Manchester United have topped the Forbes list once again as the most valuable football club in the world. The frustration for United’s supporters is the perceived lack of spending that is made on players despite this position of financial power.
In the past five seasons, the defending Premier League champions have a net transfer spend of just £47.25m. If they are successful in retaining their trophy over the next few weeks, it will be four titles out of a possible five during a period where the net spend averages less than £10m per season.
The figures are slightly distorted by the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid for £80m, but it must also be taken into consideration that the club lost a player who is considered to be one of the top two footballers in the world. The price paid was relative to the talent and financial earning power attached to the signing.
United’s net spend in the last five years is less than that of Tottenham and Sunderland, while Liverpool’s is more than double at a shade under £100m. Chelsea’s stands at £160m, with Manchester City’s a staggering £430m.
The alarming figure for United is that in this period their average spend is virtually the same as it is for the whole Premier League era, at a time when the club is pulling in more cash than ever from its worldwide resources. Forbes estimate that United have 330 million supporters, and they have also been named the most valuable team in any sport in the world, at £1.4bn.
Next season, however, United’s earnings will be lowered due to their poor showing in this year’s Champions League. Manchester City will no doubt strengthen their squad where possible, albeit with the threat of FIFA’s Financial Fair Play to keep in mind. Roman Abramovich is also once again willing to bankroll big signings.
With all this going on, United continue to pay the huge interest payments on the loans taken out by the Glazers to purchase the club. The owners do seem to back their manager in the transfer market, but supporters prefer to see money spent on the team rather than on bank loans.
The consolation is that Ferguson has the ability to adapt to the situation he finds himself in. When he has financial clout, he uses it. When he seems restrained, he either goes for youth or trusts his scouting network. The front three of Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez provides the perfect microcosm of this.
The other solace for United fans is that big signings do not always work out. This can be seen in the recent cases of Andy Carroll and Fernando Torres, whilst over at Barcelona Zlatan Ibrahimovi? cost a phenomenal amount and lasted just a season. At United you can look at Juan Sebasti