By Tony Attwood
Given the amount of time the media spends reporting transfers, one might think that spending money on players guarantees success. But it turns out this might not be so.
Football Observatory has once again created a directory of the 100 most valuable players in European football, 41 of whom are in the Premier League.
Looking at the seven clubs from 2021/2 that qualified for Europe what we see is this in terms of these top players…
- Manchester City: 13 players out of 41.
- Liverpool: 5 players out of 41.
- Chelsea: 6 players out of 41
- Tottenham Hotspur: 5 players out of 41
- Arsenal: 4 players out of 41
- Manchester United: 5 players out of 41
- West Ham United: 1 player out of 41.
Everton and Crystal Palace also had one player each on the list.
This does show the wide gap not just between the top six and the rest of the league but also between Manchester City, and the rest of the league. Their ability to spend anything they wish, without being questioned in terms of the old “financial fair play” system, shows how limited the value of FFP has been.
Arsenal’s players on the list are
- Saka: €100.2m
- Emile Smith Rowe: €62.3m
- Martin Odegaard: €57.8m
- Aaron Ramsdale: €51.2m
Of those four, only two players cost the club anything. Odegaard will have cost €57.8m once the add ons are paid, which is the actual value of him quoted by Football Observatory. Ramsdale cost €35.14.
So we have €274.20m worth of players picked up for €92.94.m Which is not only interesting in itself, but also interesting in relation to the way the media treat Arsenal as a transfer machine which is useless and out of control, always missing the good deal, and best available players, and always paying over the odds for duds.
Getting €274.20 worth of players for €92.94 was obviously very helpful at a time when the club let go Ozil (cost €49.8m) and Aubameyang (cost €67.2m) for nothing.
We can also note that only three of the top 41 players play for teams outside the big six which in turn shows the gap between the top six clubs in the Premier League and the rest.
What we can also see is just how totally Manchester City have on occasion been able to by-pass any restrictions on how much they spend on transfers in picking up around one third of the most valuable players in the Premier League all for themselves
One other interesting approach is to see how much each squad has cost. The list below comes from TransferMarkt and shows clubs sorted by purchase value (excluding players who are loaned out).
In the table below the purchase value shows the total of all the fees the club has spent on its present squad, while the market value shows the TransferMarkt estimated value of the squad in the market today.
One would expect the difference between the two (the “difference” column) to be positive because the cost of players is rising all the time, although this has to be taken against the negative pressure of players getting older, getting injured and losing form.
In this regard Liverpool have been the most effective operators in the transfer market and Newcastle the least, although of course much depends on each club’s position in the buying cycle. A club like Arsenal which is undergoing wholesale reform of the squad finds its “difference” depressed.
The “Value for Money” (Vfm) column at the end shows the difference between the clubs’ league position and its position in the transfer expenditure market. Thus Manchester United spent the second largest amount of money but came sixth in the league, giving them a Vfm of -4.
The biggest winners have been Tottenham who were the tenth highest spenders but who came fourth in the league, while the big losers were Everton with a megaspend that took them to 16th in the league, and Aston Villa who also spent big and came 14th.
|#||Club||Market value||Purchase value||Difference||Lge pos||Vfm|
What this table shows most of all is how effective club purchasing has been over time if we work on the widespread belief that transfers are the key to taking a club up the table. The spending can work (as Tottenham has shown) but it is not the panacea that the media like to pretend. The total of the value for money column is -15, which shows that overall, the more that is spent, the lower one goes.
A club needs the right manager and the right support team, and some luck, in order to make spending on players work. The norm is for it not to work.
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