This summer represents new territory for the Premier League.
Practically every predecessor has involved an unprecedented level of spending, such has been the continual inflation of available funds through enhanced television deals and subsequently transfer fees. But the current one could actually buck that trend, because of two key factors.
First and foremost, it’s a World Cup year, which appears to have diminished or at the very least delayed the Premier League’s capacity to make new signings – probably because much of the calibre of players required are either still at the tournament or recuperating from it. As of July 5th, the Premier League had made seven less signings than it managed at the same point last year.
But stemming back to the last World Cup summer in 2014, that’s not exactly unusual. In fact, four years ago amid the height of Brazil 2014, the Premier League made one signing less by July 5th than they’ve done collectively this time around, while the cost of the most expensive signing has predictably risen by £20million.
This summer though, is different. Last time, the end of the World Cup left Premier League clubs with 51 days, more than seven weeks, to make new signings – some inspired by performances at the tournament itself, others already in the pipeline prior. But because the Premier League elected during the opening weeks of last season to end this transfer window by the Thursday before the first game, August 9th, they will now have just 36 days – more than a fortnight less – to make signings from the day of the World Cup final to the official close of business in English football.
And some number crunching shows how significant that could prove to be in the coming weeks. Between the last five summers, Premier League spending has increased by an average of £192million, while the jump between 2016 and 2017 was even higher than that at £210million. But for the Premier League to even match the same total as last year this summer, they’d need to spend just shy of £1billion more in the space of 36 days. That’s roughly £200million per week, £28million per day and £50million per club.
Financially, those targets are by no means beyond the Premier League’s reach. One deal eclipsing Paul Pogba’s Premier League-record transfer fee would cancel out around 10% of the deficit instantly. But only eight out of 20 clubs actually spent more than £50million throughout the whole of the last summer transfer window, so expecting them to outlay that sum in the space of just five weeks is certainly a big ask. Perhaps the bigger problem though is quite simply logistics; Premier League clubs don’t have much time left to agree terms with buyers, players, agents and any other auxiliary parties.
And it’s those at the top of the Premier League who should be most concerned. Manchester City were unprecedented in their dominance of the rest of the division last season, their 19 points representing the biggest winning margin in Premier League history, so every member of the Big Six needs to strengthen this summer if they’re to be more competitive in the coming season – even more so considering City are on the verge of improving their own squad with swoops for Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez and Napoli’s Jorginho.
Currently, however, the big six collectively have made 25% less signings – nine compared to 12 – than they managed by July 5th during the last World Cup, despite the transfer window ending three weeks earlier. Liverpool, in fairness, have already got some key deals done, but Tottenham and Chelsea are yet to sign anybody and Manchester United have only made one addition to their starting XI – albeit potentially a very significant one – in Brazil midfielder Fred.
There simply isn’t much time left to catch up with the Citizens, or for that matter set a new Premier League spending record, and there isn’t much to suggest the situation will drastically change either. World Cup years usually provide the platform for Hollywood arrivals in the Premier League, yet there hasn’t been much talk of genuine superstars joining the English top flight this time around.
In terms of signings who could potentially break the Premier Leagues’ record transfer fee, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is probably the only recurring name associated with that kind of money, while talk of Gareth Bale’s much-awaited return to England has gone cold.
Perhaps we will see the transfer window explode into life once the World Cup comes to an end – it’s more than likely a number of deals have been agreed already, it’s just a matter of signings returning from the tournament and their subsequent holidays before they can be made official.
But for £1billion to be spent between now and August 9th, the degree of change needs to be sudden and drastic – especially amongst those clubs who hope to push City in the title race next season.