Premier League clubs increased transfer spending by 50 per cent

29 April 2019

Bernardo Silva
Photo: Getty Images Bernardo Silva were one of the players who made Manchester City the heaviest transfer spenders in 2017/18, with a net outlay of £249 million.

Four clubs had a net spend of over £100 million, with only one making a profit in the transfer market.

Two clubs stand out as massive overachievers relative to their transfer net spend.

One of the biggest spenders had a truly disappointing season.

Richard Jolly

Premier League clubs had a collective net spend of £1.26 billion in 2017/18, up almost 50 percent on the previous season and a leap of 143 percent in four years, as the wealth of English football and the size of its television deal were demonstrated in the transfer market.

Four clubs had individual net transfer spends of over £100 million, with a further five having over £50 million each, and only relegated Swansea made a profit from trading, figures from the clubs’ annual reports reveal.

While all Premier League clubs together had a net spend of £518 million in the 2013/14 season, the net spend of just the Manchester clubs and Chelsea alone combined beat this in 2017/18.


The Manchester clubs are the heaviest spenders

The biggest overachievers in 2017/18, relative to net spend, were Burnley and Tottenham, both 11 places higher in the actual table than in the net-spend charts, followed by Arsenal (10 better off), West Ham (six) and Newcastle (three).

But there were also examples of correlation between spending and success at the top and bottom of the league.

Manchester City were the heaviest spenders, with a net outlay of £249 million as they went on to post a record 100 points. City’s signings included Aymeric Laporte, Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva, Ederson and Danilo.

Manchester United, who finished second in the Premier League, were also the second-heaviest net spenders with £197 million after bringing in Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic, Victor Lindelof and Alexis Sanchez.

Chelsea underachieving 

However, while Chelsea won the FA Cup, the scale of the 2017 champions’ underachievement as they missed out on Champions League qualification is underlined by figures showing that they had the third-highest net spend, despite selling Matic and Diego Costa. Their additions included Alvaro Morata, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Danny Drinkwater, Davide Zappacosta, Emerson Palmeri, Olivier Giroud and Ross Barkley.

Chelsea also paid the second-highest sum to agents, £26.8 million, according to FA figures and behind only Liverpool, who paid £43 million to intermediaries.

Liverpool ranked only sixth for net spend, at £58.1 million, in a year when they paid a world-record fee for a defender - £75 million for Virgil van Dijk - but also sold Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona for a fee rising to £142 million.

Arsenal and Tottenham with lowest net spend among 'big six'

Tottenham and Arsenal were the exceptions among the ‘big six’, ranking 14th and 16th for net spend even though Spurs made Davinson Sanchez a club-record buy. Arsenal made the two most expensive signings in their history, in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, but also parted company with Sanchez and sold players such as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Giroud.

The finances show how Burnley outperformed to come seventh, their highest top-flight finish since 1974. Burnley had the lowest spending on agents, just £3.9 million, and a net transfer outlay of only £7.2 million, helped by the sale of Michael Keane to Everton.

Everton were the fourth English club with a net spend of over £100 million, despite bringing in £75 million for Lukaku’s move to Manchester United, but nevertheless finished eighth, 26 points off the top four. Their wage bill was only £2 million less than Tottenham’s and they also had the fifth highest spend on agents’ fees, behind only Liverpool, Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs.

Brighton and Huddersfield had the lowest wage bills

It is notable that two promoted clubs, Brighton and Huddersfield, had a net spend of over £50 million, which enabled both to stay in the Premier League. However, Huddersfield’s recently-released accounts for 2017/18 show they could afford that: They still posted a profit of £23 million and had staff costs of £62.6 million.

That gave Huddersfield the lowest wage bill in the Premier League, while Brighton, who also made a profit, had the second lowest.

In contrast, the relegated duo of West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City posted losses, with the latter losing £30 million. Both had a net spend of over £30 million in the transfer market in 2017/18.

The third demoted club, Swansea, took a different path. Helped by the club-record sale of Gylfi Sigurdsson to Everton for £45 million, they made a £7.7 million transfer-market profit. Swansea’s biggest buy was Andre Ayew in the January 2018 window, meaning West Ham, uncharacteristically, were only the 19th biggest spenders.


Possible downturn in net spend for 2018/19

Since then, West Ham have spent around £100 million in the transfer market, as did Fulham, who have already been relegated. However, the 2018/19 figures could show a downturn in net spend, with Tottenham not buying anyone and both Manchester clubs spending less.

In 2017/18, Premier League clubs were in the second season of a record three-year deal for television rights, with Sky Sports and BT paying £5.1 billion for domestic rights, and overseas rights worth another £3 billion.

It meant Premier League clubs were also able to spend more than £260 million on agents in 2017/18, a year when the majority of those who have announced their financial results have declared a profit, and all bar Newcastle had an increased wage bill.