubbish because Arsenal are only going to spend £45m whilst other clubs are much, much better because they are going to spend hundreds of millions.

    They chose to use £45m as a figure which we could spend on players this window. They deliberately set out to mislead the public by making it look like we had a miserly budget compared to other clubs. That was their agenda, pure and simple. They chose to compare apples with pears because it suited that agenda.

    The problem I have with Swiss Rambler is that he set out to justify the figures in isolation and hence perpetuate that agenda. I don’t disagree with his arithmetical approach (or that of Mike T and Freddie) what I’m saying is that it was deliberately used to perpetuate a misleading (anti-Arsenal) agenda.

  16. Actually, idolising something or someone to that degree simply leads to acceptance of anything they say as incontrovertible.

    Nitram you and and a few others on here have doing the same with Arsene Wenger for years..You idolise him and see him as a god so whats the difference??

  17. Miley

    The Swiss Rambler who is far more qualified that’s probably most if not all that post in here is actually a big Arsenal fan.

  18. nick – Arsene Wenger went a whole season udefeated in the EPL. That is as close to Godliness in football as one can get.

    Incidentally the spend or saving of the club only matters to the WalMart Kranke. We can rant about it all day but he laughs all the way to the bank.

    For the football supporter tne only nett that matters is the one behind our goalie.

  19. nick

    Back on the 12/08/2019 you said:

    A good hard fought win and a clean sheet to boot. Well done Arsenal.” Some things never change on this site as sure as night follow day and they are that all the referees are against us and that we would be better still under Wenger.

    I subsequently said the following:

    “And it’s ONE person who has said he thinks we’d be better off with Wenger. ONE.”

    Then I asked:

    “And show me one comment that says ALL referees are against us.

    Please feel free to exaggerate make stuff up.

    And if you’re not, be sure to list ALL the guys who’ve said ALL the referees are against us and ALL the guys who’ve said we’d be better off with Wenger.

    Shouldn’t take you long”


    Well it shouldn’t of took you long but alas you are yet to find me ONE poster saying ALL refs are against us, or name more the ONE poster saying we would be better off with Wenger.

    Which brings me to your latest dig.

    Where have I ever said Wenger is a God ?

    Where have I ever said he was perfect ?

    Either back up your accusations or stop making them.

    And in any case, you do know It’s not a crime to admire Wenger don’t you?

    You do know it’s a perfectly reasonable point of view to think Emery wont match Wenger don’t you ?

    Ask any Man Utd fan if they think OGS will be better than Sir Alex.

    Ask any Chelsea fan if they think Frank Lampard will be better than Jose at his peak.

    But back to Emery, personally I think it’s way too early to make any judgement.

    I think he’s made a good start. I think we’ve had a good transfer window, now lets see what he can do with what is gradually becoming HIS team.

    I’m hopeful.

    Not only am I hopeful but I will support Emery every bit as much as I supported Wenger.

    Will I be here in 1, 2, 3 years eulogising about how brilliant he is ? Who knows. Depends what he achieves doesn’t it.

    Rather than continually telling me and others what they should and shouldn’t think of Wenger, Emery or anything else for that matter, just try sticking to telling us what you think.

    Making accusations you cannot substantiate is not clever.

  20. nick is a troll who I believe has had many names on here. Just watch him appear if Tony has a go at Amy Lawrence

  21. I wanted to make a point about”creative accounting” and “big corporations paying less tax”.

    Firstly, accounting profits do not represent a company’s tax position.

    Secondly, it is not creative accounting that allows a company to pay less tax.

    It is a combination of inept HMRC officials (some not all) and the pressure they face if a global organisation downsize or leave (think reduced PAYE and NI which represent a larger portion of tax take than corporation tax).

    Although the starting point is a set of accounts, a number of adjustments will be made to arrive at a taxable position. You can amortise or depreciate or make provisions as much as you like, but if they do not fall within the tax rules, you won’t get the deduction for tax purposes.

    Coupled with the view the company is paying tax elsewhere (eg NI), you can understand why HMRC sometimes don’t go hard into large companies.

    Right or wrong is another issue.

    Sorry for going off tangent .


  22. Keng

    I appreciate what you are saying.

    I do accept tax breaks are often necessary if we want to keep businesses on our shores.

    I also know that they are often as not working within the law. Whether they are working within the spirit of the law is another matter.

    What annoys me though is not that some big businesses get tax breaks but that they hardly pay any tax at all, and that can’t be right.

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