On August 3rd 2017, Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior joined Paris St. Germain from Barcelona in a $263 million deal that makes him the most expensive player in soccer history. The fee smashes a record set only one year earlier by Paul Pogba’s $116 million transfer to Manchester United.
The Neymar saga proved to be just the tip of the iceberg with players moving throughout the summer of 2017 at valuations which seemed unthinkable just a few years ago. Romelu Lukaku, Alvaro Morata, Alexander Lacazette, Gylfi Sigurdsson, and Leonardo Bonucci are just a few examples of large fee transfers completed this summer. Many are quick to point to PSG owner Qatar Sports Investments, an investment fund directly backed by the Qatari government, as the inflationary spark saying that investment coming from the sovereign fund is distorting the entire market. But did PSG’s big ticket purchase really set everything off?
This is where it’s helpful to have some perspective. Here’s a visualization of the net transfer spending of the top European leagues (Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga, Ligue 1) with the five biggest English clubs + PSG highlighted:
Note that in the past five years these six clubs have accounted for at least 30% (most years the figure is closer to 50%) of total net spending within the European leagues.
If we include all Premier League clubs the gap becomes even more pronounced, with English clubs spending the vast majority of transfer fees in the past decade barring two years in which Ronaldo and Fabregas respectively were sold outside the league.
Maybe PSG is just catching up to the party that the Premier League started?