Nothing creates unreasonable hysteria in football quite like the summer transfer window. As Manchester City try to sign both Harry Kane and Jack Grealish for a stupendous amount of money and Aston Villa go big with the signings of Emi Buendia and Leon Bailey, it is worth questioning whether big summer spendings sprees actually work.
The Premier League has seen a fair few mad summers over the last 30 years...
Bradford City - 2000
Paul Jewell had managed to keep newly-promoted Bradford in the Premier League at the first time of asking in 1999-00 but his departure in the summer for Sheffield Wednesday saw inexperienced boss Chris Hutchings take the reins. Chairman Geoffery Richmond threw his cheque book behind Hutchings in an attempt to climb the Premier League table, but it didn’t quite work out.
A mind-boggling £3.58m was spent on David Hopkin from Leeds, Robert Molenaar came in from the same club for almost £700k and £1.89m was laid out on Ashley Ward from Blackburn Rovers. Those figures may seem tiny in today’s game but for a side near the bottom of the league to spend that amount was unheard of at the time.
It completely failed. Hutchings was sacked after 12 matches and Jim Jeffries couldn’t keep the Bantams up as they finished bottom of the Premier League. Richmond later admitted to his transfer activity that summer being “six weeks of financial madness”.
Chelsea - 2003
Roman Abramovich was keen to make a big impression on the English game after his purchase of Chelsea and set out on a spending spree to blow the rest of the competition away. Claudio Ranieri was in charge and Abramovich fulfilled his every desire by spending £150m in one window.
Hernan Crespo, Damien Duff, Juan Sebastien Veron, Claude Makelele, Adrian Mutu, Scott Parker, Wayne Bridge and Glen Johnson all came in for hefty fees but Chelsea could only finish second under Ranieri. It wasn’t until a certain Jose Mourinho came in the following summer (and another £150m was spent) that back-to-back Premier League titles came to Stamford Bridge.
Manchester City - 2008
Just like Abramovich’s early flurry, when Sheikh Mansour bought Manchester City he was keen to make an instant impact. The signing of Robinho for £38.7m was the headline signing but that summer City also bought Jo, Nigel de Jong and Craig Bellamy, spending over £130m.
They didn’t know it at the time, but the modest £7m they spent on Vincent Kompany would go down as arguably their greatest signing of all time. Robinho would top score with 15 goals in his first season, but City could only manage a 10th-place finish under Mark Hughes. Their spending would continue at a drastic rate to make them the dominant force in English football, but this summer spending spree did not bring instant success.
Manchester United - 2014
The Red Devils were in a tricky position in 2014 after the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson was followed by an underwhelming season under David Moyes. Louis van Gaal’s arrival was lauded as the managerial move that would take them back to the top with a CV amongst the best in world football, and to their credit the owners backed him.
Angel Di Maria came in for £59.7m, Ander Herrera for £33m, Luke Shaw for £30m, Marcos Rojo for £18m and Daley Blind for £16m as Van Gaal brought talented players to the club. It was another spree that didn’t quite work out though. Radamel Falcao arrived on big wages to bang in goals at Old Trafford but both he and Di Maria were high-profile flops as United finished trophyless in fourth.
Shaw has stuck around and proved himself to be a good buy and Herrera had a good spell at the club, but in general this was another poor window for United.
Fulham - 2018
When Fulham came up from the Championship they embarked on an absolutely crazy spending spree, knowing they would reap the financial rewards of establishing themselves as a Premier League club. With Slavisa Jokanovic in charge, they brought in Jean Michel Seri, Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, Aleksandr Mitrovic and Alfie Mawson to name just a few as they spent well over £100m.
Many tipped them to have a good season given their summer ambition but in spending all this money they had destroyed the team that got them promoted in the first place. Jokanovic was sacked and replaced with Ranieri, before he himself was pushed aside for Scott Parker. They won just seven league games all season and returned to the Championship at the first time of asking. A painful lesson in gambling for all involved.
Chelsea - 2020
Having qualified for the Champions League despite a transfer embargo under Frank Lampard, Abramovich had a huge amount of money burning a hole in his pocket. Kai Havertz, Eduoard Mendy, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell and Hakim Ziyech all arrived in the same window as he spent over £210m
It looked as if it hadn’t paid off at all, with Chelsea’s early form being very inconsistent, but when Lampard was replaced by Thomas Tuchel it all changed. Chelsea would finish fourth in the Premier League, but would be crowned European champions for the second time as Havertz scored the winning goal against Man City. Money well spent!