Chelsea set a new record for spending in a single transfer window in January, before absolutely shattering it themselves this summer. That’s Todd Boehly.
For reference, Chelsea have spent almost £400m so far this summer. They account for three of the four biggest single-window transfer spends in history, all in the last year. Amortise that.
Manchester United (2022, £205.1m)
Pennies are being pinched for left-back and Sofyan Amrabat loans in 2023 because of a summer of extravagance a year before. With Erik ten Hag on board there was some decent business done before the season started, as Lisandro Martinez (£46.7m), Tyrell Malacia (£12.9m) and Christian Eriksen (free) all joined the revolution. As did Tom Huddlestone but that’s by the by.
Consecutive defeats to Brighton and Brentford forced Manchester United’s hand further and Casemiro (£60m) was drafted in, before Antony (£85.5m) was signed for a veritable fortune on deadline day after an entire window was spent trying to haggle Ajax down to around half that.
Did Manchester United sign a central defender for more than £30m (summer edition)?
2016 – Yes
2017 – Yes
2018 – ❌
2019 – Yes
2020 – ❌
2021 – Yes
2022 – Yes
— Daniel Storey (@danielstorey85) July 18, 2022
Juventus (2018, £212.1m)
It was during Massimiliano Allegri’s first spell as manager that Juventus embarked on a summer transfer spend designed specifically to deliver their first Champions League trophy since 1996. It did not deliver their first Champions League trophy since 1996.
The Old Lady have not even ventured beyond the last eight of the tournament since they sold their soul by bringing in Cristiano Ronaldo (£99.2m). Joao Cancelo (£36m), Douglas Costa (£35.2m), Leonardo Bonucci (£31.2m) and Mattia Perin (£10.5m) did not come particularly cheap either and Juventus are still recovering from their summer of indulgence.
Paris Saint-Germain (2017, £214.4m)
Similar ideas were harboured by Nasser Al-Khelaifi, who a year before had grown tired of monopolising an entire domestic league and sought something far more meaningful than Ligue Un titles won in March by 427 points.
Their answer was simple: to set a bar that might never be raised again. PSG effectively agreed to the two biggest signings in football history in the summer of 2017, Neymar (£200m) stepping out of Lionel Messi’s shadow, while Kylian Mbappe joined on loan from Monaco. That £166m move was only made permanent after PSG did the unthinkable and avoided relegation. Cheltenham Town legend Yuri Berchiche (£14.4m) also moved to the Parc des Princes, because why not when you have already made money seem an entirely worthless concept?
Real Madrid (2009, £219.5m)
Some clubs tend to accept failure about as warmly as a fresh turd on their doorstep. Real Madrid never have dealt all that well with average performance. So when Bernd Schuster and Juande Ramos combined to finish a distant second in La Liga, losing 2-0 and 6-2 to Barcelona while being dumped out of the Champions League last 16 5-0 on aggregate to Liverpool and exiting the Copa del Rey round-of-32 to Real Union, action was required.
Their response was to appoint Manuel Pellegrini, break the world transfer record twice within three weeks on Kaka (£56m) and Cristiano Ronaldo (£80m), spend another evenly-split £60m on Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso and…finish second in La Liga while losing in the last 16 and 32 of the Champions League and Copa del Rey respectively. Oh.
Chelsea (2020, £222.48m)
This splurge, coming as it did immediately after Chelsea served a two-window transfer ban for irregularities regarding youth signings – which is now their entire philosophy under Todd Boehly – eventually delivered the Champions League title. Frank Lampard spent a fortune on Kai Havertz (£72m), Timo Werner (£47.7m), Ben Chilwell (£45m), Hakim Ziyech (£36m) and Edouard Mendy (£21.6m) but it was Thomas Tuchel who knitted it all together. And only one of those players is still actually at the club.
Barcelona (2019, £223.8m)
Four of the six players Barcelona signed in the summer of 2019 are knocking around in England in 2023. Emerson Royal (£9m) is doing well enough at Tottenham, while Neto (£23.3m) has become Bournemouth captain. Things are going slightly less well for Marc Cucurella (£3m) and Junior Firpo (£16.5m).
As for the other two, Antoine Griezmann (£107m) scored 35 goals in 102 games before returning to Atletico in a continuation of his personal mission to somehow never win La Liga. Frenkie De Jong (£65m) has seemed close to an exit himself numerous times but there are few more important to Xavi now.
Manchester City (2017, £223.65m)
Until Todd Boehly came along, no Premier League club had ever spent more in a single transfer window than Manchester City. They held the overall global record for a time after a season of Aleksandar Kolarov, Gael Clichy and Jesus Navas proved to be Pep Guardiola’s limit and the chequebook was dusted off.
Bernardo Silva (£43m) signed with the season barely over; Ederson (£34.7m), Kyle Walker (£50m), Benjamin Mendy (£52m) and Danilo (£26.5m) soon followed.
With a few smaller deals dotted around elsewhere, City made their intent clear. And disappointing third to Chelsea and Tottenham became dominant first over everyone as they embarked on the finest season in Premier League history to reclaim their title and start a dynasty.
Chelsea (2022, £242.18m)
‘Chelsea are doomed as soon as Roman Abramovich tires of his plaything.’ It was a sentiment shared frequently for almost two decades, yet one Boehly immediately proved to be entirely misguided, at least in the sense of them unfalteringly spending a metric arseload. As soon as his £4.25bn takeover of the Blues was ratified the American set about snapping up any relatively young player he could on 427-year contracts.
They were awful close to fielding a whole new starting XI by the end: Slonina; Cucurella, Koulibaly, Fofana; Chukwuemeka, Zakaria, Hutchinson, Casadei; Sterling, Aubameyang. One player short of a full team. And how phenomenal that a year later, two of them have been sold and another couple are out on loan, with at least one more laughably unwanted but stuck.
Real Madrid (2019, £272.6m)
As much as Real Madrid hate under-performing, they resent any challenge to their gilded throne of biggest spenders that little bit more. They held the crown for eight years and wrestled it straight back within two after Manchester City had their turn.
Yet the theme of money being no guarantee for success continues. La Liga was won thanks to Barcelona’s fallibility but the signings had limited impact. Ferland Mendy (£47m) was the only new arrival to appear in more than half of the club’s league games as Eden Hazard (£88.5m) and Luka Jovic (£52.4m) both struggled with injury, while Rodrygo (£40m) and Eder Militao (£42.7m) were used sporadically. It was Benzema, the final remnant of their lavish spend a decade prior, that shone.
Chelsea (January 2023, £286.6m)
And that is without including either the £9.7m loan fee paid for Joao Felix, or the ambitious £26.5m in add-ons on the deal to sign Mykhaylo Mudryk. David Datro Fofana (£10.5m) and Andrey Santos (£18m) are out on loan. But fair play because that British record fee spent on Enzo Fernandez looks rather sagacious indeed.