Manchester United and Chelsea are both expected to fly through the £200m summer spending mark over the last two days of the transfer window, with Antony and Wesley Fofana set to arrive and perhaps several more. There’s even talk of Frenkie de bloody Jong.
But where will that put them on a list of biggest summer transfer spends ever? Pretty bloody high, as it happens.
Juventus (2018, £212.1m)
It was during Massimiliano Allegri’s first spell that Juventus embarked on a summer transfer spend designed specifically to deliver their first Champions League trophy since 1996. It did not deliver their first Champions League trophy since 1996.
The fate of those players signed in 2018 highlights how The Old Lady might need to improve their approach. Joao Cancelo (£36m) is long gone. Mattia Perin (£10.5m) is their second-choice goalkeeper. Douglas Costa (£35.2m) has a part-time job with LA Galaxy. Leonardo Bonucci (£31.2m) is far from his best. Cristiano Ronalo (£99.2m) stands as one of the worst current club-record signings in all of Europe. The 2015 and 2017 Champions League runners-up have not ventured past the last eight since signing the competition’s greatest player. He has gone but the blockage still remains.
Paris Saint-Germain (2017, £214.4m)
Similar ideas were harboured by Nasser Al-Khelaifi, who a year before had grown tired of monopolising an entire domestic league and sought something far more meaningful than Ligue Un titles won in March by 427 points.
Their answer was simple: to set a bar that might never be raised again. PSG effectively agreed to the two biggest signings in football history in the summer of 2017, Neymar (£200m) stepping out of Lionel Messi’s shadow, while Kylian Mbappe joined on loan from Monaco. That £166m move was only made permanent after PSG did the unthinkable and avoided relegation. Cheltenham Town legend Yuri Berchiche (£14.4m) also moved to the Parc des Princes, because why not when you have already made money seem an entirely worthless concept?
Real Madrid (2009, £219.5m)
Some clubs tend to accept failure about as warmly as a fresh turd on their doorstep. Real Madrid never have dealt all that well with average performance. So when Bernd Schuster and Juande Ramos combined to finish a distant second in La Liga, losing 2-0 and 6-2 to Barcelona while being dumped out of the Champions League last 16 5-0 on aggregate to Liverpool and exiting the Copa del Rey round-of-32 to Real Union, action was required.
Their response was to appoint Manuel Pellegrini, break the world transfer record twice within three weeks on Kaka (£56m) and Cristiano Ronaldo (£80m), spend another evenly-split £60m on Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso and…finish second in La Liga while losing in the last 16 and 32 of the Champions League and Copa del Rey respectively.
Chelsea (2020, £222.48m)
That spend did eventually deliver the Champions League title but they first had to watch Frank Lampard make it obvious that he was way out of his depth as he wasted the talents of Kai Havertz (£72m), Timo Werner (£47.7m), Ben Chilwell (£45m), Hakim Ziyech (£36m) and Edouard Mendy (£21.6m). One of those five has already gone, one might be on his way out and another is copping all sorts of flak as Chelsea stumble again.
Chelsea are pretty much guaranteed to fly past this total if/when they complete a deal for Fofana. Will this summer’s set of signings – which probably should have included Wilfried Zaha – fare better in the long term?
Manchester City (2017, £223.65m)
The Premier League record Chelsea and Manchester United seem intent on breaking is held by Manchester City. A season of Aleksandar Kolarov, Gael Clichy and Jesus Navas proved to be Pep Guardiola’s limit and the chequebook was soon dusted off. Bernardo Silva (£43m) signed with the season barely over; Ederson (£34.7m), Kyle Walker (£50m), Benjamin Mendy (£52m) and Danilo (£26.5m) soon followed.
With a few smaller deals dotted around elsewhere, City made their intent clear. And disappointing third to Chelsea and Tottenham became dominant first over everyone as they embarked on the finest season in Premier League history to reclaim their title. European success is still not forthcoming, mind.
Real Madrid (2019, £272.6m)
But as much as Real Madrid hate under-performing, they resent any challenge to their gilded throne of biggest spenders that little bit more. They held the crown for eight years and wrestled it straight back within two. Chelsea and United had better beware if they take it back to England.
Yet the theme of money being no guarantee for success continues. La Liga was won thanks to Barcelona’s fallibility but the signings had limited impact. Ferland Mendy (£47m) was the only new arrival to appear in more than half of the club’s league games as Eden Hazard (£88.5m) and Luka Jovic (£52.4m) both struggled with injury, while Rodrygo (£40m) and Eder Militao (£42.7m) were used sporadically. It was Benzema, the final remnant of their lavish spend a decade prior, that shone.
Three years later he was still winning them the Champions League while Hazard sat on the bench and Jovic is at Fiorentina.