Ten takeaways as wasteful Man Utd top Europe’s net spend table…

Ian Watson
Ed Woodward and Richard Arnold of Manchester United alongside Diego Simeone.

Manchester United have p*ssed away so much money on transfers in the last 10 years. Chelsea, at least, have mastered the art of selling…


The CIES Football Observatory has ranked the 98 top-flight clubs in Europe’s big five leagues according to their net spending on transfers over the last 10 years. You really should check it out here.

It makes for some stark reading. Here are 10 takeaways from the figures…


1) These are some eye-watering numbers from the Premier League’s perspective. Only one of the English clubs have made a net profit on transfers over the last decade. Just over 50% of the 98 clubs in Europe’s top five leagues have made a net profit. Just looking at Premier League clubs, that drops to just 5% – one solitary club. That’s a lot of money being pissed away.


2) Manchester United… Jesus.

No club in Europe has a bigger net spend than the side currently setting their sights on fourth place. United’s net loss (€1075m) is €91million more than anyone else’s, with Manchester City (€984m) next, ahead of PSG (€941m), then Barcelona (€650m) and Arsenal (€583m).

And for what? United certainly end the decade in a bigger mess than they started it. Eight of the 10 years analysed have been on Ed Woodward’s watch, which has seen the Red Devils waste the fourth-highest transfer spend (€1545m), with millions more needed to get them somewhere back close to where they feel they belong.


3) Given Woodward, Richard Arnold and their overlords on the United board are all about the business, their player sales figures are dreadful. The Red Devils have never quite sussed out when to renew contracts and when to sell. There are 23 clubs in Europe’s top five leagues who have raked in more money from player sales – six in England including Everton and Southampton.


4) Chelsea, though, have mastered that facet of their transfer business.

No club in Europe has made more from player sales, with the Blues raking in €1201million over the last decade, thanks in no small part to the production line at the footballer factory in Cobham.


5) Six of the top 10 biggest net spenders are Premier League-based. No surprise there, perhaps. But seeing Everton and Aston Villa eighth and ninth respectively does raise an eyebrow.

Five teams have won the Champions League in the last 10 years, and three of them (Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid) have a lower net spend than Everton and Villa. The Villans’ spending has taken off in the last couple of seasons and we wait to see what they can achieve with it. But Everton’s has got them nothing aside from bang-average players on fat contracts and a steady stream of disappointing managers. Over to you, Frank.


January transfer window 2022: Winners | Losers


6) Real Madrid have a lower net spend over the last decade than Leeds United. And Wolves, Brighton, Leicester, Palace, Spurs, Newcastle and West Ham among 24 teams in total. They have just about managed to keep up with their European contemporaries in the spending stakes (€1163m), ranking seventh for highest outlay on signings but some way behind PSG in sixth (€1445m).

Real’s trick has been selling players to the tune of €984m – only three clubs (Chelsea, Monaco, Atletico Madrid) have earned more from sales.


7) Speaking of Atletico, fair f***s to Diego Simeone for keeping the Rojiblancos competitive at the very highest level for the last decade – with a couple of La Liga titles along the way –  while making the third-highest total in sales.

Atletico’s transfer balance (€106m) is just €1million more than Burnley over the last decade, a period for which Simeone has been in charge the entire time. Only on Sunday, in Barcelona, did he suffer the 100th defeat of his 561-game reign.


Lille win Ligue 1

8) And Lille… very well played.

No club has a larger net profit from transfers over the last decade. The Ligue 1 side have a balance of €349million – which is €102million more than Lyon in second.

That is truly remarkable in the context of their Ligue 1 title triumph last season ahead of free-spending PSG. And shows why they were able to resist Newcastle’s attempts to take Sven Botman in January.

The models some Premier League chairman will doubtless be googling this week after Lille and Lyon are Genoa (€200m profit), Udinese (€172m), Atalanta (€162m), Montpellier (€116m), Athletic Bilbao (€115m), St Etienne (€111m), Hoffenheim (€108m) and Empoli (€100m).

9)  You have to go down to no.23 on the highest net profit list before you see the a Premier League name: Brentford.

At the end of the first season analysed (2011/12), the Bees were ninth in League One. Over the decade, they have climbed through the divisions to achieve relative safety in the Premier League, all while building a new stadium and being the only top-flight English side to turn a profit to the tune of €43million.

How they approach the next step will be fascinating.


10) So, with 19 of 20 Premier League teams running at a loss in the transfer market over the last decade, how does their spending compare to the picture in other leagues?

It doesn’t, really. The current Premier League clubs have a collective €6.77billion net spend over the last decade – £5.7billion. Averaged out, that’s £285million per Premier League club.

That is six times the figure amassed by Serie A clubs and a dozen times that of Bundesliga clubs. In France, Ligue 1 clubs have collectively run at €222million (£187.3m) profit.