NEUCHATEL: The latest CIES Football Observatory report into the transfer market among the big-5 league clubs shows that the declining trend in investments after the health crisis has stopped. During the last transfer window, clubs from the five major European leagues spent two per cent more than in the previous summer.

The study also shows that the pandemic has reinforced the domination of English Premier League clubs on the transfer market. The percentage of spending of the latter in comparison to the total big-5 league clubs’ transfer expenditure has increased from 35% between January 2012 and January 2020 to over 45% for the three post-COVID transfer windows.

The percentage of investments of the ten clubs having spent the most has also increased between these periods (from 33% to 35% per transfer window on average), as that of the ten most expensive transfers in comparison to the total (from 30% to 33%). All the indicators show a trend towards a concentration of spending from the richest clubs, in particular the wealthiest Premier League ones.

Six English teams are at the top of the rankings for the most negative post-pandemic net transfer spending, with Manchester United (-€217 million) ahead of Chelsea (-€205 M) and Arsenal (-€194 M). Since the COVID crisis, English top division clubs recorded a total deficit of almost two billion euro in transfer operations. Conversely, Spanish Liga teams registered a positive net balance (+€200 million).

Within the context of a general crisis, the English Premier League is the only competition where a majority of clubs invest massively on the transfer market. This allowed many teams from the other big-5 leagues, and, in a cascade effect, further down, to limit the impact of the health crisis and shows the importance of a global transfer system as it currently exists.

At the same time, the dependence of a growing number of clubs even within the wealthiest leagues on transfer incomes highlights the weakness of the current professional football economic system. The survival of more and more teams pivots indeed on the profits generated through the transfer of their best players. This situation is both financially dangerous and sportingly limiting.