The top two teams in the Premier League table, Manchester City and Manchester United, are no strangers to splashing out on player transfers but a new report has laid bare the extent of their big spending.
The two bitter rivals have registered the two largest net transfer deficits across all of Europe’s top five leagues over the past 10 transfer windows, according to the latest football finance report from the CIES Football Observatory.
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The CIES research, using data published by clubs or reported by media since the summer of 2016. has found that City have spent a total of more than €1 billion on incoming transfers — €1,006 million ($1,217m), to be exact — and recouped just €375m in outgoing sales. That has left them with the largest negative net spend in Europe with a huge -€631m.
United are next on the list having spent €832m on signings and earned back €246m in outgoing transfers, leaving them with a net spend of -€586m over 10 windows.
Here are the main takeaways from the CIES report.
Most ➖ net transfer spending over last 🔟 transfer windows for big-5⃣ league teams 🤓 @ManCity ahead @ManUtd & heavily indepted @FCBarcelona 🧐 Six 🏴 teams & 2 from 🇮🇹 in the top 10 (@Inter & @acmilan); full data in last @CIES_Football Weekly Post ➡️ https://t.co/1Qz0DJ9yfE pic.twitter.com/bD3GdxH9Zh
— CIES Football Obs (@CIES_Football) February 8, 2021
City have spent big at the back
A vast chunk of City’s outlay has been on defenders, with Pep Guardiola bringing in €419m’s worth of defensive players in the last four years alone. Ruben Dias, City’s most expensive defensive signing to date, became the fifth-most expensive defender of all-time when he signed from Benfica in a deal worth €68m ahead of the 2020-21 season. With City having conceded only 14 goals in 22 Premier League games so far this season, and Dias keeping 11 clean sheets in 12 games through to the end of January (that’s 990 minutes without conceding a goal), you’d have to argue it was worth the hefty investment.
United have broken records
Chelsea’s entire defence cost as much as Man United’s Harry Maguire 💰 pic.twitter.com/h6YTQuRPJC
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) November 18, 2020
United have been responsible for a flurry of massive transfer deals in the same period too, including a couple that made the record books. Paul Pogba’s €105m arrival from Juventus in 2016 was a world-record deal at the time, while club captain Harry Maguire is still the world’s most expensive centre-back following his €91m move from Leicester City in 2019. Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic, Bruno Fernandes, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Fred also helped to swell United’s total expenditure to €832m.
Barca are Europe’s biggest spenders
Only one club has spent more on incoming signings than Manchester City since the summer of 2016 and that is Barcelona. Their €1,171m expenditure on players such as Philippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann is offset by €700m of transfer fees received during that period, meaning Barca are third on the overall negative net spend list with -€471m. No wonder the Catalan club is in such dire financial straits at the moment.
PSG’s prize pair
Never shy when it comes to spending big to get what they want, Paris Saint-Germain are fourth in the table with a total transfer deficit of -€455m. When you consider that the Ligue 1 giants broke the world transfer record to sign Neymar from Barcelona for €222m in the summer of 2017 and then spent a further €180m to acquire Kylian Mbappe the following year, it’s hardly surprising.
Premier League clubs all present
Of the 88 current European top-flight clubs included in the CIES chart, all 20 Premier League sides are in the top half. Amazingly, Everton (-€346m) and Aston Villa (-€339m) are above Chelsea (-€308m) and Arsenal (-€299m) in terms of transfer balance. In fact, not a single Premier League team has recorded a positive transfer balance in the period since summer 2016, with the three clubs coming closest to breaking even being Southampton (-€50m), West Bromwich Albion (-€73m) and Newcastle United (-€77m).
Liverpool won title with (almost) balanced books
Transfer policies of @ManCity, @ManUtd & @LFC since 2⃣0⃣1⃣6⃣ compared: much greater negative balance ⚖️ for #Manchester teams than for #LFC 👁️ Data for all big-5⃣ league teams in last @CIES_Football Weekly Post ➡️ https://t.co/1Qz0DIRWR4 pic.twitter.com/EQzMNKZuNA
— CIES Football Obs (@CIES_Football) February 9, 2021
When it comes to the Premier League, reigning champions Liverpool have achieved a rather impressive transfer deficit of -€129m. While it puts them 23rd in the overall CIES table, the Reds’ total is better than any other team that finished in the top half of the Premier League last season.
Madrid’s meagre deficit
ESPN FC’s Julien Laurens reminisces on some of Real Madrid’s worst-ever transfers.
Real Madrid are down in 29th on the list with a relatively low negative transfer balance of just -€91m, meaning they would have turned a profit on transfers if they hadn’t signed Eden Hazard in a deal that could end up costing them €160m. The Spanish heavyweights’ transfer dealings have somehow cost them less than Leeds United’s outlay (-€115m) despite the latter having only returned to playing top-flight football last summer.
Honours even in Milan derby
Internazionale and AC Milan may be eternal foes, but the two Serie A clubs are united by their persistent issues with operating deficits. Despite them both making canny free transfers such as Alexis Sanchez and Zlatn Ibrahimovic, the neighbouring rivals are both in the top 10 when it comes to negative transfer spends: -€386m for Inter and -€311m for Milan.
French clubs most frugal
Of all the 88 teams involved, two Ligue 1 clubs sit at the foot of the table with Lyon (+€151m) and Lille (+€191m) having fared better than any other club across Europe’s big five leagues in terms of net transfer balance. Lyon have sold a number of high-profile players to other European clubs in the past few years with the likes of Tanguy Ndombele, Ferland Mendy and Alexandre Lacazette making big-money moves to Tottenham Hotspur, Real Madrid and Arsenal respectively. Lille largely have Victor Osimhen’s colossal transfer to Napoli and Nicolas Pepe’s similarly lucrative switch to Arsenal to thank for their position at the flush end of the table.
Best of the rest
As far as Italy, Germany and Spain are concerned, the most positive balances were recorded by Atalanta (+€133m), Hoffenheim (+€87m) and Valencia (+€67m).