Who spent the most money this summer and has it done them any good?

By Tony Attwood

There were some huge variations in the amount of money being lashed out this summer – and indeed in the amount of money being received by clubs for players sold.

Each year different sources quote different sums of money being spent, and so as per previous years I have limited myself to the same source: the Guardian, which publishes a transfer window chart, gathering all the buying and selling by each club in the top five leagues in Europe.

And there are some surprises this year in their calculations.  Here is an extracted version including the “top six” clubs plus some other clubs in the Premier League whose expenditure may be taking you by surprise.  In each case the total is the amount spent on players minus the amount gathered from selling players.  To keep things simple, the full amount of the transfer is quoted – so there is nothing to be included for part payments on players bought in earlier years, nor part receipts.

I’m not listing every club – just the ones at the top and those that traded at a profit at the bottom.  Expenditure has a minus sign, profit a plus sign (which I know is obvious but seemed to cause some confusion a couple of years ago, so I thought I would say it).

Position Club Net income / expenditure
1 Aston Villa -£146m
2 Arsenal -£90
3 Wolverhampton Wanderers -£73
4 Manchester United -£73
5 Manchester City -£72
6 Tottenham -£59
7 Brighton and Hove Albion -£56m
8 Sheffield United -£44m
18 Liverpool +£36m
19 Crystal Palace +39m
20 Chelsea +£83m

So, far from being diminished in its ability to spend money as was predicted by a whole raft of blogs and “supporters associations” (I use the term lightly having watched their antics this summer), Arsenal were the second highest spenders in the Premier League

Here are also a few highlights from around Europe, where spending by the vast majority of clubs was way below the Premier League level.

Country Club Net income / expenditure
France PSG +£7m
Germany Bayern Munich -£51m
Italy Juventus +£15m
AC Milan -£73
Inter Milan -£103m
Spain Barcelona £-107m
Real Madrid £-151m

Arsenal’s figure did indeed exceed that of Bayern Munich, as well as PSG and Juventus, both of whom took a profit on player trading this summer.

But perhaps we might also note that Aston Villa exceeded everyone’s expenditure except Real Madrid.

If we look at the three promoted clubs last season we can see a real difference of approach between them because whereas Villa spent £146m, and Sheffield Utd £44m, thus both getting into the chart above, Norwich City actually made a profit of £1.4m.

After four games Sheffield United are 10th with one win, two draws and one defeat, Aston Villa 18th with one win and three defeats and Norwich City one place below them again with one win and three defeats.

The point is that of course, the money spent on transfers is not by itself a sound way of measuring success.  It certainly can equate to success over time, as Manchester City and before them Chelsea have clearly shown, but it may take a bit of time and it needs a good manager in tune with his side.

The big experiment at Arsenal comes with reducing the number of over 21s and placing a greater emphasis on younger players.  This in turn has the benefit of allowing the club to buy potentially better (ie more expensive) players, while encouraging young players to come to Arsenal, rather than go somewhere else.

The same benefit is accrued by allowing young players who are demanding a place in the first team, but who are not deemed to be ready, to move on.   Krystian Bielik being sold to Derby for £7.5m is a case in point.

And finally, just to turn our attention to the giant spenders in Spain, Real Mad have won one and drawn two of their first three games, while Barcelona sit eighth in the league having won one, drawn one, and lost one.  As managers always say, it takes a while to get a new team settled.

Top of the league is Atletico Madrid – who sold Antoinne Griezman to Barcelona for £107.6m.

So looking at this overall, Arsenal’s modest start to the season, having spent more than most clubs, is probably not a sign of anything other than the new players settling in, and is exactly what is happening at other big spending clubs.