Premier League transfers: the rational thinking behind the big spending

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When Manchester United agreed an £80 million (€86 million) deal to sign Harry Maguire from Leicester City last week, many football fans and pundits winced at the enormous price – a world-record fee for a defender.

The signing kicked off a frenzied final few days of dealmaking among English Premier League clubs before its summer transfer window – a three-month period when teams can acquire players – came to a close on Thursday afternoon ahead of the season’s start on Friday evening.

Total spending by the 20 teams in the world’s wealthiest division reached £1.41 billion during the past 12 weeks, falling just short of the £1.43 billion record set in 2017, according to consultancy Deloitte. It is the fourth consecutive summer that Premier League sides have spent more than £1 billion combined on transfer deals. More than half the clubs broke their own transfer records on a single player.

The willingness to invest was evident across the league: champions Manchester City and newly-promoted Aston Villa both spent more than £100 million.

“Wherever you look in the Premier League, there is a good reason for teams to be spending,” said Dan Jones, partner in the Sports Business Group at the consultancy Deloitte. “Whether it’s to stay up, whether to get into Europe, whether it is to win the title, there is always a reason to keep investing.”

While this may look like wild expenditure, analysis of these deals suggests the strategies employed by clubs are more rational than they first appear.

Clubs achieved record revenues last season, on the back of the rising value of broadcasting rights, which has ensured English teams have more money than ever before to replenish their squads.

The cost of the Premier League’s broadcast rights in the UK has fallen, but there has been strong growth overseas, meaning the overall value of television deals will be worth £9.2billion during the next three years – a rise of about £1.2 billion.

And while the gross spending on transfers is huge, English sides appear to have become savvier at securing good prices for outgoing players.

Manchester United spent £145m

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