Premier League clubs hunting the likes of Paul Pogba spent ten times as much as French Ligue 1 counterparts during the transfer window, but envious rivals are nervously laughing all the way to the bank.
The 20 English Premier League clubs laid out 1.165 billion pounds (1.38 billion euros/$1.54 billion) in two months up to Wednesday, provoking delight and fright in equal measures amongst Europe’s other leagues.
In comparison, Italy’s Serie A clubs spent about £590 million, the German Bundesliga £460 million, Spain’s La Liga £400 million and France’s Ligue 1 just £165 million, according to the Deloitte consultancy.
The world record £89 million that Manchester United paid Juventus caused a “Pogba effect” that helped the Italian team buy Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain for an Italian record 90 million euros.
Germany’s Bundesliga reaped the most benefit of the English raids.
About 190 million euros of the Premier League spree landed in the bank accounts of German clubs. Another 176 million euros went to Spanish clubs and 161 million euros to Italian sides, according to the transfermarkt.de website.
Enriched by a £5.14 billion domestic TV rights deal, 13 of the 20 Premier League clubs broke their transfer records this year and most of those mega fees went on foreign players like Algerian Islam Slimani, who joined English champions Leicester City for an estimated £29.7 million.
Christian Heidel, sporting director for Germans Schalke, who sold Leroy Sane to Manchester City for 42 million euros, said this week that prices rise as soon as an English club comes knocking.
“If English managers are on the phone, then the (transfer) sums are automatically higher,” he said.
– NBA effect –
But Javier Tebas, president of La Liga warned this year that there is a risk of the Premier League becoming “the NBA of football, and that would not be good for us, not for the sport”.
Despite the presence of Real Madrid and Barcelona in the Spanish top division, its revenues from television and other sources are less than half that of the Premier League.
“We do not want the Premier League as a leader one step ahead of the rest,” Tebas said.
Television revenues are the main cause of the difference between England and France. At 726 million euros a year, Ligue 1 domestic rights are less than half those of the Premier League.
But Spain is showing the way to catch up, according to Tim Bridge, a senior manager at Deloitte’s sports business division.
“The key for me is the development of the Spanish league,” Bridge told AFP.
“They have gone out to sell TV rights centrally and seen an initial rise in how much they can generate, which is signficant.
“In the future, we predict the Spanish league will come second to the EPL and there is no reason why they can’t kick on and generate the same amount in TV money.”
Bridge insisted “there will be a closing of the gap” between England and Spain, although other European leagues have not yet found a formula to rival the Premier League.
“If you watch the EPL now it is a product. They have created something. The grass is the greenest it can ever be, the stadia are always full, or nearly full, and the product is very attractive,” said the analyst.
La Liga has in recent months taken action to cut back on empty seats in stadiums.
“They are trying to create a product that is more available and appropriate for a global audience which is what is driving the value alongside what is going on on the pitch,” said Bridge.
The German league’s cheaper tickets, less than half the average price of English clubs, keeps Bundesliga crowds high.
But Germany, like other championships, worries about losing fans in the fantastic sums now being paid for players who generate as much news as pop stars.
Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel said fans can no longer relate to the money being spent on players.
“When it’s just about money and transactions, we lose sight of the fact we’re dealing with people,” he said.