This was one of the strangest summers in the history of football. Due to COVID-19, the season had finished later than usual, meaning the new season started later as well. There was uncertainty regarding how clubs’ financial situations would look in the aftermath. Spanish clubs faced transfer limitations and if they wanted to buy, they first needed to sell because of the salary cap. Others, however, didn’t have much money at their disposal at all. Many English clubs remained financially stable, splashing out a lot of cash on transfers. In this data analysis we will go through a number of transfers to see how teams from the top five leagues used their money, was there a preference for loans and free transfers as predicted and then finally, we will highlight potential winners and losers of this transfer window.
The transfer window demanded creativity from those responsible for transfers and we saw some quite surprising moves. Chelsea spent the most from all the clubs because their piggy bank was safe during the last two transfer windows due to the transfer ban, meaning they had funds to outmuscle their rivals for wanted players. Real Madrid, the club that always buys top players, made the biggest profit by selling a lot of players like Achraf Hakimi, Sergio Reguilón and Óscar Rodríguez who didn’t play any significant part in the club and earned big money moves while playing on loan. Real Madrid did the impossible as well, they didn’t sign any player this window, meaning the only player who will strengthen them is Martin Ödegaard who came back from the loan after a great spell with Real Sociedad. Have in mind that database was collected and analyzed on 7th October and that possibly few transfers happened afterwards. Let’s dive into the transfer numbers.
In this section, we will analyse the league’s based on graphs which will be supported with interesting data consisting of numbers and comparisons with the previous summer window to see the difference. Once again, we can say that Premier League clubs spent the most. The English’s marketing and financial background with huge TV rights give them the edge over the other leagues in terms of budgets. There are two graphs below which will show us the expenditure and income by the league and the average fee spent and earned per player move in this transfer window.
As we proclaimed earlier, Premier League clubs spent almost two times more than the second-biggest spenders, Serie A. EPL clubs spent 1.4 billion euros while Serie A teams spent 758 million euros, but also earning 212 million more than EPL clubs. The average fee for a player bought by an EPL club is 18.09 million euros, around nine millions more than the Serie A average and 13 million more than the La Liga average. La Liga is the only league that made a profit, earning 87 million euros. Bundesliga clubs were the most cautious in terms of business, spending the least and having the least income; they only brought 97 new players into the league. Slightly more than ⅓ of Bundesliga income is the outcome of Bayer Leverkusen selling Kai Havertz and Kevin Volland for a combined 95.5 million euros. The biggest drop in expenditure is in La Liga – from 1.34 billion euros to 406.6 million, spending almost one billion euros less than summer before as they went from being the second biggest spenders to second lowest compared to the other top five leagues. EPL clubs spent 151 million euros less than the summer before, showing their strong financial background.
Many experts predicted that clubs will look more for free transfers and loans and persist to exploit clubs from weaker leagues to sell their talented youngsters to survive. The next two graphs will show us the number of arrivals combined with U23 players signed and free transfer and loan arrivals.
We can see that the busiest league was Serie A with 212 arrivals and 76 of them were U23 players. Italy is known for a lot of loans so their amount of loans was 81, only four more than last summer. That is the part of their transfer culture where big clubs possess many players who are then loaned to weaker clubs to develop with transfer options for both sides. La Liga clubs made the biggest number of free transfers in (34) and they signed the fewest number of U23 players (28), which is two times less U23 players than the season before. These numbers are connected with La Liga’s cheaper strategy for this transfer window. EPL clubs made the fewest loans and free transfers. Ligue 1 clubs signed 57 U23 players and they continued where they left off last summer when they signed 64 U23 players. Ligue 1 clubs except PSG are not that alluring for top players and the league is always focused on young talents in transfer periods.
It is a common thing that teams with a higher reputation who play European competitions spend more than the others. The next graph will show us the expenditure and income of each of those clubs.
We can see that Champions League clubs spend a lot while also having solid income; only Real Madrid didn’t spend on transfers compared to the other Champions League participants. Chelsea spent 247.2 million euros on new transfers, around 85 millions more than the second-highest spender Manchester City. The most interesting information in this graph is that Leeds United didn’t have any income and still they spent 106.8 million euros, almost like Juventus and more than the likes of PSG, Bayern, Inter Milan, Atlético Madrid, Manchester United etc. Barcelona had the highest income (126.5 million euros), followed by Napoli, Lille, Real Madrid and Juventus. Real Madrid had the biggest profit with 98.5 million euros, followed by Bayer Leverkusen (64), Valencia (59.5) and Lille (58.5). We can see that most of the promoted teams except Leeds are in the bottom left corner, meaning they did low-cost transfers and the next graph will compare promoted teams from each league and their transfer activity.
What we already saw is that EPL teams spent the most and that Leeds is in the top five spenders, meaning they’ve spent 15.25 million euros on each new arrival. They brought in eight new players just like Arminia Bielefeld who only spent 0.5 million euros on Arne Maier’s loan with all eight arrivals being loans or free transfers. Spezia brought in 20 players and spent 5.6 million euros, 16 of which came on loan or as a free transfer. Lorient and Lens registered 26.5 and 19 million euros respectively, spending around 4.5 million euros on average for each player they bought. La Liga’s promoted teams brought 40 new players combined and only spent money on 14 of them in an attempt to strengthen themselves while also looking for bargains.
The last graph we will analyse in this section is the number of arrivals and spending per position. There were 682 arrivals in the top five leagues this window, 356 of them were bought, 196 of them came on loan and 130 players came on a free transfer. Separating the arrivals by positions, there was: 63 goalkeepers, 210 defenders, 187 midfielders and 222 forwards. We can see that there forwards and defenders were the most sought-after players while the most money was spent on forwards – around 1.29 billion euros.
The first thing that catches the eye in this graph is that EPL clubs spent most on defenders. 535.7 million euros on 43 defenders, to be more precise, and only Serie A clubs spent more than 100 million on defenders, with 62 arrivals. However, Serie A clubs spent 355.5 million euros on 74 midfielders, which is the largest number of arrivals by position in the league. It’s interesting to say that EPL clubs spent three million euros more than Serie A clubs for midfielders while buying 50 midfielders fewer! La Liga, Bundesliga and Ligue 1 clubs spent the most money on forwards and also forwards were their most sought-after position in the league. To conclude this section based on evaluated transfer statistics, EPL clubs spent more money than any league on each of the positions. In the next sections, we will evaluate each league and take a more detailed look into their transfers.
France – Ligue 1
First, we will take a look at the French Ligue 1. This summer PSG wasn’t the French club that made the most noise in the transfer window with Lille and Stade Rennais making some eye-catching moves.
Rennes qualified for the Champions League for the first time in their history and they didn’t hesitate to spend, spending the most compared to the others in the league. On deadline day they made their biggest transfer of the summer by spending 26 million euros on Jeremy Doku from Anderlecht. Doku is the current Belgium international born in 2002 and possesses electric pace combined with skilful dribbling. They replaced Mendy who moved to Chelsea with Gomis from Dijon and strengthened the defence with two loans from Serie A: Dalbert and Daniele Rugani.
Lille made the most profit on transfers by selling Victor Osimhen for 70 million euros and Gabriel for 26 million euros. They didn’t waste time and immediately bought two 20-year-old replacements: Jonathan David (27mil€) and Sven Botman (8mil€). Needless to say, it was some impressive work by Lille’s recruitment team to get two youngsters with great potential. Lille made an interesting transfer by signing Burak Yilmaz on a free transfer which adds experience to their young attack. PSG spent 61 million with the majority of the amount (50mil€) by activating Mauro Icardi’s buy option and then did the same with Sergio Rico. They followed the pattern by loaning out Kean, Florenzi and Danilo Pereira while signing Rafinha on a free, exploiting Barcelona’s urgency to get rid of the players before the deadline. They lost some of their stars for free too: their deadly striker Edinson Cavani, the long-lasting captain Thiago Silva and the attacking full-back Thomas Meunier. Lyon made some profit this summer too but at the same time, sealing the Lucas Paquetá deal which could be crucial in the future if they unlock his potential which was blocked at Milan.
In this graph, we can see that Nice was the most active club with 12 new players. They mostly brought talented youngsters like Flavius Daniliuc from Bayern Munchen and Deji Sotona from Manchester United, both for free. They made a move for some well-known names as well as getting Rony Lopes and Jeff Reine-Adélaïde on loan along with the experienced midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin for 2.23 million euros. We can see that Nimes, Reims and Montpellier only bought players without a single loan or free transfer. Bordeaux made a single transfer by bringing in one of the most skilful players in the game: Hatem Ben Arfa. Lorient and Lens as newly promoted teams were active in strengthening their squads. Lens’ notable transfers were the ones of Sekou Fofana from Udinese for 9.5 million euros and Ignatius Ganago for 6 million euros from Nice. Lorient spent a lot on forwards as they brought Adrian Grbić from Clermont Foot for 9 million euros and Terem Moffi for 8 million euros from Kortrijk.
The team with the most impressive business in France is Lille as they made a profit and invested into young talents like Osimhen and Gabriel which could be sold in the future. Rennes surprised the most with the amount of money they spent and the quality of players they managed to bring. Lyon could be the losers of the window by selling a lot of quality players which were not replaced properly or even letting players leave to rivals who are competing with the European spots (Terrier to Rennes, Goiri and Reine-Adélaïde to Nice).
Overall the amount of talent in the league increased with the likes of David, Doku, Moffi, Botman, Luis Henrique…
Germany – Bundesliga
We mentioned above that Bundesliga teams made just 97 signings and were the most cautious in terms of spending with 321 million euros. The transfer window for German clubs started with Bayern signing the explosive winger Leroy Sane which proved to be the best deal by any Bundesliga team. Knowing the market in the last few years, the transfer fee around 45 million euros for Sane seems like a steal. It started with an explosive winger and ended with an explosive winger because Bayern also brought back their ex-player Douglas Costa on loan. The graph below will show us the expenditure and income between the Bundesliga clubs.
We can see that in terms of spending, only four teams spent more than 30 million euros on signings: Bayern, Borussia Dortmund, Hertha and Bayer Leverkusen. Dortmund finally managed to survive the window without losing a crucial player except Hakimi who theoretically wasn’t even theirs because he was a loanee anyway. They strengthened their midfield with the youngster Jude Bellingham (23mil€) and made the transfer of Emre Can (25mil€) permanent with him spending the last season on loan for “Black and Yellows”.
Hertha Berlin spent 33.5 million euros on five signings – four permanent transfers and the loan of Matteo Guendouzi from Arsenal. Leverkusen made the largest profit in the league by selling Havertz and Volland for 95.5 million euros combined. They spent ⅓ of that amount with the biggest signing being Patrik Schick from Roma who played last season on loan at RB Leipzig.
Arminia Bielefeld made three loans and five free transfers in an attempt to strengthen the team to avoid relegation as they only paid Maier’s loan 0.5 million euros. We can see that the busiest team was Union Berlin with 19 players leaving and 12 new ones coming in. RB Leipzig sold Timo Werner for 53 million euros to Chelsea and lost Schick whose loan ended, but replaced them with Hee-chan Hwang (9mil€) and Alexander Sörloth (20mil€).
We can conclude that Bayern, Bayer Leverkusen, RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund had a really good transfer window. If we had to decide which team did the best business we could give a slight advantage to Bayern because not only did they sign Sané and Douglas Costa, they signed two very promising players Alexander Nübel and Tanguy Nianzou, both on a free transfer. The team that surprised the most is Borussia Dortmund because they managed to keep Jadon Sancho in the club and refused to sell him for less than they value him, which was unexpected since in the years gone by they usually sold their key players. This transfer window shows that Schalke 04 have a crisis in the structure of the club. They had a few bad years but this one could be the worst one yet. They lost many players that were starters and haven’t signed adequate replacements nor strengthened the team in any way and that is why they are the losers of this transfer window. Bundesliga lost two players who are the future of the national team in Werner and Havertz which can’t go unnoticed.
Italy – Serie A
After years of total Juventus domination in the last few seasons, Italian football is on the rise with many clubs strengthening each window while also investing a big chunk of money. Last summer, Italian clubs had spent 1.19 billion euros and this summer they spent 758 million euros, so it is clear that they spent less but, at the same time, it was like La Liga and Bundesliga combined. Napoli made the most expensive transfer in Serie A this summer by signing a young Nigerian striker from Lille for 70 million euros.
We can see that Juventus and Inter spent the most money this window with Bianconeri being the only club that spent more than 100 million euros. Napoli, Milan, Sassuolo, Udinese and Cagliari made a profit but the team that surprised with their position in the graph is Parma as they spent 80.4 million euros and signed 16 players. Juventus rejuvenated their midfield by exchanging players with Barcelona – letting go of Pjanić and getting Arthur in return. They also loaned out Federico Chiesa from Fiorentina with an obligatory buy clause.
Inter made sure that Barrella (25mil€) and Sensi (20mil€) stayed, spending 45 million euros on the midfield duo. This transfer window as well didn’t pass without Conte signing a few wing-backs: Hakimi (45mil€), Kolarov (1.5mil€), Vagiannidis (free) and Darmian (loan). Atalanta didn’t make any big changes this summer; they signed Miranchuk (14.5mil€) and Lammers 9mil€) while selling Castagne to Leicester for 24 million euros and Mancini to Roma for 13 million euros. Roma themselves signed a trio from the EPL: Smalling (15mil€), Mkhitaryan (free) and Pedro (free). They were patient with Smalling’s transfer, getting it done on the last day as he was their priority after a series of impressive performances last season.
It’s interesting to see that Atalanta, Roma and Fiorentina signed the same number of free transfers/loans and transfers that demanded fees. Spezia and Genoa signed 20 players, which is the biggest number across the top five leagues. The former signed three goalkeepers and they spent only 5.6 million euros in fees for 20 players. We know how much hype was around Sandro Tonali last season and after seeing him end up at Milan we can say that the Rossoneri are one step closer to the top four in Serie A. They equipped themselves with some serious talent and are looking like they are on the right path. It is really eye-catching to see Parma spend that much as they bought a lot of young players and a few good players from bigger clubs like Inglese from Napoli for 18 million euros, Hernani from Zenit for 4.48 million euros, Yordan Osorio from Porto for four million euros and loaned Wylan Cyprien from Nice. They had no trouble splashing the cash on U23 players, paying for six permanent transfers in excess of 36.45 million euros.
It is always busy in Italy because of numerous loans between the clubs and that is why their clubs had more arrivals than across the top five leagues. It is hard to determine the team in Serie A that did the best business this window but I would give the advantage to Inter just because they made the best transfer by signing Hakimi who fits Conte’s system perfectly. The second place goes to their biggest rivals Milan because they signed top youngsters along with Rebić on a permanent deal. Parma is surely the team that surprised the most this window since they spent a lot and it will be interesting to see their progress and potential growth of all those young signings. All the teams signed a lot of players and replaced them at least with loanees, which makes it difficult to highlight a loser of this transfer window. Still, for the sake of the analysis, we say that Bologna are the biggest losers. The reason behind that is simple – they stabilized around the 10th place in the last three seasons and they didn’t invest in any players who could help them improve the team’s quality. They only brought in a few youngsters who could prove good in the future, but with a couple of quality additions, they could be in the top half of the table with their current roster and Siniša Mihajlović as their head coach. To conclude, the league got stronger with some highly regarded players moving into Serie A.
England – Premier League
Premier League clubs spent almost the same amount they spent last summer on new signings.
Chelsea left the biggest mark on this transfer window, not only in the Premier League but in the whole football world. Liverpool, on the other hand, made one of the best moves by signing Thiago for 22 million euros, while Arsenal shocked everyone with the last-minute deal activating Thomas Partey’s release clause and getting a hard-working midfielder to the Emirates. In the graph below, we can see there is no team that is marked green, which indicates that no team made a profit bigger than 2.2 million euros with only two teams making any at all: Crystal Palace (2.2mil€) and West Ham (0.6mil€).
This graph also shows us that Chelsea spent a massive amount on new signings, more precisely 247.2 million euros, spending around 73 million less than the whole Bundesliga. Chelsea brought Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen), Werner (RB Leipzig), Chilwell (Leicester), Ziyech (Ajax), Mendy( Rennes), Thiago Silva( PSG) and Sarr (Nice). Silva and Sarr were free transfers and one represents a short-term solution while the other is a future prospect for the centre-back position. Manchester City spent most of their money on centre-backs with Rúben Dias (68mil€) and Nathan Aké (45.3mil€) arriving to the club. Wolves spent as much as they earned – around 80 million euros was both their income and expenditure. They also sold their key players Jota (44.7mil€) and Doherty (16.8mil€) to Liverpool and Tottenham respectively while signing more Portuguese players as Nélson Semedo (30mil€) and Fábio Silva (40mil€) joined. Leicester sold Chilwell and invested money into Fofana (35mil€) from Saint-Étienne and Castagne (24mil€) from Atalanta.
We were surprised by how much money Leeds spent on eight players with only one of them arriving on loan. They signed Spanish internationals Rodrigo (30mil€) from Valencia and Diego Llorente (20mil€) from Real Sociedad. Everton had a great transfer window, getting James Rodríguez on a free transfer while also bringing in Abdoulaye Doucouré, Allan and Ben Godfrey which cost them 74.6 million euros. Manchester United once again wanted many big names and in the end, they got only one: Edinson Cavani. Cavani was a free agent and they spent 62.5 million euros on Donny van de Beek, Alex Telles and Facundo Pellistri. Tottenham signed two full-backs, which is where they lacked depth/quality with Sergio Reguilón and Matt Doherty arriving. But the biggest signing is that their legend Gareth Bale returned after a long spell with Real Madrid. Aston Villa made some quality signings that proved an instant success, getting Emi Martínez, Ollie Watkins, Matty Cash, Ross Barkley (loan) and Bertrand Traoré for a combined sum of 82.35 million euros.
It is clear that Chelsea had the best window, which is normal because they invested in top players in order to reduce the gap between them, Manchester City and Liverpool. Leeds United had the most surprising transfer window because the other promoted teams didn’t spend nearly as much as them. They invested in players that were needed and strengthened their squad with quality reinforcements like Rodrigo, Diego Llorente, Koch and Raphinha. We can assume that the loser of this window are Fulham. They had big defensive problems two seasons ago when they were also relegated and now, they are back in the Premier League again with that same defence. They invested in full-backs while the clear problem is their centre-back quality and after a few matches, it already looks like déjà-vu. However they signed two centre-backs Adarabioyo and Andersen on deadline day in an attempt to strengthen the defence, but their lack of proactiveness is troublesome. We have to praise Arsenal and Everton for their quality transfer window as well. Liverpool probably secured the best transfer by getting Thiago from Bayern Munchen and the quality of the league is one level higher after this window.
Spain – La Liga
From the top five leagues, La Liga’s transfer window was the strangest. Throughout the summer, Lionel Messi tried to find the exit from Camp Nou, which unsurprisingly dominated the headlines. It didn’t happen and we don’t know if it will happen next summer, but the Catalans’ board didn’t really make themselves look good. To add to the strangeness of the transfer window, current champions Real Madrid didn’t sign a single player, which was something we could’ve hardly imagined beforehand. In total, La Liga clubs spent 936 million euros less than last summer.
We can see that Barcelona had the highest income and highest expenditure with the final profit of 2.5 million euros. There were a lot of illogical departing transfers with Barcelona letting go of Luis Suárez, Arturo Vidal and Rafinha for free and with possible small bonuses. They won the battle against Bayern for Sergiño Dest who arrived for 21 million euros from Ajax. Atlético Madrid spent 90 million euros by signing: Morata (afterwards they loaned him to Juventus), Carrasco, Grbić, Suárez and Torreira. They experienced a bad moment at the end of the transfer window with Arsenal activating Partey’s release clause and leaving Atlético no time to replace him.
Ivan Rakitić made a transfer back to Sevilla after many years of success at the Camp Nou. By signing the Croat, Sevilla replaced Banega who departed as well. The Andalusians also signed some quality players with Óscar Rodríguez (13.5mil€), Oussama Idrissi (12mil€), Marcos Acuna(10.5mil€) and Karim Rekik (2mil€) while also making Suso’s contract permanent. Five clubs didn’t spend anything this window: Real Madrid and Valencia didn’t sign anyone while Deportivo Alaves, Real Betis and Real Sociedad only made free transfers or loans.
The transfer window was the busiest for the newly promoted teams with Cadiz signing 15 players, Elche 14 and Huesca 11. Real Sociedad made just one transfer, but that transfer is enough for the whole window because they managed to bring in David Silva from Manchester City on a free deal. Real Betis made a few quality free transfers by signing Martín Montoya from Brighton, Claudio Bravo from Manchester City and Víctor Ruiz from Besiktas. Barcelona and Sevilla paid for all of their transfers without signing any player on loan or on a free transfer. Villarreal signed Pervis Estupiñán for 16.4 million euros and the full-back impressed last season while playing for Osasuna on loan from Watford. Villarreal also signed Coquelin and Dani Parejo, both from Valencia, Geronimo Rulli (Real Sociedad) while loaning Juan Foyth (Tottenham) and Takefusa Kubo (Real Madrid).
The club that made the best business this summer is Sevilla. They mostly signed players at their peak with only Rakitić past it but his enormous experience will benefit the squad. The signing of Rodríguez could be considered a steal two seasons from now as well. The team that surprised the most is Real Madrid because they always spend a lot of money and make star signings but this was a smart decision because they have a strong team that can compete for trophies in all competitions. Valencia didn’t buy anyone just like Real Madrid, but they are the losers of this transfer window. They lost many key players without replacing them. And not only have they lost them but they also strengthened their direct rivals for European spots by selling Coquelin and Parejo to Villarreal. La Liga had the worst transfer window in years and it will be interesting to see how the top clubs compete in European competitions without any significant strengthening. Messi staying in the league, however, is one of the few bright spots from this transfer window.
It was a crazy summer with many interesting transfers and in the end, due to the coronavirus crisis, clubs spent 2.213 billion euros less than last summer. EPL clubs dominated the transfer window spending more than La Liga, Bundesliga and Ligue 1 clubs combined. It will be interesting to see how new signings adapt to their new clubs. Will this situation decrease transfer fees in the future or will it make a bigger difference between top clubs and everyone else? It is hard to guess, but hopefully, it will push teams to make fewer squad changes and give more chances to their academy players.