Just as is the case in Major League Baseball, top European soccer leagues such as the Barclays Premier League do not utilize hard salary cap restrictions for team rosters. This makes for clubs owned by billionaires who don’t mind splashing cash to build big-money squads playing the role that the New York Yankees play during baseball offseasons. While there is a noted history of expensive squads failing to live up to expectations, the truth of the matter is that owners who spend boatloads of money put together teams that compete for titles and that participate in the UEFA Champions League.
Teams do not just acquire talent during summer and January transfer windows. They also sell off players who are either perceived to be surplus to requirements or who want to join bigger and/or better clubs. While the majority of Premier League owners want to achieve on-the-pitch success while also spending the league amount of money possible on squads, the Transfer League Table for the past five seasons suggests that attempting to do so does not lead to desired results.
Follow along as we break down the net spending for all 20 Premier League teams over the past five seasons.
20. Tottenham Hotspur: -£2.57 million ($4.04 million) per season
That Tottenham kick off this list likely surprises nobody who actively and passionately follows the club. Spurs have been mostly known for three things during the team’s current run: Replacing managers every other year, failing to qualify for the Champions League, and selling their best players to Real Madrid. Tottenham have not come close to replacing Gareth Bale and Luka Modric during multiple transfer windows, and the club also made sure to recover its original investment when it sold Clint Dempsey to Major League Soccer and the Seattle Sounders. Tottenham fans are quickly growing tired of the club failing during transfer windows, so much so that some are hoping new owners will buy the team.
19. Burnley: -£2.09 million ($3.28 million) per season
It is a bit unfair to include Burnley and also two other clubs (more on them later) in this list. Burnley were promoted from the Championship to the Premier League after they finished second in the table in the second division. Early indications are that Burnley will not stay long in the Premier League. They are, 11 matches into the campaign, dead last in the league table. Burnley are responsible for the worst goal difference in the Premier League, and they have thus far notched only a single win in 11 contests.
18. Everton: £796,800 ($1.25 million) per season
Every top-flight club in the world would, in a perfect world, be similar to Everton. The Toffees routinely spend wisely in that they do not overpay for players, in part because Everton cannot afford to do so. Despite the fact that they aren’t in the top-five of this list or among the most expensive squads in the Premier League, Everton routinely contend for European football. They won’t get over the hump and compete for a league title because money buys titles these days, but Everton continue to be a model club.
17. Newcastle United: £1.25 million ($1.96 million) per season
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has been the man with nine lives during his stint at the club. There have, over the years, been multiple times that fans have called to Pardew to be sacked, including early on into the current season when some brought “Pardew Out!” signs and banners to home and away contests. Pardew has not only managed to remain Newcastle boss. He has the club all the way up to eighth place in the Premier League table 11 matches into the season. Pardew isn’t going anywhere just yet.
16. Swansea City: £3.143 million ($4.94 million) per season
It was not that long ago that Swansea appeared to be on the way up in English football. They defeated Bradford City 5-0 to win the League Cup in February 2013, earning a berth in the Europa League in the process. Swans failed to capitalize on that success, however, and manager Michael Laudrup was replaced by Garry Monk. Monk has Swansea playing well during the opening months of the current season. His club sits in fifth place in the Premier League table, and Swansea are, after 11 matches, only one point off of a Champions League spot.
15. Crystal Palace: £3.81 million ($5.99 million) per season
Palace and also the club’s supporters have been on quite the roller coaster ride in 2014. Former Stoke City boss Tony Pulis swooped in and played the role of savior for Palace, guiding the club from the relegation zone and to a respectable 11th-place finish last season. That was good enough for Pulis to win Manager of the Year honors. Pulis shocked the club and all within the football world when he unexpectedly left Palace just days before the start of the 2014-15 Premier League season. Palace will now likely find themselves in a relegation battle next spring.
14. Leicester: £3.83 million ($6.02 million) per season
Leicester, like Burnley, are new kids on the Premier League block. They earned promotion to the English top-flight by winning the Championship for 2013-14. Leicester finished the campaign with 102 points, nine points ahead of Burnley when all was said and done. Things won’t be so easy for the club this time around, and fans may not want to get used to seeing Leicester in the Premier League. Many experts and analysts believe that Leicester will be a one-and-done Premier League side this time around.
13. West Bromwich Albion: £4,402,200 ($6.9 million) per season
West Brom are about where they belong in this list as it pertains to money spent and successes achieved. Nobody expects this club to hang with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City near the top of the Premier League table. West Brom are not buying superstar players on a yearly basis. They are also not getting relegated into the Championship, although things did get a bit nervy for the club at times last season. West Brom should be a good middle-of-the-table club yet again in 2014-15.
12. Southampton: £4.78 million ($7.51 million) per season
Everything is comin’ up Southampton a fourth of the way into the 2014-15 Premier League season. The Saints have been the big surprise of the campaign up through the November international break, winning eight of 11 league contests. Southampton sit at second in the Premier League table, only four points off of Chelsea, as of the posting of this piece. Nobody can say for sure that Southampton will prove to have staying power moving forward, but they have certainly been playing like the real deal since August.
11. Aston Villa: £5.58 million ($8.77 million) per season
Villa fans probably felt that the club was going to be on the rise when it was announced that owner Randy Lerner was selling National Football League franchise the Cleveland Browns to businessman Jimmy Haslam in 2012. The speculation was that Lerner was going to invest some of the money netted from the sale of the Browns, a deal reported to be worth around $1 billion, into a Villa squad. Those dreams have since died a gruesome death, as there are rumors swirling about that Lerner is so keen on selling Villa as soon as possible that he may do so on a discount just to cut his losses.
10. Sunderland: £5.816 million ($9.14 million) per season
Sunderland are serving as a reminder that a manager who achieves limited success can be “fool’s gold” for a club. Paolo Di Canio did well to keep Sunderland afloat and in the Premier League in the spring of 2013, and he was, despite concerns that he was nothing but a caretaker boss, giving the full-time gig later that year. He didn’t last through the middle of October before Sunderland realized the mistake that had been made, and it has proven to be a decision that set the club back for seasons. Current manager Gus Poyet will once again have his hands full in 2014-15.
9. Hull City: £9.585 million ($15.06 million) per season
Hull manager Steve Bruce has been one of the best in the business over the past few years. Bruce guided Hull back to the Premier League for the 2012-13 season, and the club is now flirting with being a top-flight mainstay for the foreseeable future. Hull advanced to the 2014 FA Cup Final, where they went up 2-0 on Arsenal in the first half. They were unable to hold that lead versus the more talented side, however, but just making it to the Final was good enough to earn Hull a brief trip to the Europa League.
8. Stoke City: £10.875 million ($17.09 million) per season
Stoke became a yearly Premier League side under former manager Tony Pulis. Pulis led Stoke to a FA Cup Final and to the 2011-12 Europa League, but they failed to show any significant improvement following that run. Pulis was shown the door in May 2013, and Stoke eventually went with Mark Hughes as their new manager. The Hughes era at the club began with Stoke finishing ninth in the Premier League table. The Potters are ninth in the league 11 games into the 2014-15 campaign.
7. Queens Park Rangers: £14.77 million ($23.21 million) per season
Whoever came up with the “money can’t buy you happiness” saying must have had entities such as Queens Park Rangers in mind. QPR overspent on squads that were unable to keep the club in the Premier League let alone compete for anything of merit. They are back in the England top-flight for the current season, but QPR won’t be hanging around for long if they don’t begin posting better results. The R’s have won just two of their first 11 league contests, and they would be relegated if the season ended during the November international break.
6. West Ham United: £16.06 million ($25.23 million) per season
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce is doing well to silence all of his critics several months into the 2014-15 Premier League season. The Hammers are off to a brilliant start, winning five of 11 matches and earning 18 points. They sit at fourth in the Premier League table via goal difference, which would be good enough for a Champions League berth. It is now on Big Sam to keep those in his squad from celebrating too early and getting ahead of themselves. There is still a long way to go before May rolls around.
5. Arsenal: £16.845 million ($26.47 million) per season
The song remains the same for Arsenal every season: Fans call for manager Arsene Wenger to be fired and for a new era to begin, Wenger’s squads step up once the spring months come around, and Arsenal finish ahead of north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League table en route to earning Champions League football. It’s been a rough start to the 2014-15 for Arsenal, but those burying the club before the holiday season arrives have apparently not been paying attention to the Premier League over the years.
4. Liverpool: £27.186 million ($42.71 million) per season
Liverpool are learning the lesson that Tottenham Hotspur have learned the past two seasons: It’s hardly easy to simply replace a world-class player. Luis Suarez was arguably the most controversial player in world football over the summer, but he is also undeniably one of the best strikers on the planet. He made his anticipated move to Barcelona following the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and Liverpool have thus far struggled out of the gates. Liverpool are not, as of the middle of November, a top-ten Premier League side.
3. Manchester United: £56.54 million ($88.83 million) per season
It was only two seasons ago when Sir Alex Ferguson was the manager of a United side that was the best team in all of England. Those days seem like they occurred multiple eras ago. David Moyes, selected by Ferguson to be the club’s next manager, didn’t make it through last spring before he was fired. Former Holland boss Louis van Gaal has hardly impressed during his first few months with the club. While clubs such as West Ham and Swansea are in the top-five of the Premier League table in November, United are already out of the league title race.
2. Chelsea: £56,641,800 ($89 million) per season
Critics can say whatever they want about Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and the way that he handles his club. He has not been shy about handing money over to top players to lure them to the club, and Abramovich also acquired manager Jose Mourinho the second that “The Special One” was through with Real Madrid. Chelsea have the best squad in all of England as of the fall of 2014. Most knowledgeable Premier League analysts expect Chelsea to run away with the league title by the time all is said and done.
1. Manchester City: £58.41 million ($91.77 million) per season
City have, fair or not, become a top target of the “Against Modern Football” crowd who are tired of seeing league titles being purchased and not won. The blue Manchester club are the toast of the town and of England, winning the league title twice over the past three seasons. City Football Group has the resources to purchase world-class talent each summer, and that organization is set to join the North American top-flight. New York City Football Club, owned by City Football Group and the New York Yankees, will officially join Major League Soccer as an active team in 2015.