The Premier League is unparalleled in terms of pulling power in the transfer market. No other domestic competition on the planet can match the English top-flight for television audience sizes, sponsorship opportunities and average bank balances.
The spread of wealth among the 20 Premier League members has become so alluring that players will often choose to sign for a mid-table side in England’s top division over a top club in France, Italy or Spain. Factors other than financial terms obviously come into play, too, but there’s no question English clubs would be a far less tempting option for foreign footballers without their chequebooks.
Even though clubs near the foot of the Premier League table are capable of reeling in their fair share of big names, there’s still a notable gap in the cost of assembling the squad of a relegation battler and a Champions League contender. However, it’s not always the case that clubs which spend more money on signings will finish higher up the table than less affluent competitors in the division.
In fact, ranking each Premier League club by total transfer fees paid to compile their current squad tells a very different story to how the 2015-16 season is panning out.
*Figures sourced from transfermarkt.co.uk..
20 Watford – £28.16m
It’s hardly a shock to find one of the three promoted clubs has the least expensive squad in the English top-flight. The gap in average transfer fees between the Premier League and Championship is worlds apart, and Watford exemplifies this disparity. The most expensive signings in the Hornets’ current squad include Etienne Capoue (£6.23m), Jose Manuel Jurado (£6.02m) and Obbi Oulare (£5.76m), all of whom arrived at Vicarage Road following their promotion to the Premier League for the 2015-16 campaign.
19 Norwich City – £32.46m
Another newly promoted side, Norwich City bounced straight back up to the Premier League after being relegated to the Championship for the 2014-15 campaign. The 113-year-old Canaries are yet to splurge an eight-figure transfer fee on a single player, meaning the most expensive names currently on the books at Carrow Road are Robbie Brady (£6.93m), Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe (£3.5m) and Kyle Lafferty (£3.15m). If Alex Neil’s men want to avoid the drop this time around, they may need to adopt a more assertive policy in the transfer market.
18 Bournemouth – £36.01m
For a club that’s enjoying its first taste of the English top-flight since forming 126 years ago, Bournemouth is doing a reasonable job of keeping pace with the competition. The Cherries aren’t afraid to splash the cash on the right man, and have picked up the likes of Benik Afobe (£9.31m), who they signed during the current January transfer window, Tyrone Mings (£7.91m) and Max Gradel (£7m) in recent seasons. Eddie Howe might not have the most star-studded squad to work with, but he’s certainly in charge of one of the most determined groups in the Premier League.
17 Swansea City – £48.82m
Now in its fifth consecutive Premier League season since earning promotion from the Championship at the end of the 2010-11 campaign, Swansea City has remarkably well to construct a group of players who’re more than capable of holding their own in the top-flight. The most expensive stars on the Swans’ current roster include Gylfi Sigurdsson (£7.07m), Federico Fernandez (£7m) and Sung-Yong Ki (£4.9m), three of their four biggest signings in history. The Welsh side has the potential to challenge for European football, but perhaps a boosted transfer kitty is what’s required to push them higher up the table.
16 Stoke City – £49.15m
Stoke City’s current squad is almost unrecognisable compared to the one which gained promotion to the Premier League for the first time in four seasons back in 2008. Formerly a team built to intimidate the opposition by way of brute strength and superior physicality, the Potters now boast a more technically gifted crop of players, the most expensive of which comprises Xherdan Shaqiri (£11.9m), Peter Crouch (£7.91m) and Joselu (£5.6m). The Staffordshire outfit has demonstrated an eagerness to break away from its old tactics in favor of a sexier game plan, a change of heart that will likely lead to paying bigger purchases in the transfer market.
15 Leicester City – £51.88m
Leicester City could rocket up this list of the most expensive squads in the Premier League should the club sustain its presence at the top end of Premier League football. With the newly acquired financial backing of the affluent King Power Group, the Foxes have sought to bring in a host of new faces including Shinji Okazaki (£7.7m), Leonardo Ulloa (£7.08m) and Andrej Kramaric (£6.3m), the three most expensive purchases in the club’s history. Only time will tell how long a side with no megastar names can mix it with the likes of Manchester City and Arsenal.
14 West Bromwich Albion – £56.12m
Despite spending six seasons in the English second division since the year 2000, West Bromwich Albion has rarely struggled to avoid relegation from the Premier League since last facing the drop in 2009. The Baggies have formed a strong group of players over the last five years, the most pricey signings being Salomon Rondon (£11.9m), James Chester (£7.91m) and Jonny Evans (£5.81m), all of whom arrived at The Hawthorns within the past two campaigns. West Brom looks on course for another solid season and could look to take its squad up a notch in the next summer transfer window.
13 Crystal Palace – £58.82m
It was nothing short of a bombshell when Yohan Cabaye switched from Paris Saint-Germain to Crystal Palace for a £9.73m fee at the beginning of the 2015-16 campaign. Transfers between Paris and Selhurst Park are rare to say the least, but it proved to be a masterstroke by the north London side. However, not all the Eagles’ big signings have been as influential as the Frenchman, as Connor Wickham (£7m) and James McArthur (£6.16m) have proven. Palace is turning heads in the upper half of the table this season, but it remains to be seen whether Alan Pardew can keep his men on course for the second half of the campaign.
12 Sunderland – £72.88m
Sunderland has failed to finish in the top half of the table since topping the Championship and gaining promotion to the Premier League in 2007. As evidenced by their position in this list of the most expensive squads in the top-flight, the Black Cats are no strangers to forking out the big bucks to secure players’ signatures. They’ve gained disappointing returns from the most significant investments in their current playing group, such as Steven Fletcher (£10.64m), Adam Johnson (£8.82m) and Jack Rodwell (£8.82m).
11 West Ham United – £74.45m
Widely regarded as a club which belongs in the English Premier League, West Ham United has endured its ups and downs throughout the last 15 years. With a handful of strong showings between scattered in between, the east London club has floundered near the bottom of the top-flight and even suffered relegation on two occasions. The Hammers are flying this season, though, primarily due to the stellar performances of two of their biggest signings in history, Enner Valencia (£10.5m) and Dimitri Payet (£10.5m).
10 Aston Villa – £79.69m
Aston Villa is in a world of trouble this season. The Birmingham club has spent more than £45m on new signings during the 2015-16 campaign to date, two of which are their most expensive acquisitions in history, Jordan Ayew (£8.4m) and Jordan Amavi (£7.7m). The Villans have got close to no reward from risking large sums in the summer transfer market, a scenario which often results in a reluctance to spend cash on reinforcing a deflated squad during January. Currently sitting at the foot of the table, Villa looks incapable of avoiding relegation without snapping up a new face or two in the winter period.
9 Everton – £93.69m
Everton is doing exactly what it needs to in order to propel the club into the top echelon of English football: spend, and spend wisely. The Toffees boast a remarkably talented group of players considering they lack the financial muscle of Arsenal, Chelsea, and the Manchester clubs. The most expensive players currently plying their trade at Goodison Park are Romelu Lukaku (£24.75m), James McCarthy (£10.71m) and Ramiro Funes Mori (£9.03m), all of whom are proving to be key figures in Roberto Martinez’s side.
8 Newcastle United – £118.57m
Newcastle United has many of the elements necessary to regain its status among the big players of English football: a huge, adoring fan base, a state-of-the-art venue, and a reasonably handsome bank balance. Then again, these things carry far less significant when a side is simply falling to get results. Despite finishing 10th or lower in the league since 2011-12, the Magpies have continued to plunge significant amounts of money into improving the squad: Georginio Wijnaldum (£14m), Aleksandar Mitrovic (£12.95m) and Florian Thauvin (£12.85m) carry the biggest price tags of the current Newcastle squad.
7 Southampton – £130.05m
It’s difficult to recall a club establishing itself in the Premier League as quickly as Southampton has done in the space of three and a half seasons. Having gained promotion from League One to the top-flight between 2009 and 2011, the Saints have since completed a host of shrewd transfers to assemble a young side with the potential to secure European qualification in the near future. The south coast club has attracted the likes of Virgil van Dijk (£10.99m), Gaston Ramirez (£10.64m) and Sadio Mane (£10.5m), the three biggest signings currently on the books at Southampton.
6 Tottenham Hotspur – £150.23m
Tottenham Hotspur has long been ridiculed as a filler member of the ‘big six’ due to an inability to mount a serious challenge for the Premier League title. Until the 2015-16 campaign, the North Londoners had seemed to accept the fact Arsenal, Chelsea and the Manchester clubs would duke it out for four the Champions League places. Mauricio Pochettino has a squad capable of giving the big boys a run for their money this time around, and as it should with big signings like Heung-Min-Min Son (£21m), Erik Lamela (£21m) and Moussa Dembele (£13.3m) on board. This could be Spurs’ year to stake their claim at the top, especially with Chelsea all but out of contention.
5 Arsenal – £214.08m
Arsenal comfortably sits among the top five most expensive squads in the Premier League, even with Arsene Wenger’s conservative transfer policy rarely seeing the club chase the biggest names in world football. But the Frenchman has changed his ways in recent years, welcoming the arrivals of Mesut Özil (£35m), Alexis Sanchez (£29.75m) and Calum Chambers (£14.16m) as the most expensive members of the Gunners’ current squad. It seems the longstanding Arsenal boss has at last come to terms with the financial playground that is the transfer market, so the three aforementioned names are unlikely to be the last big signings he makes before the end of his tenure.
4 Liverpool – £236.4m
Liverpool has slid from its position near the summit of English football over the last six or seven campaigns, but not in the context of the transfer market. The Reds are still more than capable of luring big names to Anfield, the most expensive members of the current brigade being Christian Benteke (£32.55m), Roberto Firmino (£28.7m) and Adam Lallana (£21.7m), all who’ve signed during the past two seasons. There’s no question of the club’s ambition, but it must strive to regain its status as regular Champions League fixture in order to continue attracting top-class players.
3 Chelsea – £270.94m
It’s an ugly sight comparing the overall transfer fees paid to assemble Chelsea’s current squad with the club’s league position this season. Despite being Premier League champions, few players would fancy a transfer to Stamford Bridge this winter in the wake of their spectacular fall from grace under Jose Mourinho. With players carrying the price tags of Eden Hazard (£28m), Diego Costa (£26.6m) and Willian (£24.85m), it’s no wonder those in blue are furious with the season so far and the squad’s perceived lack of desire.
2 Manchester United – £338.47m
Money is seemingly no obstacle when a club the size of Manchester United pursues a transfer target. The Red Devils have reclaimed a significant amount of pulling power in the transfer market under Louis van Gaal, but the squad is yet to demonstrate the team chemistry required to finish the season as Premier League champions. United has a host of expensive names on its current roster, the most extravagant purchases being Anthony Martial (£35m), Juan Mata (£31.31m) and Luke Shaw (£26.25m). With van Gaal under pressure to set things right as soon possible, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Dutchman dipped in his transfer kitty this January.
1 Manchester City – £389.49m
Who else would have the most expensive squad in England but Manchester City? The wealthiest club in the land has finished no lower than third position since the 2010-11 season, leaving little doubt the Citizens won’t be budging from the upper tiers of domestic and continental football for some time yet. The chief branch of the City Football Group has plunged staggering amounts of money each season to construct a squad, stadium and training ground to match the very best in the business. City has gone bigger and bigger in terms of investment since being taken over in 2008, especially in the transfer market — all of their biggest signings are all members of the current squad: Kevin De Bruyne (£51.8m), Raheem Sterling (£43.75m), Eliaquim Mangala (£37.8m).