Having splashed out £225 million in a month, the Premier League bellowed a resounding ‘yes’ to Richard Keys’ question on the British transfer record, “did you smash it?”
In the late hours of January 31 the financial prestige of the English Premier League collapsed after a prolonged bombardment from various offshore bank accounts. There had been evidence of structural deficiencies in previous transfer spending sprees but the decisive blow came in the form of an £85million splurge involving two strikers, Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll. The sheer expense and rashness of the deals marked a fitting end to a month period that has been charachterised by top-flight teams charging around the market with the financial shrewdness of a stag party in Vegas.
With only eleven Premier League goals to his name, 22 year-old Carroll’s £35million transfer to Liverpool earned him the title of most expensive British footballer. Although with a hairstyle better suited to an unemployed addict of World of Warcraft, Liverpool shouldn’t have to pay too much for the 6’3” striker’s image rights. Newcastle’s official statement declared the transfer fee was “reluctantly accepted”, a view owner Mike Ashley is sure to reciprocate once he returns from funding his latest project, a kebab-flavored pint.
Not to be outdone Carroll’s partner in crime, Fernando Torres, commanded a £50million fee, placing him fourth in the globe’s most expensive transfers. Significantly, the fee was £15.8 million higher than the amount Barcelona paid for Torres’ compatriot, David Villa, in 2010. The 29-year-old striker is just three years older than Torres and scored five times in the 2010 World Cup finals, with Torres failing to find the net. There is no doubting Torres’ class, but in the previous two seasons he managed only 46 appearances in the Premier League, raising questions over his susceptibility to injury.
In a transfer window where Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson declared Howard Webb was “not for sale”, Sheikh Mansour’s Manchester City restrained themselves to a £27million flutter on Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko. However the most remarkable aspect of the January spending, which marked a £195 million increase from last year, is that it has occurred in the same year that the governing body of European football, UEFA, are initiating their financial fair-play rules.
Starting with the 2011/12 season, European club’s finances will be checked over the ensuing three years and clubs that are operating at a loss of £40 million or more over the period will face punishments such as being banned from the Champions League. For Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea reaching this target will prove an arduous task, seeing as their January spending on transfers alone accounted for £71 million. This also comes on the back of last season, where Chelsea reported total losses of £70.9 million.
Since 2005 eleven Premier League clubs have been taken over by private owners, including Sheiks, corrupt Prime Ministers and Russian oligarchs. Premiership teams have seemingly become an accessory for the globe’s über-rich, with every big cheese queuing up to dunk their hardly-earned bread into the bubbling fondue of English football. This culture of a billionaire boys club has propelled Premiership spending into a league of its own, made apparent if you compare the spending of the Spanish Primera in January, £23.5 million.
Whilst such financial gallivanting has provided pages of tabloid fodder, it is clearly not sustainable in the eyes of football’s controlling bodies. At the beginning of the season Manchester City’s wage bill, accounting for £133 million, single-handedly surpassed their total revenue by £8 million. Unless teams can wriggle their way around the incoming regulations, the acts of financial decadence indulged in this January may have to be banished in the future to the forlorn speculation of the Sun’s football gossip column.