Home and Away

English Premier League clubs splashed the cash because they could afford to - and next year will be even bigger

Spending has been big on the transfer market as Premiership finances look better than ever after lucrative television rights deal

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 September, 2015, 11:17pm
UPDATED : Monday, 07 September, 2015, 11:07am

There's nothing like the relaxation of Uefa's financial fair play rule and an astronomical television rights windfall to spark yet another record gold rush for talent during the EPL transfer window.

The 20 clubs spent nearly £900 million (HK$1 billion) during the past few weeks - smashing last summer's £835 million record.

Permanently flushed and free of the thrift forced upon them, Manchester City plunged into the market place with all the gusto of Imelda Marcos alerted to a Jimmy Choo's 2-for-1 special. 

Extravagant City certainly appeared to put their money where their mouth is, slapping £130 million on the counter, £52 million of which went on otherwise unknown Kevin de Bruyne from Wolfsburg, £49 million on Merseyside pariah Raheem Sterling and £32 million on Nicolas Otamendi from Valencia.

Manchester City plunged into the market place with all the gusto of Imelda Marcos alerted to a Jimmy Choo's 2-for-1 special

Over in the red half of Manchester, United splashed out £36 million on unknown and untested teenager Anthony Martial from Monaco - a questionable deal that came hours after the undignified collapse of goalkeeper David de Gea's allegedly £29 million "done deal" with Real Madrid.

The ugly blame-game over the De Gea fiasco rumbles on and United fans have every right to be concerned that manager Louis van Gaal and chief executive Ed Woodward appear to lack the business acumen and shrewd approach to the transfer market compared with their predecessors, Alex Ferguson and David Gill.

Three seasons on from Ferguson's farewell, United have still to impress both in the transfer window and on the pitch.

Last week's loss to Swansea underscored the desperate need for a goalscorer and never has so much ridden on the shoulders of one so young - Martial is 19 - at Old Trafford.

Misfiring Chelsea secured, during what was a strange summer at Stamford Bridge, the services of Pedro from Barcelona for £21 million and Baba Rahman from Ausburg for £22 million. But the Blues missed out on their two main targets.

The last deadline act of manager Jose Mourinho was to buy centre-half Michael Hector for £4 million - only to lend him straight back to Championship side Reading, a bizarre end after the purposeful if unsuccessful pursuit for Everton's John Stones and Paul Pogba of Juventus.

Gunners' fans applauded Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger's early-bird £10 million signing of Petr Cech from Chelsea, and there the excitement and expectation of landing a big goal-scoring shark ended.

Arsenal were heavily linked with Real Madrid's Karim Benzema and Paris St-Germain striker Edinson Cavani, but ended up as the only club in Europe's top five leagues not to sign an outfield player.

Liverpool forked out a whopping £32 million for Aston Villa's Christian Benteke and £29 million on Roberto Firmino from Hoffenheim.

Yet that did not stop former EPL manager and pundit Harry Redknapp describing the Anfield squad as the worst in a long time, devoid as it is of any winning characters.

Tottenham signed South Korean Son Heung-min from Bayer Leverkusen for £22 million and Newcastle - the third biggest net spenders - handed over £47.8 million in strengthening their squad.

Newcomers Norwich, Watford and Bournemouth all spent heavily, with each acquiring the equivalent of a new team, and Southampton were the only EPL club whose transfer outlay was lower than their revenue.

All told, the EPL's net spending dwarfed that of its four main rivals, with Spain's La Liga recording £130 million, Italy's Serie A £52 million, Germany's Bundesliga - (minus) £45 millon and France's Ligue 1 - (minus) £66 million.

The extraordinary money spent has had many querying if the EPL can sustain itself, breaking as it does records every year.

The simple answer is: yes, it can. Easily.

EPL clubs might struggle in Europe, but economically the league is a world beater thanks to the insatiable appetite from overseas fans.

In a fragmented media landscape with more and more ways to watch whatever, wherever and whenever you like, big sporting events are the last bastions that manage to attract large audiences.

This attracts deep pocketed TV companies and their client advertisers like bees to a honey pot.

If anything, we can expect in the next TV bidding war in 2018 to see the likes of Amazon, Netflix, Apple and Google throw their cheque books into the ring.

Indeed, it is predicted that TV rights' money will have trebled by 2018 since 2010. The only way is up for the EPL's finances - and that means more cash for clubs to spend on players demanding ever more wages.

Yet as the summer transfer window proved, money does not secure talent and it does not buy instant happiness for supporters.

The frustrating search for firepower has ended with more acrimony than alchemy, with many a proposed deal collapsing and those that were executed failing to excite.

Indeed, the anticlimax is palpable for all the money spent, there is little to show, and little optimism that the musical chairs and all the new blood will set alight an otherwise dull opening month of the new campaign.