Premier League clubs cut their summer transfer spending to the lowest level since 2015 in response to the pandemic.
Gross spending by England’s top-flight teams in the summer window, which closed last night, fell 11 per cent to £1.1bn, according to analysis by Deloitte.
Net spending was down 38 per cent to £560m, and both figures were at their lowest for six years.
Despite some high-profile transfers taking place, including Lionel Messi’s move to Paris Saint-Germain and Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Manchester United, spending fell across most of Europe’s major leagues.
“This has been a remarkable transfer window,” said Deloitte’s Dan Jones. “Club spending records have been broken, player moves – including the two greatest players of their generation – have grabbed the headlines and Premier League clubs have spent in excess of £1bn for the sixth summer in a row.
“Perhaps most remarkable is that all this has been achieved with lower spending than we have seen in the previous two summers.”
Premier League spending: some big fees and more free transfers
The consecutive reductions in gross summer spending by Premier League clubs represented a first since the global financial crisis of 2008-10.
Net spend as a proportion of revenue – a key measurement of the division’s overall approach – was also down for the second year running, to 10 per cent.
The number of transfers increased to 148, from 132 last summer and 128 in 2019, but fees were smaller on average, despite outliers such as Manchester City’s £100m signing of Jack Grealish.
That was one of four Premier League signings to cost £50m or more, but the number of mid-market deals priced £10m-£25m fell from 33 to 20 year on year.
Free transfers increased in popularity, meanwhile, to make up 22 per cent of English top-flight signings.
“This reflects twin forces of clubs prioritising financial stability and seeking value in the market while also being willing to pay for the very best talent,” Jones added.
“This pattern has been reinforced by the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the relative financial strength of the Premier League clubs compared to some of their European peers.”
How Premier League spending compared to Europe and Championship
The summer transfer window reflected the fact that the pandemic has only increased Premier League clubs’ financial superiority in relation to their European rivals.
Germany was the only of the Big Five leagues to see an increase in gross spend, and a net profit, but that owed much to English teams buying £73m Jadon Sancho, £35m Ibrahima Konate and £25m Leon Bailey from Bundesliga sides.
Gross spending in the Championship fell for a second successive summer to £35m, a drastic drop-off from £160m two years ago.
Although second-tier clubs made a net profit of £60m, the figure was 77 per cent down due to fewer sales to Premier League teams.
Only seven of 24 Championship clubs made a signing this summer that involved a fee.
“With reduced activity from Premier League clubs acquiring from the Football League, the financial challenge of running a Championship club is going to be tougher than it ever has been,” said Jones.
“This is perhaps indicative of Premier League clubs being less willing to take a risk on players unproven at Premier League level, in conjunction with a plentiful supply of more established talent not only in the Premier League but across Europe’s top tier football leagues.”