After going down 3-1 to Manchester United at Old Trafford last December, a dispirited Sam Allardyce offered his take on what underpins the ability to succeed in the finance-driven world of modern football. “Where you actually finish in the League depends on the money you’ve spent,” the manager of then relegation-threatened West Ham United said. “It’s a statistical fact, that.”
His theory is accurate to an extent. It’s no coincidence Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Barcelona routinely occupy the upper echelons of their respective competitions while dwarfing their rivals in terms of transfer expenditure. However, with the Premier League campaign over the halfway mark, Allardyce and his industrious side are disproving his simplistic formula. The Hammers are punching well above their weight in seventh-place and within reach of the Champions League qualification spots having spent just £35.15m on signings last summer. That’s less than every other team in the top 10 bar Swansea and Stoke City, and a mere eight percent of the combined outlay of the current top four.
With global brands like Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and the Manchester clubs drawing wealth from lucrative commercial partnerships, broadcast rights and affluent club owners, the rich will almost certainly trump the likes of West Ham in the long run because money talks in modern football. However, has the number of digits in a bank account really become the be all and end all of the beautiful game?
Not entirely. Six-figure deals are becoming increasingly innocuous with every passing transfer window, and grossly inflated wage packets are now a prerequisite for attracting elite talent. But the agony of writing countless cheques to sign and pay players only to fall short of being crowned the best in the country is an ache familiar to many wealthy clubs. Here’s the rundown of the highest spending teams in Europe that haven’t won a domestic league title since 2010. These figures are sourced from transfermarkt.co.uk, and to avoid confusion, this list excludes transfers made during the winter window in process.
10 Wolfsburg – £165.5m
9 Inter Milan – £203.61m
8 Anzhi Makhachkala – £213.84m
7 Napoli – £216.52m
6 AS Monaco – £225.37m
5 Tottenham Hotspur - £239.81m
4 AS Roma: £242.74m
3 Arsenal: £259.57m
2 Liverpool: £387.31m
1 Chelsea: £501.06m
On the whole, Chelsea have relished under the ownership of affluent oil tycoon Roman Abramovich. The Blues have contested nearly every title race since the Russian bought the club, so it’s easy to forget 2009-10 was the last time the Premier League crown went to Stamford Bridge. No Chelsea fan would trade the historic Champions League triumph three years back for any other piece of silverware, but some would rightly be concerned the club has spent over half a billion pounds on players since last topping the pile in England. Like Manchester City are now doing on a regular basis, some of the Blues’ transfer activity has raised an eyebrow or two and ruffled a few feathers. A particularly extravagant move by the west London club was the decision to re-sign Nemanja Matic from Benfica at a loss of £20m just two seasons after his departure. The ability to pull off such mind-boggling deals has seen Chelsea build a squad of unmatchable quality. Although some call it depth, Chelsea have also been known to stack their bench with expensive signings they seemingly don’t need. During the last five years, the likes of Mohamed Salah, Victor Moses, Marko Marin, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne have all suffered the utter devastation of becoming a serial bench-warmer following a dream switch to Stamford Bridge. However, squad competition is the motivation behind the very best sides, and with Chelsea on track to break their Premier League drought come May, few Blues are complaining.
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