Premier League big guns reload as transfer arms race heats up

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Lukaku
Manchester United paid a British record £75 million to beat Chelsea to the signature of Romelu Lukaku. — AFP/File.
Shukriya Pakistan

LONDON: Premier League spending looks certain to shatter all previous records before the current transfer window closes as England’s superpowers reload in an increasingly frenzied arms race.

Fuelled by lucrative television contracts, currently worth around £8.3 billion ($10.8bn, 9.3bn euros) and unprecedented revenue streams at home and overseas, the 20 Premier League teams have spent like never before in the weeks since the summer transfer window opened.

Already close to £800 million has been paid for new players, with the single window record spend of £1.2 billion well within reach with over a month before the market closes.

Determined to make amends for last season’s surprisingly lacklustre debut campaign in the Premier League, which saw Manchester City finish 15 points behind champions Chelsea, Pep Guardiola has played a key role in driving the market sky high.

City boss Guardiola, backed by his club’s Abu Dhabi-based billionaire owners, has embarked on a historically lavish spending spree, including paying £52 million for Monaco’s Benjamin Mendy in a world record deal for a defender on Monday.

Mendy’s arrival came just days after the £26.5 million capture of Danilo from Real Madrid.

England right-back Kyle Walker cost City £50 million from Tottenham as Guardiola took just 10 days to spend £128 million on three full-backs.

A £42 million offer persuaded Monaco to sell Bernardo Silva to City, while Douglas Luiz moved to Eastlands from Vasco Da Gama for £10 million.

Throw in Guardiola’s £34 million swoop for Benfica goalkeeper Ederson and the Spaniard has already splashed out £215 million.

That eclipsed the record spending total for a British club in a single transfer period, racing past the £168 million mark which, not surprisingly, was also set by Guardiola last season.

City seem certain to shatter the £221.5 million forked out by Real Madrid in the summer of 2009 – which stands as the biggest outlay in one transfer window.

Guardiola would love to land £50 million-rated Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez, who is refusing to extend a contract that expires in 12 months’ time, by the time the Premier League begins on August 11.

Astronomical

Keen not to be left behind by City, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has been pressuring Blues owner Roman Abramovich to back his demand for major investment ahead of his side’s return to the Champions League after a one-year absence.

So far, Chelsea have spent over £120 million, with their headline deals a £58 million move for Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata and a £34 million swoop for Monaco’s Tiemoue Bakayoko.

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho had to pay a British record £75 million to beat his old club Chelsea to the signature of Everton’s Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku.

That deal, following the £31 million signing of Benfica’s Victor Lindelof, moved United over the £100 million mark.

Arsene Wenger’s decision to extend his 21-year reign at Arsenal after a turbulent season has persuaded Gunners owner Stan Kroenke to sanction the club record £52 million signing of Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette.

Liverpool also broke their transfer record, paying £37 million for Roma winger Mohamed Salah.

And, in a perfect encapsulation of the Premier League’s spending power, even Everton, notoriously careful with their finances in the past, have paid over £90 million as they lured Wayne Rooney, Michael Keane and Jordan Pickford among others to Goodison Park.

Newly promoted Huddersfield and Newcastle have both spent over £30 million already, while only Tottenham and Stoke have yet to get the chequebook out.

While some look at the astronomical fees being paid and wonder if the desire of English clubs to flex their financial muscles could one day prove fatal for some of the less historically successful teams, the Premier League’s executive chairman Richard Scudamore insists the spree remains sustainable.

“Profitability is improving. The most important thing is player costs as a percentage of turnover,” Scudamore said last week.

“We’re down in the early 60 percents and we were much higher 10 years ago. Sixty per cent of turnover spent on player costs is actually very manageable.”

Scudamore’s message is carry on spending and there’s little doubt his league will rise to the challenge.

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