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Putting into perspective the spending of Manchester City

If you are not from the blue half of Manchester, any discussion that involves Manchester City quickly boils down to buying titles.

A few weeks ago when City played Arsenal at the Emirates, there was this banner:

With the Manchester Derby looming on Monday, there are a slew of articles centered on arguments like buying titles and class.

I don’t know how to quantify “class”. However, I wanted to analyze how Manchester City’s spending stacks up with the rest of the contenders in the Premier League.


1. Compared the inflation adjusted spending numbers from 1999-2011 of United, City, Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool.

2. I used the Consumer Price Index based inflation numbers of the GBP for the first round of analysis.

But Football transfer fee inflation is hard to measure.  It can fluctuate much more because unlike CPI based inflation (which is based on the price changes of a basket of goods), Football transfers form a very niche segment in a niche industry.

3. I did another view of the data using the definition of inflation based on the average annual transfer fee in the Premier League from the site Transfer Price Index
A quote from the TPI article summarizes why CPI based inflation rate might not be a good indicator of the football player transfer fee inflation
“The cumulative Transfer Price Index is running at
730% for the 20 year history of the Premier League compared to a Bank of England cumulative Consumer Price Index of 77.1%.”

4. I overlaid the spending patterns of Real Madrid & FC Barcelona who are two very successful clubs in Europe and regularly buy top players.

5. I also looked at the Deloitte Money League rankings over the past 10 years to visualize the size of Manchester City before and after the takeover by Sheikh Mansour.


1. All the transfer price data is taken from the site All prices in millions of Euros.
2. The CPI inflation numbers are taken from the Bank of England.
3. Used the average transfer fee chart from the Transfer Price Index
4. Deloitte Money League rankings of the past 10 years from Deloitte website via  Sarah Rudd

Play with the Interactive Visualization of the TPI & CPI based transfer spend from 1999 to 2011.

TPI based transfer spend 1999-2011

CPI based transfer spend 1999-2011

Play with the Interactive Visualization of the TPI & CPI based transfer spend from 1999 to 2011.


Club Overall Spending 1999-2011 (€ mil) Overall Spending 1999-2007 (€ mil)
Chelsea 1399.46 1196.35
Manchester City 679.70 (2nd) 195.17 (5th)
Spurs 556.63 501.81
Liverpool 486.75 431.9
Manchester United 426.07 431.61
Arsenal 63.3 93
  • City spent a net total of € 679 mil on transfers from 1999 to 2011, higher than everyone else except Chelsea.
  • However before City got taken over the Abu Dhabi United Group their overall spending is significantly less than everyone except Arsenal.
  • The average end-of-season league position of City from 1999-2007 was 14.7. After the takeover in 2008, the average league position of City is 5 (including 2011-12). An impressive improvement in such a short span of time.
  • Teams like Manchester United, Liverpool and Spurs have a longer history of spending. This makes City’s spending in a compressed time-frame look exaggerated.
  • Chelsea did something similar between 2002 and 2005 to break into the top 4.

Comparing City to United

There is no doubt that City has spent a lot more than United between 1999 and 2011.

However if you discount the sales of extraordinary* sales of Cristiano Ronaldo & David Beckham to Real Madrid, the overall numbers will be lot closer. (*extraordinary sales are explained below)

City United
Overall net spend 1999-2011 € 679 mil € 426 mil
Excluding Ronaldo & Beckham € 679 mil € 647 mil

Here is a list of top transfers of United between 1999 and 2011 with inflation adjusted prices.
Criteria: TPI adjusted price greater than or equal to 30 mil euros.

Season Player Bought Actual price TPI adjusted CPI Adjusted
(€ mil)
2001-02 Juan Veron 42.6 71.1 58.4
Van Nistelrooy 28.5 47.6 39
2002-03 Rio Ferdinand 46 95.7 62.1
2003-04 Cristiano Ronaldo 17.5 43.2 22.7
Louis Saha 17.5 43.2 22.7
2004-05 Rooney 37 84 47
2006-07 Carrick 27.2 59 32.4
2007-08 Anderson 31.5 45 36.2
Nani 25.5 36.5 29.3
Hargreaves 25 35.7 28.7

In contrast there are only very few big sales that they have made a lot of money off of.

Season Player Sold Actual price TPI adjusted CPI Adjusted
(€ mil)
2001-02 Jaap Stam 25.7 43 35.3
2003-04 Beckham 37.5 93.7 48.7
Veron 22.5 56.2 29.2
2009-10 Ronaldo 94 117.5 104.4
  • The Cristiano Ronaldo’s sale is an extraordinary sale as was Beckham deal on its day. In both cases the buyer was Real Madrid under Florentino Perez.
  • Beckham’s price was driven-up because of Perez openly touting his “Galactico policy” of signing the hottest player on the market each year during his tenure.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo’s price was driven up because one of the election promises of Perez was to sign Ronaldo. This meant Manchester United had all the leverage during the negotiations.

These are extraordinary scenarios that don’t happen on a regular basis.

Here is a list of top transfers of City over this period of time.
Criteria: TPI adjusted price greater than or equal to 30 mil euros.

Player Bought Actual price TPI adjusted CPI Adjusted
(€ mil)
2002-03 Nicolas Anelka 19.8 41.2 26.7
2008-09 Robinho 43 42.1 47.3
2009-10 Carlos Tevez 29 36.2 32.2
E. Adebayor 29 36.2 32.2
J. Lescott 27.5 34.4 30.5
2010-11 Edin Dzeko 37 38.5 38.8
Yaya Toure 30 31.2 31.5
Mario Balotelli 29.5 30.7 312
David Silva 28.75 29.9 30.2
2011-12 Kun Aguero 45 45 45
Season Player Sold Actual price TPI adjusted CPI Adjusted
(€ m
2005-06 S. Wright-Phillips 31.5 71.5 38.7


  1. City has spent a lot but the compressed time-frame of the spending makes it look exaggerated.
  2. City made up almost 10 positions in their average league finish from 14.7 to 5 after the takeover.
  3. Apart from Arsenal, all other top 4 contenders have been spending regularly over a longer period of time.
  4. Sheikh Mansour’s Abu Dhabi United Group took over Manchester City in August of 2008. But Man City was ranked thrice in the top 20 of the Deloitte Money League even before the takeover. This shows that they have always had a sound financial base and fan support.

    Deloitte Money League rankings of City from 2001-201
Year Revenue Matchday Broadcasting Commercial Ranking
2001 54 NA NA NA NR
2002 43 NA NA NA NR
2003 71 NA NA NA NR
2004 94 NA NA NA 16
2005 90 22.3 38.7 29.1 17
2006 89.4 22.7 35 31.7 17
2007 85 NA NA NA NR
Post-takeover by Abu Dhabi United Group
2008 104 23.4 54.6 26 NR
2009 102.2 24.4 56.7 21.1 19
2010 152.8 29.8 66 57 11
2011 169.6 29.5 76.1 64 12

Other observations:

  1. Chelsea’s total spending curve is a surprise. It is common knowledge that Abramovich had spent a lot in early 2000s but the total amount is staggering.They are on par with Real Madrid over the 12 years. The only difference being the steep slope between 2002 and 2005 vs. a fairly linear spending pattern of Real Madrid.
  2. Arsenal is the only club that seems to be consciously balancing the books year after year. Their curve oscillates year to year.
  3. Similar to the steep slope in Chelsea’s curve between 2002 and 2005 is the steep slope in City’s curve between 2006 and 2010 but not nearly as steep.
  4. Real Madrid and FC Barcelona spend a lot of money annually, especially the former.
  5. For all the hype surrounding “La Masia”, FC Barcelona spent as much as Manchester City between 1999 and 2011.

One comment

  1. psqd says:

    Very nice work. thanks!