Football's Covid-19 credit crunch isn't stopping Chelsea or Man City

Football’s coronavirus credit crunch: Chelsea and Man City are spending a staggering £316m between them on pre-season signings… but the rest have spent just £198m combined, with promoted Leeds forking out £53m and champions Liverpool just £11.8m

  • Chelsea have spent £140million in total so far this summer across five signings
  • That is likely to rise to £230m once they buy Kai Havertz from Bayer Leverkusen
  • Manchester City have splashed £86m on three new signings so far this window
  • Newly-promoted Leeds United have spent £53m as they look to avoid relegation
  • The other 17 clubs have spent £145m combined – meaning an average of £8.5m

The transfer window may have opened more than a month ago but only two established Premier League clubs have really flexed their financial muscle so far.

Chelsea and Manchester City lead the way in money spent among the English top-flight clubs during this delayed summer window.

As of Friday, Chelsea have splashed £140million on signings – this figure will rise to £230m with Kai Havertz’s arrival from Bayer Leverkusen – while Manchester City have spent £86m.

Frank Lampard (left) and Pep Guardiola have splashed the cash this transfer window so far

Thiago Silva is the latest signing of Chelsea’s with the club having spent £140m so far

Kai Havertz’s (right) arrival from Bayer Leverkusen will take Chelsea’s spending to £230m

In comparison, the rest of the 18 Premier League clubs have spent £198m in total (although it must be noted that Burnley’s figures are unknown due to undisclosed fees).

Only newly-promoted Leeds United are within the realms of both club’s outlays to date. The Elland Road outfit have spent £18m but that will increase to £53m when the signing of Valencia striker Rodrigo goes through.

So why are Chelsea and Manchester City, with the exception of Leeds, so far ahead of the rest?

First of all, the predominant reason is the coronavirus pandemic and its financial implications.

Like all businesses across the world, this has had a detrimental effect on football clubs too.

With no fans in attendance for matches, those profit margins have been hit. A knock-on effect of that too is the extra matchday revenue that is incurred through supporters buying items at matches such as food and drink, merchandise and programmes, for example.

No fans being able to attend matches due to Covid-19 has hurt teams’ revenue streams badly

At present these aforementioned income revenue streams are all at £0 meaning adjustments have to be made to budgets across all levels at clubs – including transfer ones.

Chelsea and Manchester City have more leeway to overcome this due to their wealthy owners. The former are owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, while the latter are owned by Emirates billionaire Sheikh Mansour.

Chelsea’s lavish investment this summer is akin to their 2003 spending spree when Abramovich first bought the club.

So far the Blues have made five signings already with Hakim Ziyech (£37m), Timo Werner (£53m), Ben Chilwell (£50m), Malang Sarr and Thiago Silva (both free transfers) all new recruits. The latter trio have all arrived this week with Chilwell the first on Wednesday and Sarr and Silva arriving the subsequent following days.

Left back Ben Chilwell joined Chelsea on Wednesday in a £50m transfer from Leicester City

But Chelsea’s spending hasn’t stopped there. The Blues are still pressing ahead with a £90m move for Havertz and manager Frank Lampard is believed to be on the lookout for a goalkeeper.

Meanwhile, Manchester City have made three signings to date with Nathan Ake the most expensive of them at £40m from Bournemouth. Ferran Torres cost £37m from Valencia, while Pablo Moreno was considerably cheaper at £9m from Juventus.

City’s spending could exponentially increase too if wantaway Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi decides to seek a reunion with manager Pep Guardiola by coming to the Etihad Stadium.

This isn’t to say other clubs don’t have financial clout, but perhaps they are warier of not overspending. The perfect example of this is Manchester United. Despite sneaking into the top four on the final day of the season and being knocked out of all three cups at the semi-final stage, the club are yet to improve a squad that is in desperate need for depth.

Nathan Ake is a Manchester City player after completing a £40m move from Bournemouth

Ferran Torres is also a new recruit to the Etihad Stadium after a £37m switch from Valencia

Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho is the club’s primary target but they remain at loggerheads over their £108m asking price.

Dortmund’s valuation of the England winger continues to be a stumbling block along with the players’ wages and his agent’s fees. United are determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past few years which has seen them make some costly errors in the transfer market. And this has been heightened by the pandemic.

Speaking about the club’s financial situation in April, United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward warned that big-money transfers ‘ignore the realities that face the sport’.

‘We have always believed that our commercial model gives us greater resilience than most clubs and we are grateful for the enduring support of our commercial partners in helping us achieve that,’ he said.

‘However, nobody should be under any illusions about the scale of challenge facing everyone in football and it may not be ‘business as usual’ for any clubs, including ourselves, in the transfer market this summer.

Jadon Sancho remains Manchester United’s No 1 target this summer despite his asking price

United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has warned big-money deals may not happen

‘As ever, our priority is the success of team, but we need visibility of the impact across the whole industry, including timings of the transfer window, and the wider financial picture, before we can talk about a return to normality.

‘On this basis, I cannot help feeling that speculation around transfers of individual players for hundreds of millions of pounds this summer seems to ignore the realities that face the sport.’ 

And this in essence is a microcosm for the majority of the Premier League clubs – who are spending less than within their means.

If you take away Leeds’ £53m purchases then that means so far £145m has been spent across the remaining 17 teams. Divide £145m by 17 and you get an average spend of £8.5m across those clubs. 

However, if you delve deeper into the window you will see that six clubs are yet to spend a penny (Aston Villa, Everton, Leicester City, Manchester United, Newcastle and Wolves). Once more of those six – three are yet to make any signings at all (Aston Villa, Leicester and Manchester United).

Clubs are looking to free agent signings or transfers that initially start out as loans at first with the view to a permanent deal to offset any long-lasting potential outlays. This is pertinent with Newcastle so far, who have made three signings – all as free transfers. Wolves and Everton have one new recruit each too and again those were as free agents.

Marcelo Bielsa (left) would have spent £53m at Leeds this summer when Rodrigo joins the club

You can look at it the other way as well. The fact that Manchester United let Alexis Sanchez join Inter Milan on a free transfer was so his £500,000-a-week wages were no longer crippling their financial books. The Chilean still had another two years to run and in theory should’ve had commanded a fee.

In addition, it must be noted that while Chelsea and Manchester City have spent heavily there are still five weeks left of the transfer window and therefore plenty of time for teams to do business – although the Premier League starts on September 12.

Some may be waiting until the last minute to buy in the hope to haggle a for a lower fee, while others are still yet to begin pre-season due to European club commitments. For the former point, Premier League champions Liverpool remain in the hunt for Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara but the £23m reported asking price could prove an issue.

Chelsea and City are undoubtedly ahead of the rest in terms of their recruitment for next season, while Leeds are preparing well for their first return to the Premier League since 2004. 

The effects of the coronavirus pandemic will be felt across many transfer windows, but it appears that Chelsea and City may look back on this one in particular and be pleased with their business. And scarily both are not done shopping.

Jurgen Klopp (left) is keen to bring Bayern Munich’s Thiago Alcantara to Liverpool this summer


Arsenal – £14m

Aston Villa – £0

Brighton – £1.4m

Burnley – undisclosed figures

Chelsea – £140m (Havertz will make it £230m)

Crystal Palace – £19.5m

Everton – £0

Fulham – £12.9m

Leeds United – £18m (Rodrigo will make it £53m)

Leicester City – £0

Liverpool – £11.8m

Manchester City – £86m

Manchester United – £0 

Newcastle United – £0

Sheffield United – £18.5m

Southampton – £22.9m

Tottenham Hotspur – £20m

West Bromwich Albion – £9m

West Ham United – £15m

Wolverhampton Wanderers – £0

*Chelsea and Manchester City combined = £226m (will be £316m with Havertz).

*Other 18 clubs = £163m (will be £198m with Rodrigo to Leeds). Burnley’s fees are unknown. 

*Figures correct as of Friday, August 28 at 2pm. 

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