How much does a club have to spend on transfers to get a trophy?



By Tony Attwood

In the table below I’ve collected the amount of money spent on transfers less the amount received on player sales, and then looked at the number of major trophies each club has got.

Of course, there can be arguments about what a major trophy is – does it include the league cup for example? 

I have chosen to include the Champions League, Europa League, Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup as trophies – and then done a second table taking the league cup out of the equation, so you can see it both ways.

Net transfer spending since the summer 2012 to summer 2021 windows, is reported in millions of euros (€ Million) for the ten clubs that have spent the most on transfers.  (I have ended at summer 2021 rather than summer 2022 since obviously, we have yet to see the effect of summer 2022 spending on these clubs).

To be quite clear this figure is the net spend (money spent less money received from sales) and is taken from the Football Observatory figures, which are generally accepted as being the most reliable across Europe.


Club Net spend on transfers Trophies since 2012 Net spend per trophy
Man United €1075m PL (1) FAC (1) Lge Cup (1) Europa (1) €268.47m
Man City €984m PL (5) FAC (1) Lg Cup (6) €82m
Arsenal €583m FAC (4) €145.75m
Everton €429m
Aston Villa €424m
Chelsea €413m PL (2) FAC (1), Lge Cup (1) Champs Lge (1) €82.6m
WHU €374m
Liverpool €347m PL (1) Champs Lge (1) FA Cup (1), Lge Cup (1) €86.75m
Newcastle €339m
Tottenham €336m


Interestingly, that statistical change of not counting the league cups brings Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool much closers together.

But whatever way we look at these figures we can see that the five clubs that have had a net spend of over a third of a billion euros and won not a single major trophy between them, must have been poorly run.  And that applies whether we are looking at the money spent or anything else.

However, it must particularly apply to West Ham United, who were given their stadium by the taxpayers.   If you, like me, are a UK taxpayer, then I suspect you, like me, may feel that you did not get good value for our tax pounds from that particular Boris Johnson deal.

So Arsenal have been spending a bit more than Chelsea and Liverpool for each significant trophy but well under half the amount that Manchester United have dished out.

Which makes it interesting to contemplate the fact some Manchester United supporters want the Glazer family out for not spending enough money on the club!!!  Yet they have been spending double the amount Arsenal had spent, and won one fewer trophy!

2 Replies to “How much does a club have to spend on transfers to get a trophy?”

  1. I’ve been saying for years that continuous high spend is crucial if you want to win trophies. It’s not the guarantee it was of course when there were just 2, then 3 clubs outspending everyone else, but you won’t win anything without it. Yes, we had the one anomaly of Leicester, but anomaly it was, and everybody knew it.

    Now we have lots of clubs spending enormous amounts of money but there’s only a limited number of ‘major’ trophies to go round and as such if you keep getting bad managers buying bad players you still may not win anything, or at least not as much as your spending suggests you should, as has happened to Manchester United.

    And of course, as you say Tony, everyone else who’s spending big, including Arsenal, have found out, or are finding out, just how hard it is to claw back the lost ground. It took Man City 4 years of enormous spending to land their first championship in over 40 years and they only had Chelsea and Man Utd to catch as Arsenal were, at the time, spending net zero when the oil money arrived.

    And another thing, Sporadic big spending doesn’t work either, as Spurs have found out.

    The only way to win ‘major’ trophies is to spend big and then to keep on spending big. And even then, there’s no guarantee if you get rubbish managers.

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