The Premier League’s biggest net spenders over the last five years - including Man Utd and Aston Villa

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Every Premier League club’s net spend over the last five years, with Chelsea leading the way and Brighton the only team to make a profit.

Net spend has never been more relevant in the Premier League. This January, Everton and Nottingham Forest have both been charged with breaches of the Premier League's financial rules after losing too much money over the past few years - and in Everton's case, it may cause even more misery given that they have already endured a 10 point deduction. Looking at how much clubs are spending compared to their earnings isn't just the preserve of people who need to find a hobby these days. It has a very tangible impact now that points can be taken away for getting it wrong.

So which teams have the biggest net spend for the past five seasons? Let’s take a look – we’ve taken all transfer fees from Transfermarkt, which assume all bonuses and add-ons are paid, so these won’t be precise, and we’ve used the current conversion rate from Euros to Sterling, so please bear in mind that these numbers won’t be absolutely precise. They do, however, tell accurate stories…

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Todd Boehly’s big spending has seen Chelsea rocket to the top of the net spend tableTodd Boehly’s big spending has seen Chelsea rocket to the top of the net spend table
Todd Boehly’s big spending has seen Chelsea rocket to the top of the net spend table | Getty Images

1. Chelsea - £672.8m

It’s somewhat astonishing that Todd Boehly and the new American consortium in charge of Chelsea have spent enough money to top the five-year table despite two of the last three seasons over Roman Abramovic’s reign netting a profit, but the massive outlay and huge squad overhaul undertaken in the last year or so is still the biggest single spending spree in the history of the game – the collective financial might of the Saudi Pro League notwithstanding. The spend-to-league position ratio hasn’t been great so far, but there’s still time for those eight-year contracts to come good…

2. Manchester United - £600.2m

The Glazers may be deeply unpopular with United fans for a host of reasons, but nobody can accuse them of being stingy in the transfer market. In only one of the past five years has the spend dipped below a nine-figure total, back in 2020/21 when Donny van de Beek was the single most expensive arrival. Whether all this money has been spent very well is, of course, an entirely separate question.

3. Arsenal - £551.2m

Consistently big spenders over the last half a decade, Arsenal do at least finally have a squad which looks like it might represent some value for money – even if they haven’t won anything yet. The big splash on Declan Rice this summer accounts for quite a bit of the money leaving north London, of course, but the Gunners have never been shy of throwing their financial heft around, hence them being quite a long way in the red when it comes to transfers.

James Maddison is one of Spurs’ latest big buys - can he propel them closer to that elusive trophy?James Maddison is one of Spurs’ latest big buys - can he propel them closer to that elusive trophy?
James Maddison is one of Spurs’ latest big buys - can he propel them closer to that elusive trophy? | Getty Images

4. Tottenham Hotspur - £463m

There are quite a few obvious gags to be made about big money spends and empty trophy cabinets, but we’ll leave the cheap jokes to others. Partly that’s because Spurs look pretty good right now despite spending the Harry Kane cash twice over this summer, and partly it’s because you can’t put a price on the Audi Cup anyway.

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5. Newcastle United - £416.2m

Since the Saudi-backed takeover of the club, Newcastle’s previously stingy spending has skyrocketed to Manchester United levels, and they’ll be up there with Chelsea in a couple of years if they carry on at their current rate. Still, there’s no argument that they haven’t improved the team drastically with all that cash, and a first Champions League run in two decades is a pretty solid start to getting a return on investment.

6. Aston Villa - £364.5m

Despite the record signing of Moussa Diaby from Bayer Leverkusen, the spend this summer actually pales in comparison to the amount of money that went out of the doors at Villa Park between 2019 and 2021, when big money was spent to try and build a squad worthy of the Premier League after they earned promotion back to the big time. Given recent results, it’s starting to look like that expensive foundation is yielding some results.

Joško Gvardiol’s €90m transfer this summer made him City’s second most expensive signing ever, after Jack Grealish.Joško Gvardiol’s €90m transfer this summer made him City’s second most expensive signing ever, after Jack Grealish.
Joško Gvardiol’s €90m transfer this summer made him City’s second most expensive signing ever, after Jack Grealish. | Getty Images

7. Manchester City - £316.5m

A perfect illustration of why net spend can be deeply misleading is when you see that the spreadsheets have City down as turning a profit on transfers last year, with the sales of Gabriel Jesus, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Raheem Sterling comfortably paying for the arrival of Erling Haaland – except, of course, for the fact that Haaland’s signing also came with staggering signing-on and agent fees, the latter of which was reported to be worth up to £58m. That’s more than Borussia Dortmund received. Anyway, by the strict rules of the net spend table, City have been pretty sensible, but let’s not forget that some big money is involved further down the line.

8. AFC Bournemouth - £286.4m

Bournemouth might not be the first name that springs to mind when you think of net spend, but they’ve been pretty liberal since their return to the top flight and three of their all-time top five record signings arrived this summer – Alex Scott, Hamed Traoré and Tyler Adams. But then again, everything is more expensive down south, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.

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9. West Ham United - £248.1m

West Ham have had a few expensive clangers over the last five years, not least their club-record €50m purchase of Sébastien Haller, the striker who has played well literally everywhere other than the London Stadium, but the profit accrued from selling Declan Rice for £105m this summer has covered over quite a few cracks and they have their little slice of Europa Conference League history to show for it too.

10. Liverpool - £217.7m

If you want to understand why the Reds may well be tempted to sell Mohamed Salah to Saudi side Al-Ittihad for an alleged £215m, you just need to realise that it would all but wipe out their entire transfer expenditure for the last five years, at least if all of the add-ons were met. You wouldn’t call Liverpool cheapskates, exactly, but the amount they’ve shelled out for relatively sustained success can’t be said to be bad business, either – although whether the current squad refresh yields the same results remains to be seen.

11. Nottingham Forest - £208m

Believe it or not, Forest’s £162.8m splurge in the 2022/23 season was the second-biggest transfer window spend of any club in the last five years – behind Chelsea, of course. The vast numbers of new faces in Nottingham did manage to keep them up, admittedly, but given how many of them are already out of the starting line-up it’s hard to say that any of it looks like great business. More money was spent this summer, but recruitment does seem to have been a bit more focused this time around.

12. Fulham - £135.3m

It’s hard to find much interesting to say about Fulham’s transfer dealings over the last few years – they’ve consistently spent mid-table money, not made any wild splashes, failed to turn any profits… They’ve just been drearily sensible, really.

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Rúben Neves’ departure eased Wolves’ financial worries but leaves big shoes to fill.Rúben Neves’ departure eased Wolves’ financial worries but leaves big shoes to fill.
Rúben Neves’ departure eased Wolves’ financial worries but leaves big shoes to fill. | Getty Images

13. Wolverhampton Wanderers - £125.9m

An FFP-mandated fire sale this year has massaged the bottom line back towards a more sustainable level, but a couple of splashy summers means that Wolves are still very much mid-table on the net spend despite the money earned from Rúben Neves and Matheus Nunes.

14. Sheffield United - £124.3m

A lot of the Blades’ biggest buys have either been to cover the cut-price departures of star players like Iliman Ndiaye, players who they made a loss on like Sander Berge, or poor Rhian Brewster, who is currently injured and unable to make a case that he’s finally a Premier League-level player. The Bramall Lane boys haven’t had a great record on individual transfers, but they’re back in the big time and if they can make it stick, they’ll not worry about failing to make more money from Aaron Ramsdale too much.

15. Crystal Palace – £102.7m

The money that Roy Hodgson’s team earned from flogging Aaron Wan-Bissaka to Manchester United is more than they’ve spent in total for both of the last two seasons, despite which they’ve added some real quality with the likes of Marc Guéhi, Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise – something which tells you a lot about how Palace do business. Smart, sustainable spending seems to be the order of the day at Selhurst Park, even if losing Wilfried Zaha on a free probably stung the club’s accountants a little bit.

16. Burnley - £78.6m

The £91.7m spent this summer is, by an absolute mile, the most the Turf Moor outfit have ever spent in the Premier League, having previously been run in such tight fashion that when the former owners took a tenner out of their pocket, the picture of the Queen blinked in the unfamiliar sunlight. Now run by American investors, of course, which usually means that their spend will absolutely rocket over the coming campaigns.

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17. Brentford - £73.2m

No surprise that model club Brentford are down towards the bottom of the table – they spent a decent chunk this summer by their standards, but that’s cancelled out by the almost identical profit they made back in 2020/21, the same year they earned promotion to the Premier League.

Everton’s recent record with transfers hasn’t been great - will Beto buck the trend?Everton’s recent record with transfers hasn’t been great - will Beto buck the trend?
Everton’s recent record with transfers hasn’t been great - will Beto buck the trend? | Getty Images

18. Everton - £38.3m

The cost of building the new Bramley Moore Dock stadium means that spending has been kept to a minimum for a while now. Which would be fine if they had a better track record with the more expensive signings they did make – they made a loss on Alex Iwobi, Jean-Philippe Gbamin has just left on a free after spending several years out injured, and neither Allan nor Ben Godfrey have set the world on fire. Stingy spending and bad recruitment might explain the club’s present predicament…

19. Luton Town - £12.2m

Back in 2020/21, the Premier League new boys spent precisely zero pounds on transfers and earned exactly nothing in return. Proper old-fashioned Football League stuff by a club that resolutely refuse to move with the times in many respects. The £22.8m spent this season, obviously much less than most clubs, is nevertheless their biggest summer outlay by a country mile.

20. Brighton & Hove Albion - £92.3m profit

Yep, the best-run club in the country have actually made nearly £100m in pure profit from transfers since they earned promotion to the Premier League. And they built a new stadium. And seem to have gotten even better every single year. It’s getting boring just how efficient they are at absolutely everything, but it doesn’t seem likely to end any time soon. Give it five more years and they’ll be champions of Europe after selling their entire squad at a mark-up twice over.

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