To say that money doesn’t buy success is naïve, yet to believe that money is the sole ingredient in a recipe for success is equally so. Modern football is clearly in the grip of a financial revolution and, like it or not, it is becoming increasingly evident that club finances play a role in the success or failure of English clubs. To what extent, though, is this the case? Below is the Premier League net-spending chart for the last five years. The figure represents the total amount of money spent after player sales have been subtracted from the total.
1. Man City £382,150,000
2. Chelsea £190,700,000
3. Stoke City £60,075,000
4. Aston Villa £53,550,000
5. QPR £35,650,000
6. Man Utd £34,150,000
7. Liverpool £26,800,000
8. Fulham £23,600,000
9. West Brom £15,915,000
10. Sunderland £11,850,000
11. West Ham £8,100,000
12. Norwich £6,950,000
13. Swansea £6,570,000
14. Tottenham £5,590,000
15. Wigan -£2,750,000
16. Southampton -£3,150,000
17. Everton -£10,815,000
18. Reading -£21,250,000
19. Arsenal -£21,280,000
20. Newcastle -£43,400,000
So, what conclusions can we draw from these figures? The first point that should be highlighted is that transfers such as that of Andy Carroll or Fernando Torres, to an extent, distort the figures on show.
As impressive as Newcastle’s position on this table is, without the sale of Andy Carroll they would have been 17th – still an impressive display of astute dealings in the transfer market yet perhaps not quite as impressive as might be expected from looking at the stats alone.
The other issue, which these stats don’t explain, is how much the clubs have actually spent. For example, upon seeing that Tottenham have a net spend of £5.59m over the last five years you might presume that they had been relatively inactive during the transfer windows. In actual fact they have spent over £153m, the fifth highest amount in the league behind Man City, Chelsea, Man Utd and Liverpool.
That doesn’t make there net spend any less impressive, but it should be remembered that other clubs, no matter how many players they sold or how careful they were in the transfer window, would never be able to spend that amount of money.
The final financial aspect that isn’t detailed within these figures is the wage bill, which, it has been argued, has more of an impact on a team’s league standing than the amount of money they spend on transfers. Indeed, were there to be table displaying wage bills it would more closely resemble that of Premier League teams’ actual league positions.
To deny that the spending of Manchester City and Chelsea over this period has brought them success would be foolish. A net spend of £382m has evidently contributed to their rise from mid table side to league Champions. Likewise Abramovich’s huge investments have undeniably helped Chelsea rise to the level they now enjoy.
Nevertheless, the spending demonstrated by teams like Stoke, Aston Villa and Liverpool clearly show that money is not the only cause for success. If you compare the fortunes of Liverpool and Newcastle then it becomes clear just how important a quality scouting network can be.
Looking at these figures reveals just how much credit particular managers deserve for the relative success that their teams have enjoyed. For Alex Ferguson to have won three out of the last five Premier league titles whilst having a net spend of less than £35m over the same period is truly remarkable.
The same can be said for David Moyes, Roberto Martinez and Arsene Wenger for the accomplishments of their respective teams whilst simultaneously making a transfer profit every single season. These teams have consistently outperformed their rivals despite having had to regularly sell their best players and replace them with lesser footballers.
Lastly, the profits made by Premier League new boys Southampton and Reading, as well as the relatively modest outlays by both Swansea and Norwich, send a clear message to those teams Championship teams looking to establish themselves in England’s top flight. In a time where sustainability is a key issue in football, these teams are testament to the fact that, with careful management, certain objectives can be achieved on a small budget.
Follow Hamish on Twitter @H_Mackay