This summer’s transfers: the biggest spenders, the biggest sellers

by Tony Attwood

In terms of the amount of money spent on players this window Arsenal came 7th, spending £118.86m and gaining an income of £21.42m.  Top spenders were Manchester United and Chelsea, as was by and large expected, but then came West Ham who had a net spend of £147.78.   West Ham are up for sale, and clearly the owners felt that a club that is likely to sink into the championship is not worth nearly so much as one that is comfortably mid-table.  Hence the investment.

And of course, in this regard, the owners are helped by the curious way in which transfers are paid for – usually over a period of three or four years.  Quite often by the time a player has been fully paid for, he has then moved on again to another club.  Certainly the owners of WHU will hope to have got rid of the club before the second instalments are due.

Looking at the detail we find Tottenham outdid Arsenal in terms of spending (they spent £34m more) and sales (generating £13m more from the players they let go.)   Clearly, that mega stadium debt is still not impinging on their transfer operations.

Newcastle didn’t blow the rest of the league out of the water through utilising their newfound wealth, but were fifth in terms of net spend.  They were however one of only three clubs that didn’t have any income from sales.  The other two were Southampton and Bournemouth.

Brighton were the club who came out the window with the biggest profit: £68m, and it will be interesting to see how they do in the rest of this season.  They are currently sitting fourth in the league – the much-admired position that brings Champions League football to a club.

But what about the longer-term?   What if we look at the money spent on transfers from 2020/21 to 2022/23?   Here Arsenal are the fourth biggest spenders, and if we look at net spend the third biggest spenders.  Only Chelsea and Manchester United out did us.  Figures are from Transfermarkt


# club Expenditure Income Balance Lge pos
1 10
2 5
3 1
4 12
5 3
6 14


What this suggests is that there is no immediate or absolute link between the net spend of clubs on new players and the league position of the club.  Transfers in can of course help – as Arsenal indeed have seen this year.  But they are not a guarantee.

Indeed the media and some fans do like to emphasise transfer mistakes: players brought in for a huge fee who then don’t deliver, and those sold for a modest sum who go on to be brilliant.  But the point is, of course, players change.   The transfer itself can have an effect on the player, the ability to settle in, family difficulties, the reaction of fans, a sudden change of manager (so that the manager who brought the player in is then removed and the new manager doesn’t see how the player fits) … all these things have an effect.

In short, spending money can work (Jesus is an obvious example) but is not a guarantee.

Of course, it can be argued that expenditure on this window should not count because the players have only just arrived,   So let’s have a look at the money spent from 2020/21 to 2021/22 but still note the position the club is in, in the league, today.


# club Expenditure Income Balance Lge pos
1 10
2 2
3 1
4 19
5 5
6 3
7 6
8 12
9 7
10 14


So although there is some relationship between money spent and league position, it most certainly is not always a clear and immediate relationship.   The best one can say is that transfer dealings can help, but they are most certainly not a guarantee of success.  Just consider Aston Villa.

But of course the transfer rumours are the easiest ways of filling up websites and newspapers, so the stories continue – and will continue.   However, as ever, most of them are completely untrue.

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