Tottenham Are Winning Big Without Spending Big
European soccer is overflowing with cash right now, as you may have noticed during this past transfer window. The headline move of the summer was Paris Saint-Germain landing Neymar for a cool €222 million. That made it look like Barcelona was buying off the dollar menu with their €105 million signing of Ousmane Dembele, even though that fee tied the previous record for the largest transfer.
EPL clubs went on a massive spending spree this past summer. Manchester United brought on Romelu Lukaku for €85 million, and Chelsea forked over €65.5 million for Alvaro Morata, the 7th- and 15th-richest transfer fees of all time.
Oh, and there's Manchester City, a club which shelled out a net spend of €152.95 million last window, including a combined €115.1 million on a pair of defenders, Benjamin Mendy (€58.1) and Kyle Walker (€57), the two most expensive defenders in history.
In all, according to the transfer wizards at transfermarkt.com, Premier League clubs had a transfer deficit of €672.96 million this summer, absolutely blowing away the rest of Europe's top leagues. Italy's Serie A (€120.38 million) and France's Ligue 1 (€111.10 million), the two other top-spending domestic leagues last window, ran monster deficits, and they don't even sniff the splashing of cash that's going on in the Premier League.
As you'd expect, the teams that spend the most in the Premier League are typically the most successful. Elite clubs like Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United have dominated the modern EPL, which began with the 1992-93 season. Those four account for 21 of the 23 Premier League titles in the modern era, with Leicester City's miraculous 2015-16 crown and Blackburn Rovers' 1994-95 championship the lone exceptions.
It goes even deeper. In the past eight years, only four times has a club other than said foursome even finished inside the top three, which is where we -- forgive me for burying the lede a bit -- get to Tottenham.
Spurs have done it twice, finishing in the top three each of the past two seasons. They followed up a third-place showing two years ago, which was a club-record finish at the time, with a runner-up campaign last season. Tottenham are off to another sublime start this year, sitting in third in the EPL after taking 20 points from their first 10 matches and riding high off a monumental midweek Champions League triumph over holders Real Madrid.
While Premier League teams have been writing some fat checks lately, what makes Spurs' ascension into England's elite -- suppose we can say Europe's elite on the back of their UCL showing thus far -- so impressive is that they've done it without spending big.
In fact, Tottenham have barely spent at all since naming Mauricio Pochettino manager prior to the 2014-15 season, registering a net spend of €9.04 million in that span. That's just a wee bit less than their chief EPL competitors spent in that same timeframe. (All team transfer numbers taken from transfermarkt.com.)
|Since the Start of the 2014-15 Season||Net Spend||EPL Finishes the Past Three Seasons|
|Manchester City||€534.18m||2nd, 4th, 3rd|
|Manchester United||€490.74m||4th, 5th, 6th|
|Arsenal||€196.78m||3rd, 2nd, 5th|
|Liverpool||€89.45m||6th, 8th, 4th|
|Chelsea||€33.56m||1st, 10th, 1st|
|Tottenham||€9.04m||5th, 3rd, 2nd|
The Manchester clubs are in another stratosphere. Just to refresh your memory: last summer alone, City's net spend was €152.95 million while United's came in at €152.90 million. For reference, not only were Tottenham way off the spending pace this past transfer window, they actually profited €9 million thanks to aforementioned sale of Kyle Walker.
At first glance, the low net spend for Chelsea looks mighty impressive considering they've won two of the last three EPL titles -- and they are a well-run club financially -- but it is a little misleading. The Blues had a total net spend of €326.62 million in the first two years after billionaire Roman Abramovich bought the club back in 2003. After Abramovich's initial investment, Chelsea have been shrewdly run and haven't had ghastly net spends most campaigns, making hay on some moves that saw players leave the club for big money (Oscar to name one) and then wisely reinvesting said money.
Anywho, when you look at what Spurs are spending, it's mind-numbing that they've been able to go blow-for-blow with England's elite these past three seasons.
Here's a year-by-year look at what Tottenham have spent each year under Pochettino.
Amazingly, Tottenham have run a profit in the transfer market in two of the last three seasons, which is just unheard of for a top club.
Heck, during this same four-year run, Burnley have a net spend of €46.07 million, and Aston Villa come it at €37.29 million. Burnley -- who are in the midst of their fourth ever Premier League season -- spent one of those campaigns in the second flight and haven't finished better than 16th in the EPL during this run (although they're off to a red-hot start this year, sitting 7th). Villa are currently 13th in the second tier after coming in last and 17th, respectively, in the Premier League the two years prior.
Tottenham clearly have top-notch talent -- you can't fluke a multi-year run of success in the Premier League -- but they've been able to keep the transfer bills low by finding talent on the cheap. It's not quite their strongest starting XI, but Tottenham can field a pretty potent starting squad for roughly as much as Manchester United paid for Lukaku.
Using the current value estimations from transfermarkt.com, we can see just how masterful some of Spurs' signings have proven to be.
|Player||What Tottenham Paid||Current Value|
Given the market last summer, most of these current values are probably pretty conservative. Kane was free because he came up through Tottenham's youth system, and he's become one of the top strikers in the world, netting 83 goals in 111 Premier League matches since the start of the 2014-15 season.
These other four players were signed at a young(ish) age, progressed by Spurs and have seen their value skyrocket since joining the North London club. It's really a testament to the whole club -- chairman Daniel Levy, Tottenham's scouting department and their coaching staff -- that they've been able to unearth and develop this kind of talent. (It's worth mentioning Walker here, too, since Spurs bought him for €5.9 million and shipped him to City this summer for €57 million.)
Speaking of Walker, his move out of the club is the type of thing that could become a trend for Tottenham in the near future. With Spurs having so much young talent -- and a wage structure that sees their top players paid a fraction of what City and United give their main dudes -- it's probably just a matter of time before some of Europe's giants come knocking, offering loads of cash for Tottenham's studs. Pochettino, the manager, will have plenty of suitors, as well.
But Tottenham have been here before. They sold world-class stars Luka Modric and Gareth Bale to Real Madrid in back-to-back summers in 2012 and 2013. That seemed like the closing of what had been a very good window for the club, a stretch that included a pair of fourth-place EPL finishes (2009-10 and 2011-12) and a run to the Champions League quarterfinals in 2010-11.
Not only did Tottenham sustain their standing as a top-six club after losing Modric and Bale, they (eventually) took a step forward with this current run. If they keep crushing it in the transfer market, Spurs will be just fine even if they can't keep this core intact. Because they'll get a windfall of cash if they move any of their top players, and, as we've seen, no Premier League team gets more bang for their buck than Spurs.