EPL leads the way again as transfer window closes

Barcelona's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, right, is challenged by Manchester City's Bernardo Silva during a charity-friendly soccer match between Barcelona and Manchester City at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022. [AP]

A record spending spree by Premier League clubs in the summer transfer market passed the $2.2 billion mark before the window closed Thursday with Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and — belatedly — Chelsea all signing players to conclude the reshaping of their squads.

The headline transfer on a typically frantic final day of trading was the arrival of Brazil winger Antony at United from Ajax for $95 million, making him the fourth expensive player in Premier League history and football’s most expensive deadline-day signing.

That took United’s total spend in this wildest of transfer windows to about $240 million — a figure only topped in the whole of Europe by Chelsea, which finally signed an out-and-out striker in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Barcelona. In the club’s first transfer window in the post-Roman Abramovich era, Chelsea spent a staggering $280 million.

Man City’s signing of Switzerland centre back Manuel Akanji for $17.5 million felt low-key by comparison, while Liverpool’s only move — the loan signing of Brazil international Arthur Melo from Juventus — was still significant as it strengthened the team’s injury-hit midfield.

Fueled by income from huge global broadcasting deals worth about $11.8 billion over three seasons, Premier League clubs have reverted to pre-pandemic levels of spending — and then some — to leave the rest of Europe in its wake.

England’s top-flight clubs spent about the same on players as those in the top leagues in Spain ($500 million), Italy ($750 million), Germany ($485 million) and France ($540 million) combined, according to calculations by the Transfermarkt website.

The net spend of the Premier League teams was $1.35 billion, compared to Italy ($8 million) and Spain ($64 million). In France and Germany, the leagues actually made a profit according to Transfermarkt.

Summing up the outrageous splurge by English clubs was the business conducted by Nottingham Forest since securing a return to the Premier League for the first time since 1999.

Forest signed three players on deadline day to take its total number of incomings across the window to a remarkable 21, at a cost of $160 million.

Ronaldo Stays

The future of Cristiano Ronaldo has been a hot topic since the end of last season — the Portugal star has pushed to leave Man United because the team isn’t in the Champions League — but the five-time world player of the year will be staying at Old Trafford, at least until January anyway.

Ronaldo was a second-half substitute for United in its 1-0 win over Leicester in the Premier League on Thursday and manager Erik ten Hag reiterated after the match that he is counting on the 37-year-old striker this season.

Antony’s arrival, however, adds further competition to the attacking spots, with Ronaldo having only started one of United’s five Premier League games.

The United rebuild under Ten Hag was wrapped up with the signing of Slovakia goalkeeper Martin Dubravka on a season-long loan from Newcastle, as a backup to David De Gea.

Busy Fulham

Fulham had a busy end to the window, bringing in three attackers and a defender on deadline day.

Former Brazil winger Willian is back in the Premier League after previous spells at Arsenal and Chelsea, while former Man United winger Daniel James arrived on loan from Leeds.

Brazilian striker Carlos Vinicius joined from Benfica, while Fulham brought in left back Layvin Kurzawa on loan from Paris Saint-Germain.

PSG trimmed its squad further by selling Senegal midfielder Idrissa Gueye to former club Everton, which also signed young striker James Garner from Man United.

A deadline-day spree by Southampton also resulted in four transfers.

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