How the Premier League 'flexed its muscle' with record £815m January transfer spend (2023)

If January is supposed to be the month of frugality and financial restraint, nobody’s told the Premier League clubs.

On and on went the spending in this latest transfer window, as though what had been a record-breaking summer never ended.

The 2022-23 season has brought new levels of excess for English football’s top 20 clubs. After £1.9billion ($2.34bn) was collectively spent through last June, July, August and the first day of September, the opening month of the new year saw cheques written for another £815million. Deadline day alone saw deals struck for £275million.


The total spend of £2.7billion is a 47 per cent increase on the previous high of £1.86billion, for the 2018-19 season. Even as we grow increasingly numb to the soaring figures, they are no less extraordinary.

Just as the Premier League had never known a window like the summer of 2022, there was again a uniqueness to the business done in the last month. Some clubs held back, opting to keep their powder dry for the close-season, but the vast majority found reasons to buy in January.

Even allowing for Chelsea’s aggressive ambition — roughly a third of the month’s total spend came out of Stamford Bridge — the Premier League’s total gross outlay was £385million more than any other mid-season window and three times that of the same period last year. COVID-19 and the prudency it briefly enforced has begun to feel as distant a memory as the backpass rule being introduced.

How the Premier League 'flexed its muscle' with record £815m January transfer spend (1)

This was the Premier League again exerting its authority in the European transfer market, demonstrating unrivalled wealth and resources.

Nine of the top 10 spending clubs in the January window came from the English top flight. Only Marseille broke the English monopoly thanks to their late addition of Braga forward Vitinha, beating Southampton to the punch in a £26million move.

“This window just underlines the Premier League’s power as the clear market leader in world football,” Dr Dan Plumley, a sports finance expert and lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, tells The Athletic. “The summer was a new record, around £1.9billion, and now the record has been broken for January as well.

“A couple of years ago, there were the after-effects of the pandemic where there was a lot of uncertainty in the market. You were asking, ‘What happens next, is it a downward trend or do clubs recover and go again?’.

“We’ve certainly seen the latter. Most of the big clubs have recovered pretty well since the sticky part of the pandemic and now they’re flexing their muscle again. This has just been an extension of the summer.”

This season has marked the start of a new boom for the Premier League’s 20 clubs. As well as the surety they have left a global pandemic in their collective rear-view mirror, they all have access to revenues which have never been greater.


A new TV rights cycle is now in operation and though domestic sales were extended on the same terms as in the previous deal, international packages have swelled the coffers. The sale of broadcasting fees to overseas audiences will be worth £5.05billion to the Premier League clubs for 2022-25, a marked rise from the £3.89billion from the same market for 2019-22.

Every club in the Premier League know they will receive more TV money than ever before this season, and are spending accordingly. The motivations might be different, be that the chase for silverware or the fears of relegation, and having to get off the gravy train, but the record revenues forecast for 2022-23 and beyond have given the 20 clubs confidence to shop like most have never done before — this season’s total spend is four and a half times the final figure from 2012-13.

How the Premier League 'flexed its muscle' with record £815m January transfer spend (2)

“Premier League clubs are still €2billion (£1.7bn; $2.2bn) ahead of the nearest competitors in annual-revenue terms — that’s Germany and Spain vying for the second spot — and we’re also currently in the first year of a new TV cycle,” explains Plumley.

“We know it rolled over with a domestic deal but it’s higher than ever for international rights. That means the TV pot is bigger than ever before. You can see that in the January spend.

“And you can’t look past Chelsea in all this. They’ve accounted for roughly 40 per cent of the total spend in the Premier League.

“You’ve got a very aggressive strategy from one club linked to a takeover last summer but across the board, it continues to show how far ahead the Premier League is from the rest in revenue terms.”

Just as they did in the summer, Chelsea have ended another window as the Premier League’s biggest spenders, with £290million invested. The signing of Mykhailo Mudryk from Shakhtar Donetsk for £88million was followed up by the dramatic late move for Benfica midfielder Enzo Fernandez, who, at £106million, is now the most expensive signing ever in British football.

How the Premier League 'flexed its muscle' with record £815m January transfer spend (3)

Chelsea finished their flurry by signing Argentina international Fernandez for £106m on deadline day (Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Elsewhere, Arsenal and Newcastle United doubled down on their big summer investments and Liverpool, a club bemoaned for not spending more, still found an initial fee of £37million to bring in Cody Gakpo from PSV Eindhoven.


Perhaps the most telling spending came from those fighting to stay in the Premier League.

Southampton were second only to Chelsea after their deadline day moves for the attacking pair of Kamaldeen Sulemana (Rennes) and Paul Onuachu (Genk) cost a combined £40million.

Bournemouth, another club under new ownership, stumped up £50million to strengthen their squad, despite the very real threat of being a Championship side again come August. Like Leicester City, Bournemouth saw fit to spend more amid the chaos of January than they did in an austere summer. It was now or never.

Nottingham Forest, whose recruitment for a promoted club broke new ground in the summer with £145million spent, were at it again. Their deadline-day business took the total number of new players arriving at the City Ground this season to 28.

Only four of the 20 clubs did not part with a transfer fee in January, but two of those did strike agreements that ensure they are obligated to make winter-window loan signings permanent in the summer — Tottenham will pay £40million to sign Pedro Porro at the end of the season and Kevin Schade will cost Brentford £22million.

Given Manchester United have signed three loan players to strengthen Erik ten Hag’s squad this month, it leaves Everton as the odd ones out. A club dogged by fears of surrendering their long-held place in the Premier League, and top-flight status going back to the 1950s, inexplicably failed to sign a single player.

“We know relegation from the Premier League will take about £60million off the revenue line overnight, so that’s a huge factor for clubs down there,” says Plumley. “They’ve got this balancing act of risk and reward: spending in January versus staying in the league.”

The Premier League has become something of a financial freak show for all the other leagues to behold.


The combined spending of Spain’s La Liga, Serie A in Italy, the German Bundesliga and France’s Ligue 1 came to just over a quarter of the outlay by the 20 Premier League clubs. Bournemouth, with their average crowds of less than 11,000, had a greater outlay than all of the Spanish top flight, Barcelona, Real Madrid and all.

The money — and the will to spend it in January — is just not there for most of Europe.

Ligue 1 (£117million) was second to the Premier League, with the German Bundesliga (£60million) in third. La Liga and Serie A combined bought players for just £56million.

Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Inter Milan and Juventus did not make a single senior addition to their squads. Some of those clubs will be saving cash for the summer but very few can live with the Premier League’s power in 2023. That much has become abundantly clear.

How the Premier League 'flexed its muscle' with record £815m January transfer spend (4)

Bournemouth splashed out £20m on Illya Zabarnyi as the club outspent the whole of Spain’s La Liga (Photo: Adam Nurkiewicz/Getty Images)

If there is a sweetener to the domination, it is the ongoing indirect redistribution of wealth.

After about £1billion of transfer fees were handed over to clubs outside of the UK in the summer, another £680million went the same way in January.

That 85 per cent market share is the highest it has ever been in one window. Portuguese clubs, for example, have received in the region of £270million from English counterparts this season alone.

The English Football League has not been so fortunate. Again, there was little sign of transfer fees trickling down the domestic ladder, with only £25million of the Premier League’s spend going on players from the EFL’s three divisions.

That helped to ensure the busiest clubs trading in the Championship were Burnley and Watford, who are both in receipt of the highest parachute payments available after relegation last season. Together, they spent £23million in a bid to bounce back at the first attempt. The gap between the top division and the rest in English football only appears to be getting wider, fuelling debates about distributing finances more evenly across the pyramid.


So where does this all end?

COVID-19 brought an unforeseen and false dip to revenue lines and there is very little substantial evidence to suggest Premier League spending is even prepared to plateau.

So long as the money keeps coming, along with new club owners, the spending promises to continue.

“The clubs have the power to spend,” says Plumley. “There’s still growth in the international market and as long as the clubs have money coming in, they know they’re good to spend in the market.”

(Graphic designed for The Athletic by Sam Richardson)

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Kareem Mueller DO

Last Updated: 04/20/2023

Views: 6231

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (66 voted)

Reviews: 81% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Kareem Mueller DO

Birthday: 1997-01-04

Address: Apt. 156 12935 Runolfsdottir Mission, Greenfort, MN 74384-6749

Phone: +16704982844747

Job: Corporate Administration Planner

Hobby: Mountain biking, Jewelry making, Stone skipping, Lacemaking, Knife making, Scrapbooking, Letterboxing

Introduction: My name is Kareem Mueller DO, I am a vivacious, super, thoughtful, excited, handsome, beautiful, combative person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.