The top five most expensive squads in European football

Football Business MoneyThe cost of football transfers has rocketed in recent decades. As clubs strive for success, it often means spending hefty fees and wages on players.

In our article today, we look at how much clubs have spent on their current squads (as of writing) and how successful their spending has made the clubs in recent seasons.

(Total spending taken from and are up to date until the end of 2023)

Manchester United (€1,422 billion)

old trafford manchester united from the air

The Red Devils have spent a whopping €1,422 billion on their current squad, which is an astronomical fee considering it has returned very little in recent seasons.

The Red Devils’ spending is a record for any club, taking over from Real Madrid’s 2020 squad.

The squad’s most expensive signing was Brazilian international winger Antony, who arrived from Ajax for a fee of around £82million in the summer of 2022.

To say the transfer has not worked out would be a massive understatement. The Brazilian has made 69 appearances for the Red Devils, scoring just nine goals and producing just four assists. It is hard not to call the winger a transfer flop.

However, it could be argued that English winger Jadon Sancho was even worse value than his fellow wide player. He arrived from Dortmund in the summer of 2021 for a fee of £ 72 million.

His attacking return of just 12 goals in 82 appearances in all competitions is a poor one by anybody’s standards. Sancho re-joined BVB on loan in the January transfer window until the end of the season.

England centre-back Harry Maguire cost the Red Devils £80million when he arrived in Manchester from Leicester in 2019. It is fair to say he has had a mixed spell with United.

It remains to be seen if the signings of summer 2023 will fare any better, as the likes of Andre Onana, Mason Mount and Rasmus Hojlund have not always been convincing in their early United appearances. However, the latter has been showing promise in recent months.

Even the most hardcore United fan would find it hard to claim that the club’s outlay on the current squad has been shrewd, as the Red Devils are currently sixth-place in the table, five points adrift of the Champions League spots.

Manchester City (€1,286 billion)

manchester city bad with stadium in background blurredIn the last decade, Manchester City has transformed themselves into a behemoth on the pitch. Their success is not just based on the managerial expertise of head coach Pep Guardiola but also on incredible investment, both on and off the pitch.

City’s current squad has cost the men from Manchester an eye-watering €1,286 billion. The club’s record signing was England winger Jack Grealish, who arrived from Aston Villa for a fee of £100million in the summer of 2021.

The likes of Josko Gvardiol, Ruben Dias, Kevin De Bruyne, and Rodri have all also cost £ 60 million or more. Most of City’s big-money signings have produced on the pitch, unlike their city rivals, United.

The players may have cost the GDP of a small country, but it certainly has not been money wasted in terms of success on the pitch.

Since winning their first Premier League title in 2012, the Citizens have won six further English top-flight titles, one Champions League title, and the FA Cup twice.

Many would say that it has been money well spent, as City under Guardiola will likely go down as one of the best teams not just in the Premier League but arguably in the European game.

Chelsea (€1,084 Billion)

stamford bridge chelseaLike City, Chelsea have spent big in recent years trying to become a force in the English and European game once again. The Blues last English top-flight came in 2017 under Antonio Conte.

In the following years, the club from the English capital struggled to keep pace with the teams around them despite spending an incredible €1,084 billion on the current squad.

The club’s ownership group, led by Chairman Todd Boehly, wanted to make a splash. In the January 2023 transfer window, the Blues brought in Enzo Fernandez, Andrey Santos, Malo Gusto, Noni Madueke, Mykhailo Mudryk and David Datro Fofana on a permanent basis.

They also paid £9.7million to loan Joao Felix from Atletico Madrid for just six months.

The biggest of the signings was Fernandez, who arrived for a reported British-record fee of around £106.8million. Chelsea also paid Shakhtar Donetsk £88.7million for Mudryk.

Chelsea then splashed out around £435.5million in the summer of 2023. The long list of summer arrivals included Moises Caicedo, Christopher Nkunku, Romeo Lavia, Cole Palmer, Nicolas Jackson, Robert Sanchez and Axel Disasi.

Most players haven’t even been at the club for a short time, so it is hard to judge if the money has been well spent, especially as many of the new arrivals are young players for the future.

At the time of writing, Chelsea are midtable in the Premier League, so the signings haven’t transformed the team into European challengers, never mind title contenders.

One summer arrival, Cole Palmer, has been outstanding this season and may well be the shrewdest signing of all the new arrivals at £30 million. Only time will tell if the other players prove to be value for money.

Real Madrid (€1,031 billion)

real madrid bernabeu stadiumTraditionally, Real Madrid has been a pioneer in the transfer market, often splashing out big on bringing in the world’s best players.

They have continued that tradition in recent years, as Los Blancos have spent a cool €1,031 billion on their current squad.

Despite their squad cost, only two of the players in Carlo Ancelotti’s squad are amongst the club’s top ten most expensive transfers in their history.

England international Jude Bellingham arrived for a reported fee of £103million, rising to £130million with add-ons from Dortmund. Only Eden Hazard cost more than the former Birmingham midfielder in the club’s history.

The youngster has been simply sensational for the men from Madrid and has already started repaying his massive transfer fee with his displays this season.

The next most expensive signing in Real Madrid’s squad is promising French defensive midfield Aurelien Tchouameni, who cost a figure of around £55million, potentially rising to £75million.

Both players look like good investments. Brazilian duo Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo also look like they will be well worth their reported fees of £40million, plus add-ons.

The pair have already significantly impacted the club’s fortunes in recent seasons, scoring vital goals, most notably in the Champions League.

In terms of value, it would be hard to argue with the current Real Madrid squad. Los Blancos are top of La Liga and look like genuine contenders for the Champions League, which is money well spent in most people’s books.

PSG (€938million)

paris saint-germain flag and badge

The French giants have strived to become the best team in European football by spending big since the arrival of Qatar Sports Investments in 2011.

Unfortunately for the Parisians, they have failed to win their holy grail of the Champions League despite a heavy layout on players. The current squad cost PSG around €938million.

The most expensive signing in PSG’s current squad is French international superstar Kylian Mbappe, who arrived from Monaco for a fee of around £160million in 2018.

Mbappe’s French international teammate Randall Kolo Muani also arrived in the summer of 2023 for a fee in the region of £69million from Eintracht Frankfurt.

The likes of Achraf Hakimi and Goncalo Ramos also cost the Parisians more than £60million.

PSG have failed to win the Champions League, their primary objective, even though Mbappe played alongside football legend Lionel Messi and Brazilian star Neymar in past seasons.

Although the current squad has quality, there remain doubts over their ability to win the club’s maiden Champions League this season, despite the Parisians recording a 2-0 home win over Real Sociedad in the first leg of the last 16 of the competition.

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