The English elite has crushed the 2022 transfer market. Its economic supremacy, which has been increasing for ten years, is also that of the richest clubs.
Let’s call it a way out of the crisis in rocket mode: the Premier League broke its transfer spending record during the 2022 summer transfer window with 2.3 billion euros in gross spending (almost as much as the other four major leagues combined) and 1.35 billion euros of net expenses, sales deducted.
Over the whole of 2022 (winter and summer transfer windows), the English elite even exceeds the 3 billion euro mark, a record, with a jump of 1.3 billion compared to 2021 If recoveries are observed in the other four major European leagues, none have this intensity.
The figures presented here have been compiled by the International Center for Sports Economics (CIES) and the latest analysis from its Football Observatory, which compiles the transfer amounts (including bonuses) made by the clubs of the “Big 5” – the five richest European leagues.
These four « challenge » leagues are also experiencing a resurgence, but remain far from their historic records of 2019. La Liga made 720 million euros in transfers in 2022 against 1.55 billion that year, Serie A 1, 03 billion against 1.48 and the Bundesliga 0.67 against 0.92. The stall is spectacular.
“The share of investment by Premier League clubs compared to the Big 5 total also reached a new record in 2022: 48.5% compared to 38.7% for [la période 2013-2022] », notes the CIES. The English championship thus reinforces an already old hegemony, but less contested than ever.
Half of this net spending was made by clubs in England’s ‘Big 6’ – the two Manchester, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham. Eight of the ten biggest transfers were made by English clubs. For the year 2022, 7 English clubs are in the top 10 of the biggest spenders, 13 in the top 20. They are 15 in the top 20 of the most deficit balances.
The prosperity of the Premier League feeds the expenses of English second knives which are almost all signaled by the weakness of their sales, and therefore very negative balances: Nottingham, West Ham, Southampton, Brentford and Crystal Palace.
The Premier League therefore does not seem to suffer from Brexit: it prospers and subjugates the other European championships by preempting the most coveted players. This transfer window confirms its overwhelming economic domination, which forces the other four major European championships to engage in fierce competition not to be won by the English rival.
2013-2022: TEN YEARS OF GREATER GAP
From 2013 to 2022, the Premier League records a tremendously negative balance of transfers of nearly 10 billion euros (9.5). Almost seven times that of Serie A (1.39) for Serie A, ranked second. But in this respect, the deficit is a sign of financial power.
Thanks to revenues (broadcasting rights and commercial revenues) which are significantly higher than those of other championships, recruitment is a loss-making activity in England, but easily financed. This economic supremacy continues to grow, giving the Premier League a growing stranglehold on the European player market.
Over the last ten seasons, the top 20 of negative balances offers a hierarchy of European Gotha – with the notable exception of Real Madrid, which manages its transactions well –, which mixes English second knives like West Ham, Newcastle (whose new Saudi owners aim for the top of the basket), Everton, Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, Wolverhampton and Fulham.
The wealthy clubs also have the advantage on the transfer market of owning the squads with the highest market values, and therefore the best marketable ones.
For example, Manchester City is among the biggest sellers of 2022 (279 million euros) with in particular the transfers of Ferran Torres, Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Oleksander Zichenko. The Citizens were all the more easily able to acquire Erling Haaland and Kalvin Phillips for 110 million.
Of course, the correlation between economic power, as represented by spending on transfers, and sports results is powerful, but not mechanical. English clubs tend to overpay players who do not always justify their transfer fee, and performance still depends on a good sporting policy – especially in the ultra-competitive environment of the topflight.
We quickly identify the clubs which, like United or Arsenal, have invested poorly in terms of the trophies won, but it is probably only a matter of time for the economic superiority of the Premier League to be reflected more fully on the ground.
SPECIALIZATION AND HIERARCHY OF CLUBS
Over the past ten seasons, Ligue 1 is the only one of the five leagues to post a positive net balance – of 350 million euros. The model of French football continues to rely on the training and export of players, even if this resource serves more to balance its accounts than to enrich it.
The situations are however very variable according to the French clubs and their economic strategies. Eight representatives of Ligue 1 appear in the top 20 of positive balances, three of them occupy the podium: Lille, Lyon and Monaco.
If the activity of LOSC and ASM is explicitly based on « player trading », that of OL stands out less and less – without succeeding, unlike the other two in recent seasons, in winning a title national… Monaco stands out with an exceptional volume of transactions of more than 2.2 billion euros
This list brings together the most formative clubs, but these are (more or less voluntarily) forced to adopt the model consisting in training and/or promoting in order to sell in the short or medium term, with random sporting results on the ground it is difficult to conduct a coherent and sustainable sports policy under these conditions.
Even if they « work well », these clubs which receive the most income from their transfer operations are in fact low income earners, whose profits made do not allow them to compete with the sums invested by the « big guys »: they are condemned to value, without being able to capitalise.
A fundamental trend is thus confirmed, that of a strong hierarchy of European clubs, which we have already schematized under three categories: trainers, promoters and major buyers.
Almost locked categories, the first two being condemned to put themselves at the service of the third, whose dominant position is no longer contestable – if not punctually (and deceptively) through beautiful European campaigns with no future.
The squad value indicator, in the sense of the amounts spent to build the current squad, was also calculated by CIES for this season. It also illustrates the oligarchic future of European football – with in particular a gap between the first six or seven (City, United, Chelsea, PSG, Liverpool, Real, Barcelona) and the following.
Then comes another group of half a dozen teams made up of Arsenal, Tottenham, Atlético, Bayern, Newcastle, Juventus. These twelve or thirteen superpowers constitute the most credible candidates for a possible private Super League. Next, below 400 million euros, are clubs that could claim it with more difficulty.
However, it is by combining several indicators – amounts spent on transfers and balance of transfers, television and commercial income, value of the workforce, valuation of the club, etc. – that we would take the full measure of the oligarchic future of European football. And its character, for the time being, irreversible.