Money, money and more money

The top five European leagues spent an astronomical GBP2.185 billion between them. English clubs led the pack with a total outlay of GBP870 million. And trends indicate that these numbers will only increase in the years to come.

Liverpool paid big money to sign Christian Benteke to bolster its forward line.   -  AP

The startling nature of the recently concluded summer transfer window is best illustrated by the late, big money move of Anthony Martial from AS Monaco.

Martial, who, so far, has featured in only 52 senior league games in his career, moved to English giant Manchester United for an astounding initial fee of GBP36 million. If Martial — he made his international debut for France recently — does well for the Red Devils, a further GBP22 million will be added to the amount. All this money for a 19-year-old, who was reportedly offered to the London side, Tottenham Hotspur, for GBP20 million a couple of months back.

Martial was not the only player that the record 20-time EPL winner signed during this window — Holland’s Memphis Depay, Germany’s Bastian Schweinsteiger, France’s Morgan Schneiderlein and Italy’s Matteo Darmian were also added to the squad. The club also managed to retain David de Gea — a two-time United Player of the Year — from the clutches of Real Madrid.

Amid all the hectic incoming activity, there was also the departure of Angel di Maria to French side Paris St. Germain. The mercurial attacker did not fit in manager Louis van Gaal’s system, and was allowed to move on without much fuss.

Across town, Manchester City completed the signing of Raheem Sterling — which played out like a soap opera for weeks — with the player’s former club Liverpool rejecting a few early offers. Liverpool finally received GBP49 million for the young English midfielder.

Attacking midfielder Kevin de Bruyne and defender too were brought in for a combined cost of GBP90 million. Manuel Pellegrini expects immediate return on investment, and Sterling and de Bruyne — both young and promising — might provide that added oomph to the side, which was largely missing last season.

Rival Arsenal came into the spotlight because of its transfer inactivity. Apart from adding Chelsea’s Petr Cech — a much needed addition to a side, which has struggled to find a reliable shot-stopper since the departure of German Jens Lehmann in 2008 (he played one match for the Gunners in 2011, coming out of retirement) — to its ranks, there was no further business done by the London side. Arsenal is the only club in the top five leagues in Europe to not sign a senior outfield player this transfer window. Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck (who is out injured) continue to be the only established forward at the Emirates and the move, a huge gamble by Arsene Wenger, might cause a problem for the team towards the later part of the season.

Liverpool spent big money on the likes of Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino, and Roman Abramovich’s chequebooks were opened to welcome Pedro Rodriguez, to add more flair to Chelsea’s attacking play. While Belgian Benteke will allow the Reds to utilise their wide areas and spring crosses in, Pedro’s thrust on the right will be a welcome addition to a sometimes predictable Chelsea supply line.

The rest of the big names in the EPL — Southampton, Tottenham and Everton — spent a few more quids as top-flight English clubs spent GBP870 million in the off-season — an increase of over GBP500 million in just five years. The reason behind this is the increasing revenue generated by domestic broadcasting rights. The latest auction cycle, for the 2016-19 period, was sold for a record GBP5.1 billion. The new deal means that even the likes of Stoke, viewed by many as a rudimentary football team even a few years back, have attracted popular names like Xherdan Shaqiri and Ibrahim Afellay.

The other big leagues, impaired by inferior television deals, were not able to spend on the same scale, but a few did manage to secure their intended targets. Bayern Munich, one of the richest clubs in world football at the moment, welcomed Arturo Vidal and Douglas Costa. Pep Guardiola, whose primary mission will be to win the Champions League this season, will view the two stars as key figures in his quest for glory.

German clubs, lauded for the way they blend young footballers into the first team, spent only GBP290 million. Wolfsburg’s acquisition of Julian Draxler, to replace the outgoing de Bruyne, was one of the most expensive buys. The non-transfer of Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels and Marco Reus, however, has also made the headlines. Dortmund has been under intense pressure to sell the two players, but has managed to remain firm.

Serie A has provided a few surprises as well. Juventus, Champions League finalist three months ago, scurried to replace Carlos Tevez (moved to Boca Juniors), Andrea Pirlo (moved to New York City FC) and Vidal. The Italian powerhouse quickly roped in Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic, Sami Khedira and others to fill the void.

Among the other big clubs, Barcelona, hit by a transfer ban, managed to sign Arda Turan, while Real Madrid, notoriously quiet by its standards, signed Croatian Mateo Kovacic to add more depth to its midfield. Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale were retained, despite the duo being sought by English clubs.

In all, the top five European leagues spent an astronomical GBP2.185 billion between them. And trends indicate that these numbers will only increase in the years to come.