A lean January but PL clubs will spend big again this summer


After the feast, there was the famine.

Premier League clubs gorged on transfers in the summer, splashing a record-breaking £2.44bn on new signings.

But there was just £96.2m paid out this January, only the second time in 13 years there has been less than £100m spent in a January window – and around £700m less than 12 months ago.

In all, just 17 permanent transfers were completed by Premier League clubs during the January window.

Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City may be chasing the Premier League crown but they didn’t spend a penny on a first-teamer for the title run-in. Chelsea, Manchester United and Newcastle were similarly stringent.

Unsurprisingly, Everton were part of that prudent group – their points deduction for breaching the Premier League’s Profitability and Sustainability Rules was a major part of this tightening of belts.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin reacts after missing a chance
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Everton’s 10-point deduction for financial breaches sent a shockwave through the Premier League

It has been borrows, bargains and buys for the future rather than blowouts for the likes of Tottenham (Timo Werner loan, Radu Dragusin for £26.7m), West Ham (Kalvin Phillips loan) and Aston Villa (Morgan Rogers for £8m).

Radu Dragusin
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Radu Dragusin – a rare Premier League signing this January

There has been as much focus on outgoings as incomings, with the high-profile departure of Jadon Sancho back to Borussia Dortmund the standout, but Eric Dier and Donny van de Beek are among the players whose wages have been offloaded to some extent.

On Deadline Day, loan deals dominated, with Fulham’s pursuit of Chelsea’s Armando Broja going late into the night, Burnley signing Rennes’ Lorenz Assignon and Montpellier’s Maxime Esteve, Sheffield United adding Everton’s Mason Holgate and Nottingham Forest picking up Sporting’s Rodrigo Ribeiro.

Bournemouth brought in Getafe’s Enes Unal with an obligation to buy for £14m and there were permanent deals involving Adam Wharton (Blackburn to Crystal Palace, £18m potentially rising to £22m), Rogers (Middlesbrough to Villa, £8m potentially rising to £15m), Matz Sels (Strasbourg to Forest, £5m), Caylan Vickers (Reading to Brighton, undisclosed) and Joe Gauci (Adelaide United to Aston Villa, undisclosed),

Aside from the restrictions of the Premier League’s Profitability and Sustainability Rules, there have been other factors at play – the Africa Cup of Nations and Asian Cup have depleted squads and made clubs loathe to sell, while Saudi Pro League sides who were big spenders in the summer have been less influential in this window, with their foreign-player quotas filled up from that previous business.

A winter famine followed by another summer feast?

But be in no doubt: Premier League clubs will go again in the summer. And they’ll go big.

Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea are in need of a first-class striker. They may need to stretch to nine figures to bring the likes of Victor Osimhen to the Premier League. Brentford have already indicated they will want eye-watering sums for Ivan Toney.

Nigeria's Victor Osimhen, left, kicks the ball against Equatorial Guinea's goalkeeper Jesus Owono during the African Cup of Nations Group A soccer match between Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea's in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
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Nigeria and Napoli’s Victor Osimhen could be the centre of a big-money transfer battle this summer

A new manager at Liverpool will surely be backed with investment, Manchester City will pick out areas to improve their winning machine further, while Newcastle – effectively the world’s richest club but with their hands tied by PSR – will have to make significant investments to refuel their progress.

Expect new Manchester United investors INEOS to make a statement, as they look to launch a new era.

The summer has traditionally been the moment for the major moves to go down but PSR has emphasised that by forcing clubs to think more carefully and longer term about their purchases.

The January diet has been lean – but expect Premier League sides to tuck in again at the end of this season.

Neville’s verdict: A cautious January, but more activity expected in summer

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Gary Neville reflects on a quiet January transfer window and just why Premier League clubs were scarce to make big moves. But, Neville still believes there will be heaps of activity and big spending to come in the summer

Sky Sports’ Gary Neville:

“We got the window we’ve always talked about in the football community. We’ve always said January is the most difficult time to do business.

“Probably the odd thing is that last year when you were nearly spending £900m in January, it goes against everything we say about the game because we talk about those difficulties and challenges.

“There’s no doubt that Covid is catching up with clubs. The threat of real punishment and the Premier League stamping down on the FFP element. There is a lot of caution.

“I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Maybe it’s the start of something that means we’ll see a bit more sustainability and smartness in this window moving forward.

“I would expect the summer will explode again. The TV money is still the same as it was so the cash is still going into the clubs.

“I don’t think it’s a case of clubs not having the money. It’s maybe a case of Covid and the losses catching up with them. Maybe a slightly newer approach, thinking about things in a little bit more of measured fashion.

“The main thing might be that FFP seems to be hitting. Manchester United have spent hundreds of millions and they’re on the edge of FFP.

“It’s not just the likes of Everton and Forest who are near the bottom of the league and trying to catch up. It’s the clubs right at the very top who are having to move forward with more caution.”

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