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Price of glory – Financial imprudence of Premier League heavyweights

Although leading Premier League clubs like Chelsea and Manchester United have been untypically quiet during the January transfer window, their perennial investments in new signings remain off that charts.

Let’s start with Chelsea.

Ever since Todd Boehly took over the reins from Roman Abramovich in May 2022, the Blues have established themselves as a dominant force in every transfer window.

Keeping up with the Stamford Bridge outfit’s volume of newcomers and lavish outlay has proved an arduous challenge, with the new management continuing to throw the money around without due diligence.

When Abramovich acquired the ownership of Chelsea at the start of the new millennium and started pouring hundreds of millions into the club, his way of doing business transformed the football landscape forever.

However, his effort pales in comparison to Boehly’s clueless leadership.

In only three transfer windows, the American businessman has landed 27 new players, which cost him roughly €1 billion.

Even in the era of the petrodollars threatening to turn the Saudi Pro League into a new promised land for footballers, Boehly’s substantial financial effort is second to none.

Yet, he has nothing to show for it, with Chelsea enduring their worst top-flight campaign in the 21st century last term and still fighting to regain their status as valid European contenders in the Premier League.

Over the past five seasons, the Londoners have splashed out a monstrous €1.49bn, while they’ve returned barely half that figure through player sales and revenue, leading to a significant financial deficit.

Despite running the club with a mind-blowing €788.88 million debt, the new ownership structure has shown no signs of slowing down, putting Chelsea at risk of breaking FFP rules.

The top 10 clubs with the highest net spend (last five seasons)





Net Transfer Balance







Manchester United










Tottenham Hotspur





Newcastle United





Al-Hilal SFC





Manchester City





Aston Villa





Paris Saint-Germain





West Ham United




The situation doesn’t look much better at Old Trafford.

Manchester United have earned a reputation as one of Europe’s heaviest spenders in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson period, driven by a desperate attempt to shape a new winning era.

While Chelsea’s irrational spending beats United’s €908.18m investments over the past five years by half a billion, the Red Devils haven’t ripped many rewards for their financial sacrifice either.

Under-pressure manager Erik ten Hag inspired the 20-time Premier League champions to League Cup glory in his first season at the helm and helped them return to the Champions League.

But considering the amount of money the club forked out to assemble a competitive squad, just one cup title since Jose Mourinho’s departure in 2018 is merely a consolation.

To make things worse, Man Utd only raised €210.77m from player sales, as their balance sheet in the abovementioned five-year span reads a dismal -€697.41m.

Since they’re already out of the League Cup and the Champions League while lagging miles behind Premier League pacesetters Liverpool, lifting the FA Cup crown remains the only avenue to avoid another trophyless season.

That’s unlikely to save them from financial prosecution should the FA decide to take action against them, as they recently did with Everton and Nottingham Forest.

Oddly enough, Arsenal could find themselves in a similar position.

During Arsene Wenger’s reign, the Gunners had become a synonym for rational spending and cost-effective signings, developing into one of the most financially sound clubs in the Premier League.

But following his departure six years ago, the narrative has changed.

Only Chelsea and Man Utd have eclipsed Arsenal’s €841.04m spending total over the past five years. That’s not to mention the Emirates side earned less than their rivals.

With only €195.90m coming into the club’s bank accounts during that sequence, the Gunners’ deficit currently stands at a staggering €645.14m.

Last season’s runner-up finish in the Premier League barely justifies Mikel Arteta’s excessive spending that hit the roof in the summer with the acquisitions of Declan Rice, Kai Havertz and Jurrien Timber, among others.

Unless Arsenal can better last season’s place in the standings, they may be exposed to sanctions.

Meanwhile, it’s stunning that Liverpool are not among the world’s top-ten spenders.

After investing heavily during Jurgen Klopp’s early days in charge, they’ve seemingly pulled the plug in recent years, as have perennial Premier League champions Manchester City.

Ranked seventh, Pep Guardiola’s team made every penny put in the transfer window worth last season as they won a famous treble.

Newcastle United’s road to new heights under the new Saudi ownership has cost €580.95m, while West Ham United’s expenses of €573.06m make you wonder – how are they still a mid-table club?

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