Clubs with the biggest net transfer spend in the last ten years

Ever since association football left the courtyards of public schools and spread across the globe, money has been a decisive factor.

In the 1880s, Hallam’s Billy Mosforth lined up against Sheffield Wednesday when he heard a cry from the crowd: “Ten bob and free drinks all week, Billy if you’ll change your shirt.” Mosforth swiftly reappeared draped in Wednesday’s colours.

More than 140 years on, it will take a little more financial might to convince the best players to swap teams.

Based on the research from CIES Football Observatory, here are the ten clubs that have recorded the largest net spend – transfer fees of players signed minus the sum of those sold – over the last decade.

Sebastien Haller

Sebastien Haller is West Ham’s record signing / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/GettyImages

Biggest signings: Sebastien Haller (£42.9m), Mohammed Kudus (£36.9m), Lucas Paqueta (£36.8m), Edson Alvarez (£32.6m), Felipe Anderson (£32.6m)

Biggest sales: Declan Rice (£105m), Dimitri Payet (£25.1m), Marko Arnautovic (£21.4m), Gianluca Scamacca (21.4m), Andre Ayew (£19.6m)

West Ham United may have spent the £105m they got for Declan Rice well in 2023 but this summer breaks a long pattern of wayward business.

The Hammers have no qualms in splashing the cash but have struggled to bring in commensurate fees across the last decade. Rio Ferdinand’s move to Leeds United at the start of the 21st century still ranks as the fourth-biggest sale in West Ham’s history.

Lucas Paqueta'

Lucas Paqueta was an expensive mistake for Milan / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

Biggest signings: Leonardo Bonucci (£36m), Lucas Paqueta (£32.9m), Andre Silva (£32.6m), Mattia Caldara (£32.3m), Charles De Ketelaere (£31.5m)

Biggest sales: Sandro Tonali (£54.8m), Leonardo Bonucci (£30m), Krzysztof Piatek (£20.6m), Lucas Paqueta (£20.1m), Suso (£18.6m)

While Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi’s spending as president of AC Milan fluctuated depending on the health of the country’s economy – how could he explain a lavish outlay on a mercurial forward while taxes were raised?

Since selling the club in 2017, Milan’s various owners have not only ignored Italy’s budget but also UEFA’s FFP regulations.

That two of the club’s most expensive purchases also rank among the costliest sales – even though both moved for a loss – is a telling sign of Milan’s mangled transfer business in recent years.

Daniel Levy

Daniel Levy (centre) is Tottenham’s famed and feared negotiator / Michael Regan/GettyImages

Biggest signings: Tanguy Ndombele (£53.2m), Richarlison (£49.7m), Brennan Johnson (£47.2m), Cristian Romero (£42.9m), James Maddison (£39.7m)

Biggest sales: Harry Kane (£85.7m), Kyle Walker (£45.2m), Steven Bergwijn (£26.8m), Christian Eriksen (£23.2m), Kieran Trippier (£18.9m)

Sir Alex Ferguson infamously claimed negotiating with Tottenham Hotspur director Daniel Levy was “more painful than my hip replacement”. Levy has since rejected the idea that he is a “special negotiator” and that is borne out in the numbers.

Despite ranking inside the global top ten for transfer net spend over the last decade, Tottenham have not won a single trophy of any kind in this time period. Spurs have finished as runners-up in the League Cup, Premier League and Champions League but Levy’s financial footwork hasn’t been able to nudge them over the line.


Barcelona lost almost £100m on Ousmane Dembele / AFP Contributor/GettyImages

Biggest signings: Philippe Coutinho (£115.8m), Ousmane Dembele (£115.8m), Antoine Griezmann (£102.9m), Frenkie de Jong (£73.7m), Luis Suarez (£70.1m)

Biggest sales: Neymar (£198m), Arthur Melo (£69.1m), Ousmane Dembele (£42.9m), Alexis Sanchez (£36.4m), Paulinho (£36m)

The tumultuous tale of Ousmane Dembele encapsulates Barcelona’s tragic financial mismanagement over the last decade – if not longer. After banking £198m from the sale of Neymar, Borussia Dortmund held out for a nine-digit sum for a player who had not yet made 50 league starts.

After six underwhelming seasons – in which Dembele completed a grand total of 21 La Liga games – Barcelona were caught cold when PSG triggered a €50m release clause in the Frenchman’s contract. To add insult to incompetency, the deal entitled half of the fee to Dembele. Ouch.

Yasir Al-Rumayyan

Newcastle chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan has overseen a transfer splurge in the last 18 months / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/GettyImages

Biggest signings: Alexander Isak (£60m), Sandro Tonali (£54.9m), Anthony Gordon (£39.1m), Harvey Barnes (£37.7m), Joelinton (£37.7m)

Biggest sales: Moussa Sissoko (£30m), Ayoze Perez (£28.6m), Georginio Wijnaldum (£23.6m), Allan Saint-Maximin (£23.2m), Aleksandar Mitrovic (£21.2m)

More than half of Newcastle United’s net spend has taken place since the controversial Saudi-led takeover of October 2021. Eight of the nine most expensive players in club history have arrived in the last 18 months.

However, the Magpies may have found a way to balance their spending through sales to Saudi Pro League clubs that are also owned by the nation’s Public Investment Fund (PIF). In 2023, Newcastle wangled more than £23m out of Al Ahli for a 26-year-old Allan Saint-Maximin in the final year of his contract.


Jack Grealish is the only player to command a nine-digit fee for Manchester City / LINDSEY PARNABY/GettyImages

Biggest signings: Jack Grealish (£100m), Josko Gvardiol (£77.2m), Kevin De Bruyne (£65.2m), Ruben Dias (£61.4m), Rodri (£60m)

Biggest sales: Raheem Sterling (£48.2m), Ferran Torres (£47.2m), Gabriel Jesus (£44.8m), Leroy Sane (£42m), Cole Palmer (£40.3m)

Manchester City have not made a habit of making audacious purchases – Jack Grealish is the only player to have cost more than £80m. However, the treble winners do pick up a lot of players in the luxury bracket of £50m-£70m.

Yet, Pep Guardiola’s side are under investigation by the Premier League for more than 100 alleged rule breaches during the last decade largely regarding their use of funds.

Declan Rice

Declan Rice was part of Arsenal’s outlandish transfer spend in 2023 / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Biggest signings: Declan Rice (£105m), Nicolas Pepe (£72m), Kai Havertz (£64.3m), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£54.7m), Ben White (£50.2m)

Biggest sales: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (£32.6m), Alexis Sanchez (£29.2m), Alex Iwobi (£26.1m), Folarin Balogun (£25.7m), Joe Willock (£25.2m)

When Arsenal put an ad in the paper for a new manager in 1925, the club warned: “Only people who will not spend big money on transfers need apply.”

Arsene Wenger upheld that dictum for much of his tenure before loosening the reins. In the decade between 2005 and 2014, Arsenal’s net spend was just £4.5m – less than Bristol City.

Neither Unai Emery nor Mikel Arteta got the money-saving memo. In 2023, only Chelsea and Al Hilal recorded a larger net spend than the Gunners (£186m).

Neymar Jr, Nasser Al-Khelaifi

Neymar’s arrival at PSG changed the face of the transfer market / Jean Catuffe/GettyImages

Biggest signings: Neymar (£198m), Kylian Mbappe (£154.3m), Randal Kolo Muani (£81.5m), Achraf Hakimi (£58.3m), Goncalo Ramos (£55.7m)

Biggest sales: Neymar (£77.2m), Goncalo Guedes (£34.3m), David Luiz (£30m), Lucas Moura (£24.4m), Blaise Matuidi (£21.4m)

In 2022, Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi mused: “Perhaps we should change our slogan…dream bigger is good, but today we must be realistic, we don’t want flashy, bling-bling anymore, it’s the end of the glitter.”

Yet, three of the club’s five most expensive players of all time have since been signed. PSG may be focusing more on young talents but they have not halted their lavish spending or improved their terrible sales record; the capital side have only sold three players for more than £25m in the club’s history.

Todd Boehly

Chelsea have spent north of €1bn on transfers since Todd Boehly’s arrival as chairman / Shaun Botterill/GettyImages

Biggest signings: Moises Caicedo (£115m), Enzo Fernandez (£106.7m), Romelu Lukaku (£97.5m), Wesley Fofana (£68.9m), Kai Havertz (£68.6m)

Biggest sales: Eden Hazard (£98.6m), Kai Havertz (£64.3m), Mason Mount (£55m), Diego Costa (£51.4m), Oscar (£51.4m)

No club has spent more on transfer fees over the past decade than Chelsea. It may be grotesque for some – the £2.3bn splashed out on player purchases since 2014 could have bought more than 50,000 new social homes – but the outlay has brought results on the pitch.

Across the last decade, the only available trophy which Chelsea have competed for but failed to win has been the Community Shield.


Paul Pogba was the most expensive player in the world when he resigned for Manchester United in 2016 / PAUL ELLIS/GettyImages

Biggest signings: Paul Pogba (£90m), Antony (£81.5m), Harry Maguire (£74.6m), Jadon Sancho (£72.9m), Romelu Lukaku (£72.6m)

Biggest sales: Romelu Lukaku (£63.5m), Angel Di Maria (£54m), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£29.2m), Dan James (£25m), Morgan Schneiderlin (£19.7m)

It’s impossible to put a price on the unparalleled wisdom that Sir Alex Ferguson offered as Manchester United manager. Yet, the club have done their best to find a figure while chasing the success that the Scot brought.

Manchester United are the only club on the planet to register a net spend in excess of £1bn since 2014. Yet, the Premier League crown – or even a genuine title race – has eluded the Red Devils over the last decade.