The following figures are all taken from probably the best financial data site in football – transfermarkt.co.uk.
It’s July 24th, so we’re quite early in the transfer market. Still, it’s worth having a peak at the Premier League expenditures thus far to get the lay of the land a bit.
We all know there are two transfer markets—the imaginary one in the papers which involve ever-increasing transfer figures for deals that might not ever materialize, and the one in which transfers actually happen. The former appears to be a hub of activity specifically centered on a very small, elite group of players which includes Cesc Fabregas, Wayne Rooney and Luis Suarez. The latter by comparison is fairly tame, at least so far.
There are a host of problems when using the transfer market from a single season to make any sort of judgment on how a club is running their business. For one, transfer fees tell you nothing about player wages, nor do they tell you about the total bill of amortized transfer fees still on the club books from previous deals.
So to help even things out, I will use the 2011-12 club wage bills as a kind of ballast, although there are a number of things to take into account, most importantly the prospect that the wage bills may have significantly changed in a season’s time.
So, what’s going on?
Well, total transfer expenditures are about two thirds of what they were by the end of last summer. Right now expenditures for all clubs is £322,269,200 compared to last year’s final total of £554,078,800. So, with a month to go, we’re still at 60% of last season. It’s certainly possible the big deals will come late and drive up that figure, but on the whole things appear to be slightly more calm.
For anyone interested in whether there is a pattern in all this spending, there sure doesn’t appear to be. Here is the trend in total expenditures since the 2000/01 season, adjusted for inflation:
As for expected behaviour from revenue rich clubs in a post-Financial Fair Play environment, that isn’t there either. Manchester City, the supposed target of FFP provisions and the club with the highest wage bill in 2011/12, leads the way in transfer deal spending so far this summer with a total transfer bill of £97,680,000 for players like Fernandinho, Jesus Navas, Jovetic and
Chelsea, the other moneybags club who had the second highest wage bill in 2011/12, are next with £29,304,000.
As for the supposedly revenue rich clubs who should theoretically be spending like lords this off-season in the rigged paradise that is Financial Fair Play, Arsenal (fourth highest wage bill in 11/12) haven’t yet spent a penny despite their pre-season bluster, and Manchester United (third in 11/12) is fourth from the bottom on the spending front with a mere £1,540,000 spent. Only Liverpool (fifth highest 11/12 wage bill) have managed to spend heartily, with £23,584,000 spent so far for the likes of Luis Alberto, Simon Mignolet and Iago Aspas. Either some of these teams are in negotiations for something, or this is a blip. But for now, FFP hasn’t really done much to take away the precious spending power of the wealthy benefactor clubs.
And where is the big, source of the Premier League’s transfer spending?
La Liga and the Championship, with 17 players arriving from each. League One comes in next, followed by internal transfers, then the Eredivisie.
This kind of mirrors where the Premier League players are being sold to as well. Thirty-five Premier League players were sent off to the Championship with Grant Holt leading the way from Norwich, followed by League One (27 players) and League Two (9). Not much international exporting going on, which may have something to do with English wage expectations.
Anyway, we’re very early on and there is much to be settled. But it’s not clear that the market is operating any differently than in previous seasons.