Spain has surpassed the 10-figure mark in a single transfer window for the first time this summer as they aim to regain their European dominance
The Premier League took Europe by storm last season.
Three sides from the division reached the Champions League semi-finals, and both European showpieces were all-English affairs; Liverpool defeating Tottenham to win the Champions League, and Chelsea beating Arsenal to the Europa League title.
The former result ended a five-year dominance of the competition by Spanish sides, while Chelsea became just the second non-La Liga team in six years to win Europe’s second-tier competition.
The response? An incredible spending spree in Spain, with the €1 billion mark passed for the first time in the league’s history – all in the space of just 42 days.
It’s almost as if the two leagues have switched roles. The Premier League is usually chasing La Liga, consuming incredible amounts in an attempt to overtake them in Europe.
They have been the biggest spenders among the continent’s top five leagues for the last 10 years. In the 2018 summer window, England was responsible for 31 per cent of overall spending, compared to Spain’s 20%. The year before, that total read 37% to 13% and, in 2016, it was 41% to 15%.
This year though, the Premier League finally caught up with the Spaniards in regard to on-field achievement and so, now, it’s La Liga’s turn to do the chasing in the market.
Real Madrid have spearheaded the charge with their first real summer spending spree since the famous 2009 window when they signed both Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka. They have already splashed out a total of €303m (£270m/$337m) on Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic, Eder Militao, Ferland Mendy and Rodrygo.
Having been tight with the purse strings over the last few years, Florentino Perez has returned to his ways of the past this time around – shaken by Madrid’s shocking 2018-19 season and determined to give the returning Zinedine Zidane all he needs to help them recover.
But the big spending is not just down to their first round of 16 exit from the Champions League since 2010, or their first back-to-back finishes outside La Liga’s top two since 1974.
The two teams that finished above them, Atletico Madrid and champions Barcelona, have been splashing the cash too.
Barca’s €120m (£107m/$134m) purchase of Atleti star Antoine Griezmann – a fee heavily disputed by the sellers – leads their expensive recruitment drive as they bid for a third successive league title.
Frenkie de Jong is their other big signing, arriving from Ajax for €75m (£67m/$84m), with goalkeeper Neto completing their business so far, following Jasper Cillessen’s Valencia move.
After winning La Liga by a convincing 11 points last term, major summer business didn’t look likely to be necessary for Barca. But, as well as their desire to win their first Champions League title since 2015, they have been forced to keep pace with their big-spending rivals.
Indeed, in Europe, only Real Madrid have out-spent Atletico, who completed one of the biggest transfers of all time by signing teenage sensation Joao Felix in a €126m (£113m/$140m) deal from Benfica.
But with Griezmann joined by Lucas Hernandez, Rodri, Filipe Luis, Diego Godin and Juanfran, among others, in departing the Wanda Metropolitano this summer, Atleti’s spending has been justified – especially with over €300m (£268m/$334m) earned from sales.
Marcos Llorente, Mario Hermoso, Kieran Trippier and Hector Herrera are just some of the names Diego Simeone has brought in to create his new-look side.
Things have been much quieter on the British Isles, however. While transfers in England are usually the main talking points of the summer, this year many of the big teams have sat out the market madness.
Champions Manchester City’s only noteworthy signing is Atletico’s Rodri, while the kings of Europe, Liverpool, have admitted they’ll be having a quiet summer.
“It will not be the biggest transfer window of LFC; we invested a lot in the team in the last two years, I would say,” said Jurgen Klopp.
“We cannot spend every year in the same manner.
“There are maybe only two clubs in the world – it looks in the moment like Barcelona and [Real] Madrid can do the same – [Manchester] City and PSG that can do it every year.”
Liverpool and Man City don’t need to spend big to ensure their place at the top of that Premier League table come May, however.
Klopp is right that Liverpool have invested a lot over the past couple of seasons, and that should help them keep up with the notorious spending of Pep Guardiola’s side.
And what about the chasing pack? Chelsea’s transfer ban rules them out of action, while Arsenal and Tottenham have made no secret of their lower budgets. The Gunners started the window with only £45m to spend before sales.
Manchester United, on the other hand, are yet to make the huge splash in the market that is needed to help them climb the standings, bringing in just two young players thus far in Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James. In England, only newly-promoted Aston Villa have raised eyebrows with their market moves.
Meanwhile, in Spain, teams like Valencia, Sevilla and Real Betis are doing what they can in order to push for that fourth and final Champions League spot.
Both Betis and Valencia have smashed the €50m mark so far, while Sevilla have long surpassed the €100m boundary – with only the big three spending more in Spain this summer.
Ex-Liverpool target Nabil Fekir’s move to the former is the most eye-catching, particularly for just €20m (£18m/$22m).
It’s a deal that will be the envy of many of those Premier League clubs yet to make a statement before the season begins.
But also, it’s a deal that shows La Liga clubs are not only spending big this summer, but spending smart. That strategy is what they need to wrestle back their European dominance.
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