Premier League: Does spending big always pay off?

As Romelu Lukaku’s potential world-record transfer to Manchester United was announced earlier in the week, this is another example of how extreme Premier League spending has become.

Manchester United believe the price tag for Lukaku is justified as the striker has a verified track record in the Premier League, having spent most of his career in England’s top league.

Lukaku has also showed to be a prolific scorer, netting 85 times in 186 league appearances during his time in England, with 25 of those coming in 2016/17 season. Age is another factor on Lukaku’s side. Still only 24 years old, with six seasons’ experience in the PL, both Lukaku and Manchester United will hope that his best years lay ahead.

The Red Devils will also point to the statistic that the Belgian is one of only five players to score 50 goals in the PL before turning 23 years old, with the others on that list being: Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo; not a bad selection of players to compare yourself with at a young age.


When spending big proves worthwhile

Lukaku will no doubt shine at Old Trafford as he is proven in the Premier League.

Some clubs prefer to sign proven players – although they are increasing in price – while others favour gambling by purchasing players from other leagues who may settle well in the Premier League; with these usually tending to be cheaper, although not always.

Lukaku, as well as the likes of Sadio Mane, N’Golo Kante, and Juan Mata have all commanded big fees after transferring between Premier League clubs, with their teams paying for guaranteed stability as well as Premier League class. The aforementioned players have all gone on to be successful at their new clubs, with the signings now looking like money well spent.

Other players such as Rio Ferdinand, Dimitar Berbatov and Robin Van Persie have also moved to different Premier League clubs in the past for fairly hefty prices after impressing in the same division. Such signings have highlighted that spending big on proven players is a worthwhile risk.


When spending big backfires

However, there are cases where this has backfired. The most notorious case is that of Fernando Torres, who moved to Chelsea from Liverpool for a then British record of £50m in January 2011.

This was the marquee signing that Chelsea fans had longed for, however Torres had an essentially unsuccessful time at Chelsea and was a shadow if his Liverpool self, netting only 20 goals in 110 league appearances at Stamford Bridge.

This was an unusual scenario considering the Spaniard had flourished at Anfield, although Torres later explained that the style of Chelsea’s team did not suit him.

Another instance, also involving Liverpool interestingly, is Andy Carroll’s transfer from Newcastle United for £35m. This occurred in the same window as Torres’ move to West London, with Liverpool breaking their own transfer record for the Geordie striker.

However, a mix of injuries and a contrast between playing styles meant that Carroll only lasted less than two seasons at Anfield before moving to West Ham United, initially on loan before making a permanent move to the capital.

Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle to Tottenham for £30m) and Wilfried Bony (Swansea to Manchester City for £28m) are further occasions of money not being spent well. Sissoko has struggled during his time with the Lillywhites and has been linked with a move away after just one season.

Ivory Coast international Bony scored only six times in the league in 36 appearances at the Etihad, with his future seeming uncertain too.


Shrewd deals

In terms of signing players from elsewhere for more reasonable prices, there have been many shrewd acquisitions over the years.

The likes of Philippe Coutinho, Yohan Cabaye, Dimitri Payet and Christian Eriksen all arrived in the Premier League from abroad for under £15m. The question marks over the arrivals of the mentioned players have all been erased, with such signings starring for their respective clubs.

This method is mainly used by clubs outside the top 6 who do not possess the capacities to compete with the League’s elite, while they sometimes end up selling their purchases to such higher clubs, making a profit during the process.


Foreign deals going well and others not so much

PL clubs have also had their fair share of big-money buys from around the world. Some players are guaranteed to adapt to the English league such is their quality, for example Alexis Sanchez (who Arsenal paid £35m for) and Sergio Aguero (£38m).

However there have been others who have not adapted as well, as we have seen in the past with Juan Sebastian Veron, Andriy Shevchenko and Angel Di Maria.

Ironically, all three broke the British transfer record at the time, suggesting that the Premier League is a difficult division to adapt to.


Mixed record

The history of Premier League clubs’ spending speaks for itself.

There has been a balance of big money buys and signings who may turn out to adapt well to the Premier League for a lower amount.

There have been success stories for both types of purchase, however there is no doubt that Premier League proven players are a must in order for a team to function well.


Written by Dawud Arshad

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