January 27, 2023

The Premier League big six

If there’s one thing football clubs love more than winning, it’s spending ludicrous amounts of money on new players. If there’s one thing football fans love more than winning, it’s cheering their clubs on to spend ludicrous amounts of money on new players.

Historically, the most expensive signings don’t work out. Deals in the £40m to £70m range are often more successful than those above and beyond that threshold.

The Premier League’s big six are looking for reinforcements this January, but some sides are better at navigating the market than others.

Here’s our ranking of the big six by how successful their 10 most expensive signings have been.

Note: fees do not account add-ons which have yet to actually be added on, don’t get in a huff about Darwin Nunez’s lower price tag, alright?

Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes

Varying degrees of success / James Gill – Danehouse/GettyImages

Hits: Lisandro Martinez (£57m), Bruno Fernandes (£47m)

Misses: Paul Pogba (£89m), Harry Maguire (£80m), Romelu Lukaku (£75m), Angel Di Maria (£60m), Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£50m)

Grey area: Fred (£47m)

Jury’s out: Antony (£82m), Jadon Sancho (£73m)

You know what, it’s bad, but this isn’t a totally helpless collection of names, particularly when most of them were considered good deals at the time.

Pogba had his moments and it wasn’t all his own fault that he didn’t succeed. Maguire is the club captain. Lukaku at least scored a decent amount of goals. Di Maria was a no-brainer and just hated living in England. Fred has been misused too but his transfer fee is a little more palatable.

What’s promising for United is that their summer 2022 window looks to have been a bit wiser than those of years gone by.

Kai Havertz, Jorginho - Soccer Midfielder - Born 1991

I’ve seen better players / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Hits: Jorginho (£57m), Ben Chilwell (£50m)

Misses: Romelu Lukaku (£97.5m), Kepa Arrizabalaga (£72m), Alvaro Morata (£58m) Fernando Torres (£50m)

Grey area: N/A

Jury’s out: Kai Havertz (£71m), Wesley Fofana (£70m), Christian Pulisic (£58m), Marc Cucurella (£55m)

I’m being quite liberal with the use of ‘hits’ to describe limited midfielder Jorginho and constantly-injured left-back Chilwell.

The four other outfielders currently in their first team all have a chance to become successes – the most expensive one has already scored the winner in a Champions League final – but there’s a lot of work needed to be undoubted in that regard.

What’s the message here, Chelsea? Stop buying expensive strikers for the sake of it.

Erik Lamela (L) Giovani Lo Celso (C) and Tanguy Ndombele (R...

Yeah good one, Spurs / SOPA Images/GettyImages

Hits: Cristian Romero (£42.5m)

Misses: Tanguy Ndombele (£55m), Giovani Lo Celso (£42.5m), Roberto Soldado (£26m)

Grey area: Davinson Sanchez (£42m), Erik Lamela (£30m), Moussa Sissoko (£30m), Steven Bergwijn (£27m)

Jury’s out: Richarlison (£50m), Yves Bissouma (£25m)

Ah, the most confusing set of the big six.

Romero is the only current success story, while you imagine Richarlison will join him in that bracket in years to come, but the grey area is aggressively grey.

Sanchez had a superb debut season and is still a useful player, just not a £42m one. Lamela didn’t live up to expectation but was a great big-game performer for several years. Sissoko was a well-known overpay but was phenomenal in Spurs’ run to the Champions League final, should that be considered a success for them? Tottenham made their money back on Bergwijn and he played well in his limited appearances.

Spurs’ record deals are also considerably lower than most of their big six rivals, which should also be factored in at the lower end of this spectrum. So well done to Tottenham for being a bit blander with their big spending, I guess.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Granit Xhaka

Well, they got there in the end / Laurence Griffiths/GettyImages

Hits: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£56m), Ben White (£50m), Gabriel Jesus (£45m), Mesut Ozil (£42.5m), Granit Xhaka (£35m), Alexis Sanchez (£30m)

Misses: Nicolas Pepe (£72m), Shkodran Mustafi (£35m)

Grey area: Alexandre Lacazette (£46.5m), Thomas Partey (£45m)

Jury’s out: N/A

Over a 50% success rate? Arsenal are quite underrated at this big-spending malarkey. There are also decent arguments to be made that their grey area deals were hits, too.

The less said about their misses, however, the better. Jesus wept. Congratulations to Xhaka for flipping his narrative completely.

Virgil van Dijk, Alisson Becker

Van Dijk and Alisson revolutionised Liverpool / Harriet Lander/Copa/GettyImages

Hits: Virgil van Dijk (£75m), Alisson (£65m), Luis Diaz (£50m), Diogo Jota (£45m), Mohamed Salah (£44m), Fabinho (£43m)

Misses: N/A

Grey area: Naby Keita (£52m)

Jury’s out: Darwin Nunez (£64m), Cody Gakpo (£37m), Ibrahima Konate (£36m)

Thanks to Gakpo’s January move, Andy Carroll will never appear in a list of Liverpool’s ten most expensive players of all time again.

A more critical man than I would have Keita down as flop, too, but at least he’s contributed to the various trophies they’ve won since arriving on Merseyside.

Kevin De Bruyne, Joao Cancelo, Raheem Sterling

Legends / Shaun Botterill/GettyImages

Hits: Rodri (£64m), Ruben Dias (£62m), Riyad Mahrez (£60m), Joao Cancelo (£60m), Aymeric Laporte (£57m), Kevin De Bruyne (£55m), Erling Haaland (£51.2m), Kyle Walker (£50m), Raheem Sterling (£50m)

Misses: Jack Grealish (£100m)

Grey area: N/A

Jury’s out: N/A

You can make a case that Grealish should be in some other bracket, but I don’t really care for it. For the purposes of this list, it doesn’t matter anyway – Manchester City know how to spend their money.