Premier League Transfer Spend over 3, 5, and 7 Years

Chris Brunskill

So I've seen a lot of posts on twitter bandying about a lot of different numbers for transfer spending by Premier League clubs. The numbers have been all over the place and usually not put into context of net spend or gross spend. I wanted to take a look at the year by year transfer and total transfer spending of the top clubs.

I selected Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. Those five clubs strike me as the ones most trying to win the league and see not qualifying for Champions League as a failed season. Beyond that, I tabulated numbers for Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona across the same time period.

The caveat in all of this is that transfer spending is just one aspect of a football club. The opportunity cost, areas of need, players available, in house prospects and available budget need to be taken into consideration. The transfer is just the beginning of a player's cost to the club. The cost of the transfer is not booked immediately, instead it is amortized over the length of the contract. For instance, if you buy a player for £25 million and sign him to a five year deal, the contract is written off at £5 million annually. Add the wages in and we arrive at the total cost of the player.

I selected a three year, five year and seven year window to look at transfer spending. I have tabulated it based on both "Gross Spend" and "Net Spend." Gross spend is the total amount of money spent in the transfer period on players coming in. Net spend is the gross spend number minus the value of players sold and players loaned for a fee. The different time spans allow you to see trends in team spending. Any place where you see a negative number is a year where player sales have out stripped player acquisitions.

Gross spend is an important number to look at. It represents the value of new talent brought into the squad. There is more than a £10,000,000 talent gap between Chelsea's Summer 2014 net spend of £8,600,00 and Stoke City's Summer 2014 player profit of £650,000. One team added Phil Bardsley, Oussama Assaidi, Victor Moses, Steve Sidwell and Bojan Krkic while the other added Diego Costa, Loic Remy, Cesc Fabregas, Filip Luis and Didier Drogba. Chelsea was able to sell a redundant centerback / defensive mid for £43,500,000 and two spare strikers for a combined £36,800,000. They got an astonishing £80,000,000 for leftovers and plowed that into players who will feature for the club. Well done, indeed.

I used the website for all of my numbers. Some numbers there differ from other reported fees. When we take third party ownership into account, numbers can get very hazy. Some economic rights fees are included in the transfer price, while in others they are seen as agent fees. I tried to do the best with what information I had.

All costs are in £ million.

The Premier League sides (my apologies for the size of the chart, but my html skills are lacking):

City ManU Chelsea Arsenal Liverpool
Gross Net Gross Net Gross Net Gross Net Gross Net
2014-15 57.4 28.2 170.3 133.6 93.9 8.6 89.5 75.7 133.2 51.4
2013-14 100.2 89.9 69.4 67.9 111.8 44.2 45.5 34.9 50.2 21.6
2012-13 54.5 14.6 67.2 53.9 95.2 72.8 46.6 -12.4 59.4 50.2
3 Year Total 212.1 132.7 306.9 255.4 300.9 125.6 181.6 98.2 242.8 123.2
2011-12 84.5 58.4 50.4 36.7 91.3 62.8 57.6 -11.3 58.5 38.3
2010-11 160.5 127.4 25.7 9.6 108.6 94.1 20.2 11.8 85.8 -3.5
5 Year Total 457.1 318.5 383 301.7 500.8 282.5 259.4 98.7 387.1 158
2009-10 129.6 102.4 24.1 -67.8 26.4 23 10.5 -31.4 38.2 -6
2008-09 138.4 115.1 39.8 33.24 26.4 -12.8 35.3 12.6 62.6 22.2
7 Year Total 725.1 536 446.9 267.14 553.6 292.7 305.2 79.9 487.9 174.2

The table above comprises one column for gross spend and one column for net spend for my "big five" clubs. There is some very interesting information on offer here. The one thing that stuck out the most for me was how little Arsenal spent in comparison to the others. Building the Emirates stultified spending on new recruits and Arsene Wenger found himself in the unenviable position of serving as a finishing school for rivals while maintaining a top four position. During this time period important players such as Robin van Persie, Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Adebayor, Cesc Fabregas, Alex Song and Samir Nasri were sold. Still Arsenal qualified for the Champions League and that money every season. Fair play to them.

Manchester United's 2009-10 stands out. That year saw Cristiano Ronaldo, the best attacking player in the world as judged by a jury of his peers, move from Manchester United to Real Madrid. He was never adequately replaced, with just Antonio Valencia, Mame Diouf and Gabriel Obertan coming in. The balance went to either repay the debt or directly to the owners. Manchester United is just now addressing the lack of investment in the squad.

Chelsea has played the transfer market like a violin. They have been able to move on players such as Ricardo Carvalho, Alex, Yuri Zhirkov, Daniel Sturridge, Juan Mata, Kevin de Bruyne, David Luiz and Romulu Lukaku while challenging on all fronts. Cash from those sales enabled players such as Eden Hazard, Oscar, Nemanja Matic, Willian, and Andre Schurrle among others to come in and contribute to very strong sides.

Liverpool has had a lot of players move in and out with some deals more impressive than others. The boon of selling Fernando Torres to Chelsea for £50,000,000 was met by the good value of bringing in Luis Suarez for £23,320,000 and the misfortune of dropping £36,080,000 on Andy Carrol. One season Stewart Downing came in from Aston Villa for £20,060,000; the next season saw Sturridge come in for £13,200,000 and Coutinho for £8,800,000. Recently the transfer policy seems to have solidified and some prudent choices have been made. The guys over at AC Milan may want to hire the Liverpool brain trust as consultants.

There's a lot to say about Manchester City. The early years under Sheikh Mansour was a "shiny toys" era while more recently the team has assessed needs and looked to remedy them. The players drawn in during the early period are an impressive list of "names" with little end product. The club spent a fair amount of time casting about to find the right mix of players. Strikers in particular were bought and disposed of at an alarming rate. In the full seven years Manchester City acquired Robinho, Jo, Craig Bellamy, Emmanuel Adebayor, Carlos Tevez, Roque Santa Cruz, Adam Johnson, Mario Balotelli, Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero, Scott Sinclair, Alvaro Negredo, Jesus Navas and Stevan Jovetic.

The three most recent years has Manchester City right in line with their league peers, but the seven year gross and net shows that the club spent an awful lot of money in comparison. Financial Fair Play accelerated the process. If they had any hope of gatecrashing the party, they had to spend like drunken sailors in the pre-reporting years in order to have the framework of a top four side. As a more established side, the spending has tapered.

Now let's see how our beloved Premier League sides compare with European royalty:


R Madrid





























3 Year Total





















5 Year Total





















7 Year Total







So our friends in Europe are a bit more reserved in the market. The first thing that I noticed was that there were a lot fewer transactions by the big European sides. Having B Teams and excellent academies are factors. In this time frame Bayern Munich has produced players such as David Alaba, Thomas Muller, Holger Badstuber, Mats Hummels and Toni Kroos, while Barcelona has promoted Gerard Deulofeu, Marc Bartra, Sergio Busquets, Thiago Alcantara and others. Some of those players make the squad and some are sold on for various reasons.

Real Madrid does not play many academy graduates, but they are excellent at flipping players. Real Madrid could teach Chelsea a thing or two about maximizing the value of "spare parts." They have sold luminaries such as Mesut Ozil, Gonzalo Higuain, Rafael van der Vaart, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Alvaro Morata, Angel di Maria and Xabi Alosnso. In the meantime, quality such as James, Toni Kroos, Gareth Bale, Isco, Luka Modric, Fabio Coentrao, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka have come in. Just a side littered with fantastic players coming in and going out.

Overall it is Bayern Munich who have been the most economical. The ability to get good players from inside the academy, some savvy buying and a great free transfer in Robert Lewandowski has really helped the club. While it is true that Manchester City has outspent the rest of the clubs, the pace of the spending has declined a lot. In a few years time we shall see where the numbers lie and where the teams lie in the table.