Summer Transfer Spending – How Much Is Too Much?

Since the Premier League began in 1992, the amounts spent in the summer transfer windows has grown hugely each season, but is it showing any signs of plateauing? This article will be looking at the amounts spent in the summer transfer window each year and the amount of players that have been brought in, therefore giving us an average amount per player year-on-year. We will also be looking at the increase in spending and how many record years there have been, before finally looking at the current Premier League clubs individually, their record transfers, and the highest spending club each season. All the information in this report has been obtained from

It is no surprise that when you compare the amount spent in 1992 to the amount spent in 2015, the gap is huge (£970m to be exact), but that is mainly down to the increased amounts clubs now receive from TV rights, which has escalated dramatically. Below is a table which shows how much has been spent each season, the difference compared with the previous year, the amount of players bought in that window and the average amount spent per player.

As we see above, in all but six seasons there has been a rise on the previous year, with 12 of the 23 seasons worth of data being a ‘record year’ (the previous highest amount spent in a window had been broken) and two of those have been the last two seasons. As things stand at the moment 2016 spending is set to top the £1 billion mark.

Interestingly though, there has been very little change in the amount of players bought since 1998 (168 players brought in) and 2015 (164 players brought in).

We see in the graph above the rise over time of the total amounts spent per season, and although there have been a few occasional drops in the trend (most notably in 2002 and 2010), overall there has been a steady rise in spending.

Below shows the difference in spending compared to that of the previous year.

Here we see slightly less of a trend, and whilst there has been a rise over the years, it has been very up and down, with some seasons actually showing a negative difference. There are a few stand out years here, 2002 where the difference was -£156m (which follows the above comment when we showed the huge drop in spending in 2002). Abramovich was able to reverse that the following season after his takeover of Chelsea, and the huge amounts they spent on new players in 2003. 2007 and 2014 were also stand out years but for the opposite reason, here was a huge increase in spending of over £200m each time. The first being because of another takeover, this time at Manchester City. So, what has all this increased spending done to the cost of players?

In a mix of both the previous graphs, we see a steady rise through the years but also a few stand out years around a similar time to the previous graphs, but mainly showing a huge increase over the last two seasons, rising from £3.2m per player in 2013 to £6.2m in 2015. These numbers are done by taking the total amount spent on players and the amount of players brought in to create an average price per player for each window.

With the overall amounts spent per season going up, is this purely because the bigger clubs have splashed out more money or has every club in the division loosened the purse strings a little? The range of spending per season is shown below.

It seems as though the range of spending has increased drastically, however this is largely due to the amounts spent at the higher end, with the highest spending club growing from £9.4m in 1992 to £179m in 2015, whilst the lowest spending club each season can still quite easily be as low as nil, which happened as recently as 2013 with Newcastle United. In fact, in 11 of the 23 seasons looked at, the lowest spending club was at nil. This has pushed up the range of spending from a difference of £9.3m in 1992 to £168.7m in 2015. Does this then prove the theory that the bigger clubs are given more money because of their status and can therefore then carry on growing the gap between them and the rest of the league?

The most notable jump once again is around the Chelsea takeover in 2003, when the Blues spent £130.5m and then £128.7m the following season in 2004; they were the highest spenders in the league for four seasons in a row following the Abramovich takeover. The past two seasons have also stood out, with the range of spending increasing drastically and it seems that even some of the smaller clubs are now splashing out more than ever in the summer window, with Bournemouth spending £26.4m in 2015 and the lowest club Swansea City at £10.8m is twice as much as the lowest spending club in any other season.

Given that it seems as though the bigger clubs are spending more and more per season whilst the teams closer to the foot of the table aren’t showing the same amount of growth, we have looked at the record transfer for each club currently in the Premier League.

Out of the 20 clubs listed above, all their record transfers have come since 2010 and nine of them have been in this current window in 2016. We have seen huge increases in the past few seasons in each of the other areas we looked at, and it seems that this is no different as over half of the clubs in the Premier League have broken their transfer record in the past year. There are a range of huge successes and fails included in the list above, with Kevin De Bruyne for Manchester City proving his worth as a key player in their team whilst Alfonso Alves at Middlesbrough never really lived up to the price tag. No doubt there will be further successes and disappointments amongst the record signings this summer.

With that in mind, we thought it might be a good idea to look back at some of the league record transfers and how they performed for their respective clubs.

In 2002, Rio Ferdinand went to Manchester United for a huge £30m, which at the time was not only a substantial amount of money, but unusual for the transfer of a defender. Although it was a huge amount, there is no doubt that he went on to have an amazing career at Manchester United, being an ever present in the starting 11 and making a total of 312 appearances in his time there, winning 17 trophies including six Premier League titles and a UEFA Champions League; a career anyone would be proud of and well worth the price tag.

In 2006, a few years after the Abramovich takeover, Andriy Shevchenko followed him to Stamford Bridge in a record deal worth £31m. It was rumoured at the time that the then Chelsea Manager, Jose Mourinho, was not the one who wanted to bring him to the club and was merely following Abramovich’s orders. This may have been the reason behind his lack of goals at the club. He had been very prolific at AC Milan, scoring 127 times in 208 games and many Chelsea fans were hoping this would carry on, however this was not the case and after just nine goals in 48 appearances over two seasons, he was loaned back to AC Milan, before making a permanent switch back to the Ukraine with Dynamo Kiev the following season on a free transfer. This equates to just under £3.5m million per goal that Shevchenko cost the club.

Following the huge takeover of Manchester City, the Sky Blues made the marquee signing of Robinho for £33m, which was to show the world that they meant business and were looking to become a big name in world football. Although in a way it did show this, it did not completely transfer to performances on the pitch. Robinho had a modest spell at Manchester City following his time at Santos and Real Madrid, but only spent two seasons there before moving back to Santos on loan. During his Manchester City spell, he made just 41 appearances and scored 14 goals. You could argue that this therefore did not represent good value for money as they only managed to get £15m back when they sold him on, however the good this did for the club’s name and its finances may have been more beneficial for the club than the player was on the pitch.

The most recent Premier League record transfer is that of Paul Pogba back to Manchester United, which is also a world transfer record. Having seen a few big names flop in the league following a big move to England, will this be the same? Paul Pogba was previously at Manchester United so does know the club already and is surrounded by other huge signings such as Zlatan Ibrahimović. But, given his £89m price tag, has a lot of expectation on his shoulders, especially given Manchester United’s torrid time since Alex Ferguson left. Will he be able to change their fortunes around, or will he be another name of the list of Premier League flops? We shall have to wait and find out.