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Revealed | Premier League clubs and their efficiency in the transfer market

Manchester United’s transfer record has once again been called into question after CIES revealed their tendency to overspend while rivals Manchester City, and Tottenham Hotspur are proven negotiators.


CIES Football Observatory has revealed how efficient football clubs across the top five leagues in Europe have tackled the transfer market, with some surprises being revealed at each end.

In findings published by the prestigious football think tank, perhaps no one was shocked when English giants Manchester United topped the list - which compiled spending data across the last decade since 2012 - regarding not just total money spent on transfers, but also regarding how painfully inefficient the club has been with its investment in squad building.

The Red Devils have spent a staggering €1.59bn (£1.4bn) over the last ten years, outstripping the rest of the big six in the Premier League in the process, with Chelsea not far behind United after shelling out €1.33bn (£1.12bn), with ~£240m of that coming just this summer under new co-owner Todd Boehly.

Also not surprising has been United’s painful mismanagement of funds regarding acquiring talent at an affordable rate after the Old Trafford outfit also tops the table when it comes to their inefficiency when spending, with compiled financial data showing that the club has shelled out €238m (£208m) over the valuation of players that they have purchased, with the likes of Harry Maguire, Antony, and Lisandro Martínez among the players the club has spent over the odds on.

By contrast, Manchester City and Tottenham are among the five-best Premier League outfits in terms of their efficiency in spending despite some of the total figures both clubs have parted ways with over the years, with City spending just €23m (£20m) overvaluation, while Spurs have actually spent less than the value they have acquired by -€6m (-£5m). Wolves have been documented as the most efficient club with regards to spending, while Brighton is the third-best outfit when it comes to finding value for money in the market.

How does the Premier League stack up against other sides from the top five leagues across Europe? Just as you would expect.

No club has spent more on players than United in the last ten years but Barcelona sits second for spending ahead of Chelsea (3rd), Manchester City (4th), and Juventus (5th), with Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham, and Real Madrid rounding off the top ten as the big six English clubs unsurprisingly occupying places at the top of the spending ladder.

Though they have spent the second-most overall, Barça has proven themselves to be far better with their finances in terms of the value of purchase, with only Atlético Madrid besting them in terms of spending under player value after shelling out -€82m (-£71) for players in relation to the market value they possess, with Xavi’s men sitting at -€47m (-£41m).

Whether United will remain top, or improve their ability at prizing top talent for places that are not drastically inflated, remains to be seen. But with more and more money flooding into the top flight of English football in the coming years, one can reliably expect that additional English clubs (of which there are already nine when you add Everton, Newcastle United, and West Ham United into the mix) to crack into the top twenty in the coming years.


Andrew Thompson

US-based Football writer. German football guru with a wealth of experience in youth development and analysis. Data aficionado. Happily championing the notion that Americans have a knowledgeable voice in the beautiful game.



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