Every club in the Premier League is loaded with money these days, but how many of them spend it wisely?
We wanted to find out, so we compared how much every team has spent on transfers in the past five years with how successful they have been in the table over that time period. The most efficient spenders should, in theory, have gained more points relative to the money they’ve spent on players.
We’ve excluded any teams who have spent time in the Championship or League One in the past five years for the purpose of simplicity, although it’s worth noting that Norwich City are the only club to have made a profit on transfers (£28m) during this period.
Note: Our calculations are based on net spend, rather than gross spend, as we believe this is a better overall indicator of a club’s proficiency in the transfer market when compared to points gained and average league position. The data used is up-to-date at the time of writing.
The five Premier League clubs with the least money spent per point:
5. Crystal Palace
Avg. Position: 12.6
Total Points: 206
Money Spent Per Point Gained: £364,000
What Crystal Palace‘s placing on this list tells us is that Roy Hodgson is a very good manager. The club currently possess an aging squad that doesn’t have a huge amount of fire power up front, and has not splashed out big money on a new player since paying Liverpool £25m for Mamadou Sakho in 2017/18, yet they have always been comfortably safe in the top flight under the 72-year-old.
Despite earning £50m from the sale of Aaron Wan-Bissaka to Manchester United, the Eagles spent just over £7m in the transfer market last summer. Their frugality has served them well so far, but their squad is more or less the same group of players they’ve had for the past five seasons, although their wage bill eats up a considerable portion of their revenue. Freshening up is in order, but they might have to sell their prized asset in order to do so.
Best Signing: Wilfried Zaha (£3.4m)
Avg. Position: 4.6
Total Points: 325
Money Spent Per Point Gained: £340,490
Who would have imagined it? Chelsea, the club backed by a Russian billionaire, an organisation which for years spent frivolously on new players in a bid to achieve instant success, are now one of the more efficient spenders in the Premier League relative to their points total.
The numbers might be slightly misleading, however; the sale of Eden Hazard to Real Madrid and last summer’s transfer ban mean the club’s net spend is probably in better health than it would otherwise normally be.
In reality, it’s remarkable that the South West London outfit have been able to remain so competitive at the top of the table for so long given how many poor signings they have made: Ross Barkley (£15m), Danny Drinkwater (£34m), Davide Zappacosta (£22m), Tiemoue Bakayoko (£36m), Alvaro Morata (£59m), Kepa Arrizabalaga (£72m) and Falcao, for whom they paid Monaco a £6m loan fee in 2016.
Chelsea have, however, managed to rake in £364m in player sales since 2013, more than any other top-flight club in that period.
Best Signing: N’Golo Kante (£30m)
Avg. Position: 3.6
Total Points: 338
Money Spent Per Point Gained: £316,600
Tottenham Hotspur are an odd case in that they simply just didn’t buy any players for 18 whole months. They got away with, qualifying for the Champions League in successive seasons and reaching the final of said competition last year, but it eventually caught up with them this term.
Chairman Daniel Levy is known for driving a hard bargain, selling his players for nothing but the absolute maximum value possible, while trying to bring in talent for as cheap as possible. Whether that model of doing business is sustainable or even practical remains to be seen.
Best Signing: Heung-min Son (£27m)
Avg. Position: 3.8
Total Points: 375
Money Spent Per Point Gained: £283,000
When was the last time you saw Liverpool make a bad move in the transfer market? It’s been a while, hasn’t it? That’s not down to pure luck, not by a long shot.
Ever since taking over the club in 2010, Fenway Sports Group have been gradually implementing an American sports model for how to run the club, and it is paying dividends a decade on. The Bostonian owners overhauled the recruitment process, which gained notoriety in the Brendan Rodgers for the so-called “transfer committee”, installing a team teaming with experts in advanced analytics.
Much of that group, such as sporting director Michael Edwards, were pioneering statistical analysis at Leeds-based company ProZone in the noughties, while the club’s director of research, Ian Graham, has a doctorate in theoretical physics from Cambridge. Almost every club has data analysts these days, but, after years of trial and error, none are as cultivated and refined as theirs, tracking the progress of 100,000 players around the world at any given time.
That’s how Liverpool knew Jurgen Klopp was exactly the right man to put in charge, or why they were able to identify players with top class potential, such as Mo Salah, Andy Robertson and Roberto Firmino, who were largely ignored by other clubs. They have also been able to make tidy profits on selling players such as Dominic Solanke, Danny Ings, and Jordan Ibe.
There have been some miscues, like Christian Benteke and Loris Karius, but no one system or person is ever going to get 100% of transfers right 100% of the time.
Best Signing: Virgil van Dijk (£75m)
Avg. Position: 11.2
Total Points: 217
Money Spent Per Point Gained: £100,900
For the record, just because Southampton are top of this list, it does not necessarily mean they are the wisest spenders in the market. They have gained the most points per millions spent on transfers, but their refusal to spend any money on worthy replacements for the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Sadio Mane and all of the other starlets who went to bigger clubs, has seen them regress in recent years.
Indeed, those sales make the south coast club’s net spend look much better, but some of the signings they have made in recent years were just not worth the money: £13.5m for Jordy Clasie, £16m for Sofiane Boufal, nearly £20m for Guido Carrillo, £15.5m for Mario Lemina, £10m for Angus Gunn and £15m for Che Adams, who has been linked with a swift return to the Championship recently.
The Saints need to rediscover the magic touch that sourced so much phenomenal talent a decade ago, because if they didn’t have such a good manager in Ralph Hasenhuttl, then they would surely be mired deep in a relegation battle once again.
Best Signing: Virgil van Dijk (£14m)