Over the past decade, the transfer market has gone a bit mental. Players cost huge sums of money now and teams are splashing the cash like never before. It’s hard to keep up.
To get a better picture, CIES compiled a list of the net spend of every side in Europe’s top five leagues since 2012/13, working out which sides have spent biggest compared to how much they have brought in
10. Chelsea (-€413m)
Only two sides have spent more than Chelsea in the past decade, but no team can match their whopping earnings of €1.201bn.
Eden Hazard’s blockbuster move to Real Madrid, worth in excess of €115m, played a huge part in that, but Chelsea have cashed in for €60m twice (Diego Costa and Oscar) and have a further eight who brought in over €30m.
Their hectic business has produced plenty of results. In the last decade, they’ve won the Premier League twice, the Europa League twice and the Champions League once.
9. Aston Villa (-€424m)
Aston Villa have some of the wealthiest owners in English football and have not been afraid to flex that.
Emiliano Buendia (€38m), Ollie Watkins (€34m), Leon Bailey (€32m) and Lucas Digne (€30m) have all come in in the last two years, with three of those signings coming following the €117.5m sale of Jack Grealish to Man City.
Christian Benteke joined Liverpool for €46m in 2015, but Villa’s next biggest sale of the past decade was Fabian Delph’s €11.5m the same year. The earnings have been limited, to say the least.
8. Everton (-€429m)
Everton have spent like a side with Champions League ambitions over the past decade.
They’ve thrown big money at Romelu Lukaku and Richarlison, both of which were good deals, but the signings of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Alex Iwobi, Yannick Bolasie, Michael Keane and Moise Kean haven’t really impressed.
Everton haven’t finished higher than fifth in the Premier League in the last decade and have been tenth of below four times.
7. AC Milan (-€432m)
One of the world’s premier sides in the early 2000s, AC Milan have been spending big in an ongoing attempt to reclaim that status. The results, as of yet, have been mixed.
Leonardo Bonucci is their record purchase at €42m, but that’s the only deal ahead of the €41m signing of Rui Costa in 2001. Instead, they’ve bought a boatload of players for around the €30m mark – most of which haven’t worked out.
Some well-documented financial issues limited Milan’s spending midway through the decade, and they’re now focusing on smarter deals instead of bigger ones.
6. Juventus (-€561m)
The powerhouse of Italian football over the past decade, Juventus have a cool eight Serie A titles to show for their massive spend.
The Bianconeri have never been afraid to spend massive sums of money. They paid €117m for Cristiano Ronaldo, €90m for Gonazlo Higuain, €85m for Matthijs de Ligt, €82m for Dusan Vlahovic and €76m for Arthur… and there are plenty of €40m signings to add to the fun.
Their departures have been pretty huge as well, with Paul Pogba’s €105m switch to Man Utd leading the way.
5. Arsenal (-€583m)
With just four FA Cup trophies to their name over the past decade, it’s safe to say Arsenal haven’t really enjoyed value for money when it comes to their €1bn+ spend.
Expensive acquisitions, like the €80m signing of Nicolas Pepe or €64m pick-up of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, have brought underwhelming results, and a lot of their top signings read like a who’s-who of Premier League disappointments.
Having watched the value of their players diminish, Arsenal have sold just four players for more than €30m in the last decade. Compared to their competition, that’s peanuts.
4. Barcelona (-€650m)
You just knew Barcelona would be towards the top of this list.
Their €1.63bn spend is the second-highest over the past decade and involves memorable disappointments like Ousmane Dembele, Philippe Coutinho and Antoine Griezmann – their three biggest signings who cost a combined €395m.
As for departures, Neymar’s €222m exit to PSG makes up a big chunk, with Arthur’s €76m move to Juventus and Alexis Sanchez’s €42.5m Arsenal switch next up in the last ten years.
3. Paris Saint-Germain (-€941m)
Paris Saint-Germain‘s quest for European dominance has seen them spend huge sums of money without much regard for their earnings from the transfer market.
Any player who they deem capable of helping them to Champions League glory is blocked from leaving, which is why their record sale is still the €40m exit of Goncalo Guedes to Valencia in 2018.
Their focus is solely on incomings. Neymar (€222m), Kylian Mbappe (€145m), Achraf Hakimi (€66.5m), Edinson Cavani (€64.5m) and Angel Di Maria (€63m) are their five biggest signings, and while that spending has created an unparalleled reign of dominance in Ligue 1, it has yet to bring the ultimate goal of European glory
2. Manchester City (-€984m)
No side can match Man City‘s €1.699bn spend over the past decade. They’ve thrown money at all angles in an attempt to build the best squad possible, and they’ll see four Premier League titles as a decent reward.
They broke their transfer record to sign Jack Grealish for €117.5m in 2021 but haven’t pinched pennies anywhere else. They have eight €60m+ signings, and in the last decade, they’ve brought in 21 players for above €30m.
Like PSG, City are in no rush to sell anybody who can help them towards their long-awaited Champions League success, with their record sale sitting at the €60m brought in by Leroy Sane.
1. Manchester United (-€1.075bn)
If you’re going to be top of this list, you better have enough trophies to justify that. Unfortunately for Manchester United, that just isn’t the case. They won the 2012/13 Premier League and 2015/16 FA Cup as well as the League Cup and Europa League in 2016/17.
Is that enough for the side with the biggest net spend in Europe over the past decade? Not even close.
Paul Pogba (€105m), Harry Maguire (€87m), Jadon Sancho (€85m), Romelu Lukaku (€85m) and Angel Di Maria (€75m) are their biggest signings, while United have been prolific with €40m transfers. The results, however, just haven’t been there.