Premier League new boys punt £50 million every summer just to survive

20 June 2019

Aston Villa
Photo: Getty Images Aston Villa had only a Premier League club for 17 days when they started spending big by signing Wesley Moraes for £22 million. A new transfer record for Villa.

Staggering figures show almost half a billion pounds spent by teams promoted in last three seasons.

Six of those nine clubs promoted from Championship have already been relegated.

See all the players the promoted teams bought at the bottom of the article.

Aston Villa had been back in the Premier League for just 17 days when they broke their transfer record by signing Wesley Moraes for £22 million.

Last summer newly promoted Fulham resembled a European lottery winner and started throwing cash around like confetti.

By the time the season started they’d spent more than £100 million. Twelve months previously, Newcastle, then newly crowned Championship winners, spent less than £40 million on new players and were pilloried by their own fans.

Newcastle finished tenth and Fulham were relegated with four games of the campaign remaining. 

Key area of recruitment

Offthepitch.com has discovered that the nine clubs entering the richest league in the world over the last three seasons have averaged a spend of £46.7 million each in an attempt to stay in the division.

That made no difference to four (Fulham, Cardiff, Middlesbrough and Hull) of the nine clubs, who were immediately relegated back to the Championship, and a further one (Huddersfield) was relegated in season two.

The English game is unquestionably now moving towards the continental model for the key area of recruitment, and all three promoted this time last year adopted hugely contrasting strategies to stay up.

Lost his job

Neil Warnock took a Championship squad that was not heavily strengthened to within three points of staying in the Premier League. He kept his job.

Chris Hughton was not always on page with the recruitment team at Brighton. He kept them up for two seasons and lost his job.

"Mehmet [Dalman], the chairman, and Vincent [Tan], the owner, didn’t want to overspend last summer and I said I was happy with that," admitted Warnock. "I said I’d try and build the club sensibly so that if things didn’t work out, they’d have a better base for the longer term.

"The fans here have been brilliant with me and this is about more than just one season. It’s about building a base for long-term success. The club has got permission for a new training ground.

"I know I can get things out of players that possibly nobody else can. I love seeing some of my players, the ones who have been discarded by someone else, pick up man of the match or player of the season. I get a kick out of seeing my players going through brick walls for me, not opening my bank balance."

Held control in the transfer market

To that end, four of Cardiff’s major purchases came from the Championship, players and a division Warnock knew well. 

City bought Josh Murphy from Norwich, Bobby Reid from Bristol City, Alex Smithies from QPR and Greg Cunningham from Preston, with varying degrees of success. Murphy, who cost £10 million, was not being used by the time Cardiff were relegated, as the season finished.

That Warnock held control in the transfer market is now a less and less favoured model in England’s top two divisions. Fulham, who were promoted in the play-offs, provided a huge contrast.

The manager last summer, Slavisa Jokanovic, also had varying degrees of input and was involved, for example, in speaking with Aleksandar Mitrovic on WhatsApp before he suggested the £22 million transfer to those above him in the process

They had a team of people assessing players: Tony Khan, the vice chairman and director of football operations, James Lovell, the data analyst, Brian Talbot, assistant to Khan and chief scout, and Alistair Mackintosh, the club’s chief executive. 

The manager last summer, Slavisa Jokanovic, also had varying degrees of input and was involved, for example, in speaking with Aleksandar Mitrovic on WhatsApp before he suggested the £22 million transfer to those above him in the process. 

That Jokanovic was one of three managers used last season by Fulham, and that they finished eight points behind Cardiff, despite their phenomenal spending, tells of the difficulty in finding a fool-proof methodology of recruitment.

Spent more than £100 million

In contrast, Wolves spent major sums following promotion, having aligned themselves to the agent Jorge Mendes. Leeds chairman, Andrea Radriazzani, called the link "illegal and unfair."

But whilst Fulham and Cardiff are back in the Championship, Wolves finished seventh, having spent more than £100 million on new players. In total, those nine clubs who scrapped their way out of the Championship then spent a combined total of £472.35 million on new players from all around the world.

There remains an ad hoc feel to recruitment in England, as the old model of the manager in charge of all recruitment fades into history.

As one senior executive in English football told offthepitch.com: 

"Most clubs in Europe have technical directors. It is impossible for the manager these days to see the volume of games. You need your manager on board in recruitment because he gets to pick the team. 

"The recruitment team need to speak to the manager and ask what he wants. It’s pointless if they won’t pick the players."