By Tony Attwood
As we have seen in recent articles the amount of money clubs spend on players varies year by year, but is growing. Our little table yesterday made this particularly clear I thought:
||1st year loss
||Final year loss
|2013/14 to 2015/16
This set of figures shows the trend, and trends are important because when one looks at individual club spending on players in specific seasons one can come up with some funny figures. The point is (and this is rather obvious, but often missed) that expenditure comes before results. Money spent in 2013/14 will be showing on the pitch not that season, and often not the season after, but two seasons on. Because it takes players a year or so to settle down in a new team, and it takes managers often two years to pull teams together into a new successful formation.
Thus the result of the spending in the summer of 2019 might start to be revealed as football starts up again now. It might not be revealed until the autumn of this year.
So the real trick of course is to spot the gem player and not just get him cheap, but get him to shine almost at once. And not many clubs manage that.
Barcelona paid at total of around £73m for Neymar when he was 21. 47 goals in 52 games for PSG at the age of 28 suggests that he really was worth the money. But although that now looks like a good deal at any price, there are a lot of players that look great in South America when young, attract a huge fee, and then flop.
That was the point I was trying to make recently in response to arguments that Arsenal’s recruitment and retention policy is rubbish. In fact everyone’s recruitment and retention policy is rubbish most of the time. Just occasionally it works – and then it is called brilliant.
And that is why Gabriel Martinelli is such a dream signing.
First we got him from an unknown club – I mean, be honest, had you heard of Ituano before Martinelli? It is a countryside team.
Second we got him for $7.5m.
Third Man U could have had him – he was on trial with them AND THEY TURNED HIM DOWN.
Fourth he is now training with the Brazil first team.
Indeed it takes an extraordinary amount of mental gymnastics, not to mention a fair degree of barking madness, to suggest that Arsenal’s recruitment policy is rubbish, when Martinelli has so recently been captured by Arsenal for such a tiny amount of money.
“He’s just one player,” bay the hounds, “look at the other flops.” But really guys, look at the flops everywhere – and they are not set off by a recent genius signing.
But of course, this being England, and England having the English media, it is the £74m spent on Nicolas Pépé that makes the headlines. Yet while it is more than likely that Pépé will explode into a real talent in his second season as so many have before him (Henry, Pires, Bergkamp, Anelka…) the raving negativity surrounding Pépé continues.
Meanwhile there is a second stick being used to hit Arsenal with. Arsenal spent loads of cash in summer 2019 but have since sacked their manager and slipped down the league. Chelsea made a net profit of £80m that summer. Liverpool made a net profit of £37m that summer. And they are doing better.
It just goes to make the point that we’ve been making all season, and last season, and… well, you know… transfers rarely translate into improvements. Indeed you might recall (because I have been reminding everyone often enough) that clubs that spend the most one summer invariably do worse the following season than they did the season before. It was certainly true this season.
The big net spenders last summer were
- Aston Villa £137m
- Arsenal £89m
- Tottenham H £86.5m (that’s just the players, there’s also £1bn on a stadium)
- Manchester U £85m
- Manchester C £82m
- Wolverhampton £78m
I go down to Wolverhampton because of our little foray into finding out where their money came from. In fact it was next season’s first round of TV money which paid for some of their transfers. Which is a bit of a shame considering they are currently having to pay back some of this season’s money.
One of the problems however with all this is that no one is ever satisfied. The news that Arsenal are looking at making an offer for the PSG captain Thiago Silva gets everyone excited. Although given the fact that he is 35, I am not sure why. Especially since he earns just under a quarter of a million pounds a week.
Which rather puts into perspective the fact that the EFL clubs are said by the media to be struggling to find the £21m which they need to refund the cost of tickets already bought for the remainder of the League One and League Two seasons, which will now not take place.
The losses in League One are now being reported as £307m out of a revenue of £696m – and probably by the time the final accounts come in that £307m will have risen by another 15% or so.
All of which shows that the figures we have been looking at recently in relation to losses in football permeate down through the leagues. The total losses in the Premier League alone since 2009 are £2,720,000,000.