High profile: Mario Balotelli (C) returned to the Premier League this month with Liverpool. Photo: Getty Images
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The Premier League’s biggest English summer spending spree was threatening the £1 billion ($1.8 billion) mark on Sunday as clubs prepared for a record-breaking last-minute trolley-dash before the transfer window closed.
Around £780 million ($1.4 billon) had been lavished on new signings by English football’s elite by Sunday night, over-hauling the total outlay for the whole of the previous season barely a fortnight into the current campaign.
Fuelled by a £5.5 billion broadcast deal that only looks poised to swell exponentially after the rights auction next year, this summer’s figure had already obliterated the record £630 million that was splurged 12 months earlier.
Last year £123 million was spent on the final day alone, and were a similar amount to change hands before the 11pm deadline tonight (Monday), it would make 2014 the first calendar year in which more than £1 billion had been invested by Premier League teams in the market.
It would also put 2014-15 on course to become the first £1 billion season, providing the January window witnesses similar spending levels to the record £130 million outlay at the turn of this year.
Breaking the £1 billion barrier in the summer window alone would require cheques to be written to the tune of almost a quarter of that figure on Monday – but the desperation of many Premier League clubs meant it could not be entirely ruled out.
Dan Jones, lead partner of the Deloitte consultancy’s Sports Business Group, pointed out that in the last two summer windows more than 20 per cent of teams’ spending occurred on deadline day. “There is still potential for a significant increase,” he said of the amount wagered in the past three months.
The frenzy of activity at Manchester United certainly showed no sign of abating with less than 24 hours of the window remaining as the true size of the rebuilding job facing Louis van Gaal becomes clear.
Spending almost £150 million – including smashing the British transfer record to land Angel di Maria for nearly £60 million – has failed to yield a single victory from Van Gaal’s first four games in charge and more reinforcements could well follow.
Reports linking United with Juventus’s Chilean forward Arturo Vidal have persisted despite repeated denials of interest from Old Trafford, which may witness a raft of departures today as well. The future of Radamel Falcao remained up in the air last night after the Monaco striker jumped the gun with a hastily deleted tweet that suggested he was on his way to Real Madrid.
Whether Manchester City and Arsenal are willing or able to try to hijack the move remains to be seen, with the former a hostage to Financial Fair Play and the latter wedded to it.
City, who have spent £54.5 million, probably have to sell before they buy – with Matija Nastasic available for £15 million – while Arsenal may need to accept paying over the odds on deadline day, having already splashed out £62.2 million.
Recent transfer windows have shown that Jose Mourinho can never be discounted when it comes to hijacking a deal, despite Chelsea appearing to conclude their business last night with the signing of Loic Remy. They have been the Premier League’s third highest spenders this summer with an £87.7 million outlay, remarkably almost exactly the amount they have recouped in sales.
Liverpool’s £116.8 million strengthening job for the Champions League was mostly offset by the Luis Suarez transfer fee, with Brendan Rodgers’s business all but done. His side’s win at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday shattered any illusion that Mauricio Pochettino could mount a serious challenge with the current Spurs squad and should ensure chairman Daniel Levy attempts to pull off the kind of deadline-day coups for which he is renowned.
Expect also the perennial sight of Harry Redknapp being interviewed through his car window – now, of course, at Queens Park Rangers, whose win over on Sunderland failed to mask the need for reinforcements, particularly now Remy has defected to Chelsea.
The FFP time bomb threatening to engulf QPR thanks to their overspending during their last top-flight campaign is proving no deterrent to them throwing money at another survival battle. Their £26.5 million is more than double wagered by fellow promoted sides Leicester City and Burnley combined.
Such is the financial chasm now between the Premier League and Championship – on average clubs received £30 million more in central TV revenue last season than they did in 2012-13 – the stakes have never been higher for those facing relegation from the top flight.