Who Are The Most Expensive Teams So Far This Season? Ranked 1st-20th
Premier League spending, on the pitch, on the bench and in the stands
New TTT, new features. But also, some familiar styles of analysis.
So here’s a new article, looking at the cost of the current squads and £XIs in the Premier League so far this season.
The Tomkins Times is now fully on Substack. (If you still haven’t caught up or are having access problems, read this.)
Squad Costs, £XIs, Bench Impact and More
As part of my design for the site, I have requested several metrics that I find interesting to be regularly collated and updated for me, and fancy new visualisations to share that info. These will be used in our regular match previews.
And so this is a look at some of those graphics (the ones relating to financial investment that has made it onto the pitch), plus my take on why the results are the way they are.
It made sense to share some of them as a free post now, to show people the financial landscape of the league – using methods we’ve been employing for 12 years now (and which have contributed to or been used in or quoted by a European Union report, several books, umpteen newspaper articles, and an academic paper, amongst other things. Other people have started doing transfer inflation models, but ours is the original.)
Using the Transfer Price Index inflation model – based on Premier League spending – I co-created with Graeme Riley in 2010 (and which Andrew Beasley, a contributor to TTT for a dozen years, has helped me to update and tweak), I am also working with Tableau Visionary Hall of Fame (and friend since primary school, and team-mates going all the way back to an U9 team) Robert Radburn, to freshen up the match previews now that we’ve moved everything to Substack, and all but shut down the old site.
(Gary Fulcher, a co-author on our 2010 book on transfer spending, Pay As You Play, has also been doing the match previews on this site for about as long, and will resume his role on here.)
Anyway, onto the financial landscape so far. The data is up to game six in the Premier League, as that was the last time everyone had played the same number of games; but in future it’ll just be the most recent week’s data, and thus as up to date as possible, along with the other data (performance, etc.) that we share.
But first, a quick explanation of how it’s all calculated.
The Transfer Price Index – A Quick Recap
For those who do not know, with the Transfer Price Index we took 1992 as a starting point (just because it was easier, not because it was when football was invented), and created an annual index of all transfers, to work out football inflation. It often used to run about 15x faster than standard inflation, but the UK’s general inflation rate year over year is 9.8% (whereas most of the time since 1992 it was between 0% and 4%).
Still, the average price of a Premier League player in 1992 was less than £600,000, and now it’s a shade under £20m – or 33 times more expensive. (An increase of 4,900% according to my online calculator.)
In our studies over the years, we have found that what I called the £XI – the average cost of the teams starting a club’s 38 league games, with all fees converted to present-day money – correlated more closely with league finishing position than overall squad cost, albeit the latter feeds into the former.
However, most £XIs get cheaper when costly players are injured, unless the club is rich enough to have super-expensive reserves, too. (And essentially, that’s what Man City now have, especially after the exits of players who cost over, £100m-£200m in 2022/23 money in the past two years or so: Sergio Agüero, at almost £200m, and Raheem Sterling, £131m; plus David Silva at £106m, and Fernandinho at £103m. And they still have Kevin de Bruyne, the 2nd most expensive player in the league in 2022/23 money, nestling nicely between £100m and £200m, but more on him later.)
Wages obviously play a huge part, and we’ll be tracking those too. The beauty of the £XI was that it was never out of date, unlike a lot of wage data; and it focused on who made it onto the pitch.
The point was that, in most cases, net spend is a terrible argument (and gross spend an abominable argument), but a club’s financial wherewithal could be seen within their inflation-adjusted squad and £XI costs.
On the graphic below, the red line is the £XI, and the dark blue line is the overall squad cost, with the paler blue line adding what that club has out on loan (so, over £200m in Chelsea’s case!).
While the squad costs are set in stone until January 2023, the £XI fluctuates with selections.
The £XI is also now weighted to factor in substitutions, and the minutes played by both the starter and his replacement are averaged out, so a free transfer who plays the first 45 and a £100m player who plays the second half will now work out as £50m within the £XI. (This is also calculated as Bench Impact: i.e. did the subs make the team cheaper or costlier?)
In total, Liverpool rank 4th for the total squad cost, if you include £100m players loaned out to, say, Inter Milan. This is the pale blue-grey line, which adds on players at different clubs, but often still funded by the parent club.
The above graphic is a simpler comparison between overall squad cost (minus players out on loan) and the £XI. Its interesting to see that Forest’s squad costs significantly more than already-established Brighton, who continue to punch above their weight, and probably didn’t buy an entirely new squad upon promotion (albeit they did bring in over 15 players; as did Brentford two summers ago. Fulham have had problems in the past with too much churn when promoted).
Both Manchester clubs and Chelsea have squads that cost over £1billion in 2022 money, with Liverpool at £910m; almost £200m more than Spurs.
Liverpool’s £XI is actually 2nd right now behind City’s, but the Reds will fall behind Manchester United once the season settles down, given the expensive players United have to add to the team.
In Liverpool’s case, it’s just really Darwin Núñez, with Roberto Firmino’s 2022 price close to £80m anyway; whereas Antony, at £85m, will see a big increase on either Marcus Rashford or Anthony Elanga; and if – on a theme of Anthonys – Martial plays, he’ll blow the doors off, at over £150m in 2022 money, which now makes him the most expensive player in the league when adjusted for inflation).
Casemiro will impact the £XI if he replaces Scott McTominay, but actually reduce it if he replaces Fred (£74.7m).
Obviously Harry Maguire (nearly £95m) will probably continue to sit things out, but had Paul Pogba stayed, United would have had two of the three most expensive players: £162.3m (Pogba, now at Juventus); £154.95m (Martial); and across the city, £146.9m (Kevin de Bruyne).
Liverpool have no one over £100m in 2022 money, but Alisson is £99.8m, so a mere fraction away, with Virgil van Dijk at £92.4m.
(The Dutchman cost more at the time, but is relatively cheaper than the Reds’ keeper due to being bought in a more generally spend-heavy season. A current day fee is tied to the inflation/deflation of the market in the season in which he was bought, which then compares and contrasts with all the seasons that follow.)
The only other costly midfielders for the Reds (over £70m in current day money) are Jordan Henderson and Naby Keïta, and it seems unlikely both will be in the side together much again.
Evidence of FFP
It’s also worth noting that FFP slowed inflation in the Premier League, certainly when it came to superstar buys, with Neymar and Kylian Mbappé only really affordable if something strange is going on.
(Also, the insistence of low release clauses enabled Erling Haaland to reduce his fee, if not the additional payments his people lapped up, with a lower fee meaning more for him and his clan. This is essentially a £150m-£200m player on the rational open market, who could be got on the cheap because of a low release clause the player insisted upon, whereas in Spain, clubs often insist on insane buyout clauses. Dortmund only got Haaland due to this kind of agreement.)
The following is something I sent to Andrew, for a piece he was writing this week, when looking at if Jude Bellingham, aged 19, would be worth £131m as reported to be what Dortmund are asking (albeit that could change).
(Although Andrew was also writing about how relatively cheap Darwin Núñez is compared to past signings.)
The most important thing to remember is how, up to 2010, Chelsea and Manchester United were spending more than twice as much on individuals as Liverpool ever did, as the two clubs who were furthest ahead of the pack, financially, in relative terms; in the region of £30m per player, when Liverpool topped out at £14.2m on Djibril Cissé.
So any Liverpool player from that era who in today’s money works out over £100m is still going to be only half what some Chelsea and United players cost. (The Chelsea squad of the mid-2000s is by far the costliest in English football history. FFP was brought in to stop that kind of insane financial doping; and it worked, but only to a degree. Now we have no Roman Abramovich, but we do have insane VC money, sovereign wealth funds, and now Barcelona selling off shares of 10-25 years of income they haven’t even earned yet, and might never earn, which seems wrong on so many levels; but no less wrong than Saudi, Qatari or Abu Dhabi state ownership, and accusations of financial cheating.)
Anyway, in 2011, Andy Carroll was then a huge punt at £35m (£148.8m), but this was before FFP had taken hold. And of course, Fernando Torres went the other way for what now works out at £212.5m, or the 6th costliest Premier League purchase since 1992 in the Premier League.
So again, the sheer gulf between what Chelsea and Man United were spending from 2000-2010 means that, relatively speaking, these signings remain – and always win remain – absolutely huge.
But you could have seen Chelsea spending £200m+ on Neymar (maybe around £250m-300m now, albeit we don’t track European inflation) had FFP not made it much harder.
For the record, here’s the current top 10 in 2022/23 money (copied and pasted from the database, with no tidying up of the fees, to nice, rounder numbers!)
Shevchenko A (Chelsea) £244,394,960
Rooney W (Man United) £242,750,082
Ferdinand R (Man United) £241,770,576
Essien M (Chelsea) £231,296,031
Drogba D (Chelsea) £215,777,851
Torres (Chelsea) £212,513,702
Shearer A (Newcastle) £197,843,590
Agüero K (Man City) £194,773,293
Wright-Phillips (Chelsea) £186,816,025
Di Maria (Man United) £182,300,248
(Andy Carroll ranks 22nd, Djibril Cissé 35th)
Since then, there have been only two Premier League players bought for c.£100m at the time of purchase (Jack Grealish and Romelu Lukaku), but 76 who cost over £100m with inflation.
Even though spending has increased massively over the years, and each player costs a lot more on average, it’s now often spread more evenly throughout the squad, so in current money, Manchester City have just a couple who cost north of £100m (Kevin de Bruyne at £146.9m) and Jack Grealish (£112m), and a dozen who cost £50m-£90m in 2022/23 money: John Stones, Erling Haaland (excluding the £40m paid to agents and family that I would prefer was included in the transfer price), Rúben Dias, Benjamin Mendy, Kyle Walker, Riyad Mahrez, Rodri, João Cancelo, Bernardo Silva, Nathan Aké and Aymeric Laporte, with a few more just under £50m.
When City introduce subs, they are often putting on expensive players.
Clubs tend to spend more evenly across a squad now, with fewer mega-buys – but Man City, Manchester United and Chelsea still have the greatest number of expensive players.
As I keep saying, Liverpool are neither the craziest spenders, nor have the stingy owners some portray; and that kind of sensible middle ground is never good in a culture war of extreme takes. Success on the pitch has increased turnover, and that’s gone back into the team and the squad. Last season was a whisker away from being the best of any club in European football history, and the side was ranked as the 4th best ever by the Elo Index in 2020.
Sensible spending is the only way for any club to be responsible and to not jeopardise their future in the hunt for immediate glory – with such overspending and borrowing against the future the way that Leeds imploded 20 years ago, and what Barcelona appear to be doing now. I don’t want glory for Liverpool at the potential expense of the club not still existing in a few years’ time.
(Which doesn’t mean a new midfielder in the summer wouldn’t have been nice, but from what I heard, it was more about not agreeing on the next-best target after failing to succeed with a bid of €100m for Aurélien Tchouaméni, who chose one of only a handful of clubs with more transfer clout than the Reds.)
Note: The New TTT Match Previews
The TTT Main Hub match previews will be paying subscriber-only posts, as will our detailed post-match analyses, which tend to offer around 3,000 words within an hour-or-so of the final whistle, usually including a good chunk of that from me (around 1,000 words) and another good chunk from Andrew Beasley; as well as various statistical roundups by Daniel Rhodes, and contributions from other writers.
Some of the other things we’ve done on TTT over the years have now been split off into different sub-Substacks, to manage content – there was too much for just one site – and allow our writers to run their own little domains and make some money directly from subscribers. (While I have my own simple one, the ZenDen, where I’ll be posting a few regular shorter pieces such as this.) The Main Hub is where almost all of the debate will take place.
Note to paying paying subscribers: paywalled content will start appearing next week. For now, with some legacy subscribers still trying to work out how to access Substack, this is another free piece.
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