With the January transfer window now open, it is time for our review of the summer’s transfer dealings. As always, this review will look at the major transfers from the 2021 summer transfer window by considering the most and least efficient player purchases. Following this, the transfer dealings of the most and least efficient clubs will be analysed before comparing Europe’s top seven leagues in terms of transfer variance and the efficiency table for each league.
Most efficient purchase: Danilo Pereira – £48.31m
Following a successful first season in Ligue 1, PSG activated their option to keep Danilo Pereira in Paris for £14.40m. With an estimated market valuation of £62.71m, this transfer represented the best value for money purchase this window.
The defensive midfielder featured in every Champions League game in PSG’s run to the semi-finals as well as playing the full 90 minutes in their Coupe de France victory over Monaco. In total, the Portuguese played 2,861 minutes of club football during the 2020/21 season as PSG missed out on the Ligue 1 title for the first time since the 2016/17 season.
At international level, Pereira has established himself as a stalwart of a Portugal side that currently sits 8th in the FIFA world rankings. The midfielder featured in all his country’s Nations League matches (finishing as runners up in a group containing France, Croatia and Sweden) and EURO 2020 matches where they were eliminated from the competition by Belgium in the Round of 16.
Throughout the 2020/21 season, Danilo proved to be a capable performer at the highest echelon of club and international football. For PSG, only Layvin Kurzawa averaged a higher number of interceptions per 90 minutes (1.90) than Pereira (1.89) and only Marquinhos, Kimpembe and Diallo averaged a higher number of clearances and blocked shots per 90. At Euro 2020, only Joao Palhinha made a higher number of tackles + interceptions per 90 (7.14) than Pereira (5). This experience contributed to an estimated market valuation of £62.71m for Pereira, significantly above the £14.40m that PSG were able to make the move permanent for.
Least efficient purchase: Jack Grealish – -£56.57m
In contrast, the least efficient purchase of the window was Manchester City’s acquisition of Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish. Valued at £49.18m at the time of his move, City eventually paid £105.75m for Villa’s talismanic midfielder.
In Grealish’s final season with his boyhood club, he provided seven goals and 15 assists in 2,275 minutes of football; leading Aston Villa to an 11th placed Premier League finish. Over the season, the midfielder averaged 0.35 expected assists, 6.18 shot-creating actions, 6.91 progressive passes and 12.6 progressive carries per 90. When comparing this to the City squad, Grealish would have topped the charts for progressive carries, with only Bernardo Silva (12.0) close to matching the former Villa man’s total. Only Kevin de Bruyne averaged a higher number of expected assists (0.46) and shot-creating actions (6.40) whilst only Fernandinho (7.27) and Kevin de Bruyne (7.79) completed a higher number of progressive passes.
On the international stage, Grealish played a total of 652 minutes for the England national team, providing four assists. At EURO 2020, the midfielder was limited to just 174 minutes of football across England’s seven matches at the tournament but still assisted the only goal of the game against Czechia as well as Harry Kane’s goal to secure England’s first victory over Germany in the knockout stage of a major tournament in 55 years. Despite his limited minutes, Grealish topped England’s charts for progressive carries (12.0) and key passes (2.50) per 90 minutes.
Whilst the above highlights Grealish’s ability as an adept playmaker and ball carrier, his limited experience at the highest levels of domestic and international football to date contributes to a significant overspend from Manchester City for his services. However, if the Birmingham-born midfielder becomes indispensable in Manchester, he could yet prove his valuation.
Most efficient: Chelsea – £66.02m
Following Chelsea’s near £250m spending spree last season which made them the least efficient club in our last review, their dealings so far place them at the top of Europe’s efficiency rankings.
The London club completed eight transfers over the summer, with Romelu Lukaku returning to Stamford Bridge and Tammy Abraham, Kurt Zouma, Olivier Giroud, Fikayo Tomori, Davide Zappacosta, Marc Guehi and Victor Moses leaving permanently. In total, these purchases and sales returned a positive transfer variance of £66.02m.
Of these transfers, only the sale of Giroud to Milan returned a negative variance. Despite now being 35 years old, the striker had been a regular starter for the French national team until Benzema’s recall for EURO 2020, including featuring in every match in France’s 2018 World Cup triumph. This, in addition to contributing effectively for Chelsea in limited minutes (scoring 11 goals in 1,182 minutes) over the 2020/21 season provided a valuation of £11.87m for the Frenchman although he was sold for just £0.9m.
The transfer that produced the highest positive variance was the sale of Tammy Abraham to Roma. Under Lampard, Abraham became one of the many young English players that stepped up and carried Chelsea to a Champions League finish in spite of their transfer ban. However, the high-profile arrival of Timo Werner followed by the sacking of Frank Lampard saw Abraham fall down the pecking order. Similarly to Giroud, Abraham contributed effectively in his limited minutes on the field (12 goals and six assists in 1,507 minutes) although his restricted game time for Chelsea and England (he featured for just 41 minutes at international level) produced a valuation of £18.63m. Chelsea sold Abraham to Roma for £36m, giving a positive transfer variance of £17.37m.
The sales of Giroud and Abraham were made to free up funds and squad space to facilitate the return of Romelu Lukaku. In Italy, Lukakau formed a formidable striking partnership with Lautaro Martinez under Antonio Conte’s tutelage, leading Inter to their first Serie A title since the 2009/10 season. Over the course of the campaign, Lukaku scored 30 goals and provided 13 assists in 3,531 minutes of football, establishing himself as one of the most sought after strikers in world football. On the international stage, Lukaku played a further 1,209 minutes for Belgium who still top the FIFA World Rankings. At Euro 2020, the Belgian scored four goals in six matches before their tournament came to an end at the quarter-final stage after being defeated by eventual champions Italy. This experience produced an estimated market valuation for Lukaku of £117.73m, £14.23m above the £103.50m paid by Chelsea to sign him for a second time.
Least efficient: Arsenal – -£74.90m
Another Premier League side, Arsenal, finished bottom of Europe’s efficiency rankings. The North London side completed seven transfers during the window with Ben White, Martin Ødegaard, Aaron Ramsdale, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Nuno Tavares all arriving at the Emirates Stadium and Joe Willock heading to St James’ Park.
The most significant of these moves was the purchase of Ben White from Brighton, arriving for £52.65m. After impressing during a loan spell with Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United in their Championship winning season, White returned to Brighton and quickly established himself as a Premier League regular. Under Graham Potter, Brighton secured Premier League football for another season, finishing in 16th place, although White formed a key part of the League’s joint 7th best defence. In total, White played 3,465 minutes of football over the course of the season. This provided the Englishman with a valuation of £8.33m, £44.32m below the fee paid by Arsenal for his services.
Aaron Ramsdale was also recruited from a side at the lower reaches of the Premier League, this time relegation-suffering Sheffield United. Ramsdale had also been relegated the season before with Bournemouth, his first season as a starting goalkeeper in the Premier League. Across the 2020/21 season, the English goalkeeper conceded 68 goals and kept six clean sheets in 3,780 minutes of football. This provided a valuation of £4.31m. Despite a difficult season for the young man, Arsenal paid £25.20m to keep him in the Premier League, £20.89m more than his estimated value. Just one season earlier, Sheffield United had paid £18.45m to bring the keeper back up North from Bournemouth.
The only one of Arsenal’s transfers to return a positive transfer variance was their sale of Joe Willock to Newcastle. The English midfielder was limited to appearances in cup competitions and late Premier League appearances from the bench for Arsenal during the first half of the 2020/21 season, playing just 910 minutes for the Gunners. In the Europa League though, Willock shone as Arsenal won all six of their group stage games against Molde, Rapid Vienna and Dundalk. In just 344 minutes of football in the competition, Willock scored three goals and provided a further three assists from midfield. In the search for more first-team football, Willock moved to Newcastle for the remainder of the season, featuring in 14 of the Magpies remaining 17 Premier League matches and playing a total of 979 minutes for Newcastle. In those 14 matches, Willock contributed eight goals, including scoring in all his final seven appearances of the season for the club. In total, Willock’s experience over the season produced a valuation of £6.73m but thanks to his superb form towards the end of the campaign, Arsenal were able to negotiate a £26.46m fee for the midfielder.
|Position||League||Total Transfer Value (m)||Transfer Variance (m)||Percentage of Variance|
As seen in the table above, La Liga was the most efficient league over the 2021 summer transfer window. Spanish top-flight clubs completed £456.04m worth of business over the summer, returning a transfer variance of £143.21m (31.40%). This is the first time that La Liga has had a positive transfer variance.
Both the Bundesliga and Ligue 1 have improved their transfer variances by percentage in each of the last three seasons. The two leagues currently return variances of 7.46% and 7.36% respectively.
Serie A has not returned a positive transfer variance in the past three seasons, although its -0.50% variance so far this season is currently its best result to date. In comparison, its worst result was a -2.57% variance for the 2020/21 season.
The Premier League, the worst ranking of Europe’s top five leagues, is also set to return its best result to date. Like La Liga, the Bundesliga and Ligue 1, the Premier League has improved its transfer variance in each of the last three seasons although it remains considerably less efficient, returning a variance of -11.72% so far this season.
Liga NOS and the Russian League are the most volatile of the seven assessed leagues due to the lower amount of business conducted. Liga NOS has seen its transfer variance worsen in each of the previous three seasons, implying that Portuguese clubs are having to pay more to bring foreign talent into the league but have been less able to command large transfer fees when these players depart. The Russian League finished bottom of the efficiency rankings in 2019/20, top in 2020/21 and currently sits bottom of the rankings again this season. Its variance of -35.38% so far this season is its worst result to date.
For a full breakdown of the history of league transfer variances, see the chart below. For a larger version, click on the image. Our efficiency tables including every club within each of the seven assessed leagues follow the graph.
|3||Stade Brestois 29||£12.87|
|7||FC Girondins Bordeaux||£5.56|
|20||Stade Rennais FC||-£21.61|
|11||FC Pacos de Ferreira*||£0.00|
|16||CD Santa Clara||-£7.99|