Deloitte rattled out a quick summary of transfer spend in the window just closed in the richest five European leagues. Clubs in two of the five, the Bundesliga and La Liga, made profits on their transfer activity of £15m and £120m respectively. Serie A’s net spend was £60m and Ligue 1’s was £55m. The English Premier League did not get the hardship memo, net spend there was £560m.
Below these leagues, transfer spend barely registers. Even in England, that £560m net spend is down from the £905m spend in the summer of 2020, a period with empty stadiums, itself a drop on 2019.
It is what Deloitte terms the midmarket, transfers between £10m and £25m, that was most affected. A year ago there were 33 deals in that space, this year there were only 20, remarkably, two of which put money in Celtic’s coffers.
The crisis at La Liga clubs was brewing well before it reached the Camp Nou this year. Real Madrid and Barcelona brought viewers and commercial revenue to the league but that market is in drastic retreat. The Spanish era is over.
Ligue 1’s TV deal collapsed last year, leaving many clubs on the brink. PSG’s impressive transfer moves will shift some floating viewers from Spain to France, but that will hardly shift the dial for most clubs’ finances.
The Bundesliga was the only one of the five to see an increase in gross spend, which they more than offset by selling to the English Premier League – the last functional market in Europe.
There has never been a collapse in transfer spend across Europe like this. Markets below the top tier depend on selling talent upwards; TV, sponsorship and gate money is not enough to pay the bills.
Football will find its level but I expect there will be bargains in January and next summer as the full consequences of where the industry is begin to hit home. Generating the money we did for Ajer, Edouard, as well as Frimpong, could prove significant for years to come.
Of course, if your directors were briefing fans that you “Need to sell players”, but you were not able to do so, I don’t fancy your prospects.