Value for money and the transfer market are not things that usually mix, particularly in modern football.
With more and more owners chasing the Champions League dream, price tags have been significantly inflated, with the number of flops also increasing exponentially.
Which teams have pumped the most money into chasing success though? Starting with the 2016 summer transfer window, we have ranked the clubs with the highest net spends in European football.
All figures courtesy of CIES Football Observatory…
Real Madrid have spent a lot in recent years. However, the monster sale of Cristiano Ronaldo as well as the departures of Alvaro Morata and Achraf Hakimi have helped to temper this.
If they had waited an extra year for Eden Hazard, they’d even be in the black… just about.
Sevilla have consistently punched above their weight in Spain and on the continent.
Their net spend of just €92m has returned a Europa League trophy and several top four finishes since summer 2016.
Apparently all €100m buys you these days is a string of lower, mid-table Premier League finishes.
Just ask Crystal Palace.
Atletico Madrid’s form is even more impressive when you consider their recent net spend.
Shifting Antoine Griezmann to Barcelona for over €100m is by far their most impressive piece of business.
It is easy to forget how much talent has passed through Wolfsburg’s doors in recent years.
Kevin de Bruyne, Edin Dzeko, Ivan Perisic and Julian Draxler all had spell there, before moving onto bigger and better things. Sadly, the club have mostly frittered these fees away on less exciting players.
Hertha would be nowhere near this list, if not for a recent spike in transfer activity.
Over the past two seasons, they have been stockpiling young talent in the hopes of challenging Germany’s top side. A strategy that is yet to pay off.
Four of Leeds’ top six record signings were completed last summer.
This is a clear indication of the rapid growth in Premier League transfer fees over the past two decades.
Liverpool have sold very well in recent years with Philippe Coutinho, Dominic Solanke and Jordan Ibe all being moved on for way above their market value.
This sort of savvy business, which has helped offset deals for some key arrivals, sees them place just outside the top 20.
Since winning the title, Leicester have sold one first teamer a year and reinvested extremely well.
If not for a disastrous 2016 summer transfer window – where they blew an absurd amount on Ahmed Musa and Islam Slimani – their net spend would be even lower.
For a Premier League team. Sheffield United have not spent that much.
The reason their net spend looks so bad is that they have only sold €25m worth of talent since summer 2016.
Parma have sold players for a combined cost of just €12m since summer 2016. That is pretty impressive – in a bad way.
Their record transfer remains Hidetoshi Nakata, who they purchased all the way back in 2001. Crikey.
Napoli have been pretty active in the transfer window during this period, spending €565m and receiving €400m in fees.
Almost a quarter of their sales figure are made up of the money they received from Juventus for Gonzalo Higuain in 2016.
They might be the best team in the world but Bayern Munich have only spent enough to earn 18th place on our list… which is actually a positive thing.
The sale of Douglas Costa, Mats Hummels and Toni Kroos have helped in this regard.
West Ham are synonymous with over spending on lacklustre players, so it is no surprise to see them on this list.
Although the culture does seem to be changing at the club, the shocking signings of Sebastien Haller and Felipe Anderson are still fresh in the memory.
Despite having a strong reputation for recruitment, RB Leipzig have still spent handsomely since 2016.
Their place on this list is more a result of the cumulative effect of lots of
€20m signings, as opposed to lots of expensive flops.
We all knew that Fulham’s 2018 summer splurge was bad. Even still, it is surprising to find them so high up on the list – outranking Bayern and Liverpool.
Selling just €84m to cover their heaving spending has not helped.
Considering the fee they dropped on Cristiano Ronaldo alone, Juventus have done well to only be 14th on this list.
A net spend of just shy of €250m to win the scudetto every year since summer 2016 is not bad value. Maybe.
Ever since their new owners took over in 2016, Wolves have embarked on a spending spree.
The €399m they have invested in fresh faces has been tempered by just €150m worth of sales, a big chunk of which is made up of the money they received for Diogo Jota.
For all the jokes about Daniel Levy’s reluctance to open his chequebook, Tottenham have still racked up a net spend of €250m since summer 2016.
Their record departure during this time was Kyle Walker, who joined Manchester City in a big money move back in 2017.
Well, this certainly blows a hole in the ‘plucky, little Brighton’ narrative doesn’t it?
Since earning promotion to the Premier League, the Seagulls have frittered their way to a net spend of over €250m.
Arsenal have spent a hefty €588m since summer 2016 and sold assets for a combined cost of €289m.
The picture would look far more rosy if the Gunners had not let several players contracts run down, allowing them to depart of free transfers.
Big spending Chelsea love to spend big – everyone knows that.
However, they had not splashed the cash too much in recent years, before the 2020 summer window in which Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Ben Chilwell and more, were all recruited for sizable fees.
Milan have had an eventful few years, recruited some expensive flops as well as making a few shrewd signings.
Overall, their inconsistent success in the market has set them back €311m.
Aston Villa’s surprise success this season is less impressive when one considers just how much they have spent chasing their top six dream.
Villa’s business since summer 2016 has set them back a whopping €339m, with the £12m they spent on Ross McCormack proving to be particularly poor value for money.
Everton have been guilty of some horrific transfer missteps over the past few seasons.
Overall, the €346m they have spent since summer 2016 has returned zero trophies and zero top six finishes. At least it finally seems like the tide is turning under Carlo Ancelotti.
Inter have spent close to €400m since summer 2016.
Some of their additions have been good, such as Romelu Lukaku.
Some have been…not so good, such as Joao Mario, Radja Nainggolan and Gabriel Barbosa.
It is no surprise to find Paris Saint-Germain, the club who paid the two highest transfer fees of all time, near the top of this list.
As well as signing Kylian Mbappe and Neymar for mouth dropping fees, PSG have also spent big on Mauro Icardi, Julian Draxler and several more well known names in recent years, in a bid to end their Champions League hoodoo.
Barcelona’s current financial predicament has been partly caused by their reckless operations in the transfer market.
This has included dropping whopping fees on the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann to very little success.
Much has been written about Manchester United’ s recent record in both the transfer market and in contract negotiations, and not a lot of it complimentary.
Over the past few years the club have spent massive fees for fun and also let several talented players depart for free. That is a recipe for an almost €600m net spend if ever we saw one.
Here we are ladies and gentleman. Introducing the kings of big spending, Manchester City.
Despite their record signing Kevin de Bruyne only representing the 25th highest fee paid in history, City have managed to rise to the top of this list anyway,
How have they done it? Mainy by collecting world class full-backs – other positions are available Pep – and barely selling anyone.