This article first appeared in the July 2017 issue of WGM.
This summer’s Premier League transfer window is shaping up as the craziest ever seen for the world’s most popular football competition.
When Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich took over Chelsea in a historical moment for the club back in 2003, big signings were expected at Stamford Bridge. The same logic applied when Abu Dhabi Group bought Manchester City in 2009. So what about this summer? The Premier League’s new television broadcasting deal kicked in last season and the financial windfall saw clubs break spending records to fill their rosters with talent. Twelve months on they are set to do it all again.
The transfer window opens on 1 July but wheeler- dealers have been busy ever since the end of last season. Manchester City was quick out of the blocks this time around, completing the signing of Bernardo Silva and Ederson for a combined fee of £76.6 million in a bid to strengthen their attacking and goalkeeping options respectively. They also released senior players Jesús Navas, Bacary Sagna, Willy Caballero and Gaël Clichy in the process.
The other big guns have been busy too, even if not quite so efficient. Liverpool, for example, was quick to target Southampton’s central defender Virgil van Dijk – the Dutchman was also being lured by Chelsea and Manchester City. All three clubs were more than willing to depart with the £60 million required for his services, although Liverpool was forced to pull out of the race following news the club was being investigated for illegally approaching the player. Although Liverpool messed up the deal and made itself a laughing stock in the process, its willingness to spend big this summer is now clear to all.
The top four clubs aren’t alone though. Bournemouth, who finished ninth in the 2016/17 season, has spent £20 million plus a £6 million sign-on fee for 34-year-old striker Jermain Defoe, whose Premier League career looked over when he moved to Major League Soccer club Toronto three years ago.
This transfer market feast is rooted back in 2015, when the Premier League celebrated its biggest ever broadcasting deal with Sky and BT. The three-year deal raked in a staggering £5.14 billion, 71% more than the previous deal – providing a pleasant boost for the clubs who all receive a cut of the money based on their Premier League finishing positions and number of televised matches each season.
This year, champions Chelsea will walk away with a massive £153.2 million in cash, while the bottom club Sunderland collect £99.9 million – the only club below the £100 million barrier.
By comparison, the year before the new deal only one club, Arsenal, received £100 million due to them enjoying the most televised games. The bottom club Aston Villa, who were relegated to the Championship, received only £66.2 million – more than £30 million less than this season’s bottom club. Even in today’s market, £30 million is enough to attract a world class player, so Bournemouth forking out £20 million for Defoe is understandable.
All of this and the summer transfer party is only just beginning.