The quiet January transfer window may have reflected the stability of most Premier League clubs but Deloitte’s sport business group still expects to see marquee signings in future windows.
Thursday’s deadline ended a month in which Premier League clubs spent an estimated £180million on new signings – almost a third of which came with Chelsea’s early move for Borussia Dortmund winger Christian Pulisic.
That was significantly down on 2018’s January record of £430m as television revenue growth and manager turnover have both slowed relative to recent years – though spending for the full season was around £1.4billion with a record £905m net spend.
Deloitte’s Tim Bridge told Press Association Sport: “Those clubs around the top of the Premier League feel a bit more settled, we haven’t had the manager turnover we’ve had in previous years.
“Then there’s Tottenham’s stadium situation, which means their transfer policy is a little bit undefined at the moment, so that’s a factor.
“We’ve still got a record net spend across 2018-19, that reflects what went on in the summer. Premier League clubs remain very active in this market (with) the desire to acquire the top talent.
“To win on the pitch requires revenue growth in order to invest in playing talent. The impact of a Neymar or (Kylian) Mbappe to Paris St Germain over the last 12 months has been pretty significant.
“We haven’t seen the numbers yet around the impact of (Cristiano) Ronaldo going to Juventus but individual players now carry far more weight than they did previously because they have an off-the-pitch presence as well. Premier League clubs will want to challenge European peers for that top talent because it will deliver on-pitch success but also off-pitch growth.
“A lot of people probably over-estimate how many shirts are sold with a (Paul) Pogba or a Ronaldo on the back, of course, it does have an impact but it’s probably not as material as a significant corporate sponsor wanting to be associated with a club and a player.”
Tottenham sold midfielder Mousa Dembele and have not signed a player all season as their delayed new stadium continues to occupy funds.
Bridge continued: “As football followers, we’re all used to seeing clubs just make signings. Spurs are probably approaching it as they would only bring in the right player at the right price.
“Their on-pitch performance is very strong and that club is going to change fundamentally over the coming two or three years.
“A new stadium can be really beneficial in terms of generating revenue but these clubs are burdening themselves with debt and fitting that into the business model alongside trying to sign some of the best footballers in the world, for sometimes three-figure-million sums, is pretty challenging.”
Increasing financial parity across the Premier League is another factor in the slower market, according to Bridge.
“We just think now that clubs don’t need to sell, and potentially players don’t need to move,” he said.
“Such is the financial position of clubs outside of those top six that they’re able to play very competitive wage packages.
“Whereas five or 10 years ago a move from a club in the lower half of the Premier League to a top-half club was extremely lucrative for the individual, that step change maybe isn’t quite as defined as it was.”
The £180m figure only includes permanent transfers and not loan fees for the likes of Gonzalo Higuain and Michy Batshuayi, but Bridge added: “The spending will rise a bit but I wouldn’t think it would cross £200m.”