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Transfer Review: 21/22 Season

Grealish, Torres, Vlahovic

Following the conclusion of the January transfer window, it is time for our review of the season’s transfer dealings. As always, this review will look at the major transfers over the 2021/22 season 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.

Where there has been no change in the most/least efficient club or player purchase from our 2021 Summer Transfer Review, this has instead been summarised. For a look back at our full analysis, head back to this season’s original article here: https://www.thetransferlist.co.uk/2021-summer-transfer-window-review/


Most efficient purchase – Ferran Torres: £72.69m

After a successful season and a half with Guardiola’s Manchester City, winning the Premier League and the Carabao Cup, Torres has returned to his native Spain to become Xavi’s first signing as Barcelona boss. The £49.50m purchase of Torres signalled the Catalans’ intent to continue investing in their playing squad despite their well-publicised financial issues.

In his only full season in Manchester, Torres ranked in or above the top 10% of all attacking midfielders/wingers in Europe’s top five leagues for goals, non-penalty goals, npxG, goals/shot and goals/shot on target and the top 20% for pass completion percentage, goal and shot-creating actions via dribbles, successful pressures and penalties won. All metrics are taken per 90 minutes.

Despite posting impressive statistics, Torres only played 38.5% of the available minutes for his club and with City’s high profile signing of Jack Grealish, the Spaniard was set for a further reduced role in Manchester.

On the international stage, Torres has become a key feature of Luis Enrique’s young Spain side; since making his debut in September 2020, Torres has featured in all but four of his nation’s matches. In the 22 matches he has featured in to date, he has contributed 12 goals and one assist. In the most recent Nations League campaign, Torres was Spain’s top scorer with six goals in eight matches which fired them to the final of the competition. At EURO 2020, Torres also featured in all of Spain’s matches, scoring twice and assisting one before being knocked out by eventual champions Italy.

In spite of his slightly limited minutes at domestic level, Torres has already established himself as a reliable performer at the highest level of European football for club and country at 21 years of age. These metrics returned a valuation for Torres of £122.19m, almost 2.5 times higher than the £49.50m paid by Barcelona to bring him back to Spain.

Least efficient purchase – Jack Grealish: -£56.57m

The aforementioned Jack Grealish retains his position as the least efficient purchase of the season. As mentioned in our Summer window review, his £105.75m purchase returned a negative variance of -£56.57m after being valued at £49.18m by our calculations.

After arriving for such a considerable fee, Grealish immediately became a key part of Guardiola’s City and dropped Ferran Torres further down the pecking order. Despite this, Grealish is still yet to show his best form on a consistent basis in Manchester and faces tough competition from Phil Foden, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus.

A notable mention goes to Juventus’ purchase of Dusan Vlahovic. The Serbian had established himself as one of the best strikers in Serie A and one of the best young forwards in Europe although remained relatively unproven at the highest levels of the game. For Fiorentina, he scored 49 goals and set up a further eight in 108 matches for the club although never finished higher than 10th position in Serie A. Internationally, he is yet to play in a major tournament for his country and Serbia currently sit 25th in the FIFA world rankings. Despite this, Juventus paid over £70m for Vlahovic, returning a negative variance of -£52.55m. The striker has however hit the ground running so far in Turin, with five goals and two assists in 11 appearances to date.


Most efficient – FC Barcelona: £93.45m

After Barcelona’s purchase of Ferran Torres, the Catalan giants shot to the top of the season’s efficiency rankings, overtaking Chelsea from the 2021 Summer Transfer Review. In addition to Torres, a buy-back option was also activated on Emerson Royal before re-selling the Brazillian and Junior Firpo, Jean-Clair Todibo and Carles Alena also left the club permanently.

With an estimated market value of £19.55m, purchasing Royal for £12.60m and then selling him a second time for £22.50m allowed Barcelona to generate a positive transfer variance on both sides of the deal, totalling £9.90m. The full-back was signed by Tottenham as a replacement for Serge Aurier and was placed straight into the starting line-up. However, following a string of disappointing performances including in their FA Cup defeat to Middlesbrough, Matt Doherty has been re-instated as Conte’s first choice right back. Whilst Royal’s performances at Betis meant many questioned Barca’s decision to sell, they appear to have made the correct decision to date.

Their only transfer which generated a negative transfer variance was the sale of Carles Alena to Getafe. After playing a total of 170 minutes for Barcelona in the first half of the 2020/21 season, Alena spent the second half of the season on loan at Getafe. In Madrid, no player that featured in more than 90 minutes for the club had a higher expected assists total, made more key passes or was involved in more shot-creating actions than Alena (0.13 xA, 1.58 key passes and 3.76 SCA per 90 over 1,367 minutes).  These performances were enough to convince Getafe to bring the Spanish playmaker to Madrid permanently and with Barcelona’s financial issues, were able to negotiate a fee of just £4.50m for his services. With a valuation of £5.61m, this produced a negative variance of £1.11m and with a full season of first-team football, this valuation would be expected to almost double. However, Barcelona are reported to have inserted various clauses into the deal, including 50% of any future sale, a buy-back option and a first refusal on any proposed deal.

Least efficient – Manchester City: -£143.73m

Unsurprisingly after the least efficient player purchase in Jack Grealish and the least efficient player sale in Ferran Torres, Manchester City finish the 2021/21 season as the least efficient club in Europe. As for the remaining transfers completed by City over the season, Kayky and Julian Alvarez were both brought to Manchester whilst Angelino, Jack Harrison and Lukas Nmecha left the club permanently.

Julian Alvarez presents the highest-profile arrival at City (excluding Jack Grealish). Whilst he won’t link up with his new club until the summer of 2022, fans have already drawn comparisons between the young Argentine forward and club legend Sergio Aguero. At just 22 years of age, Alvarez already has five trophies to his name, winning the Copa Libertadores, Copa Sudamericana, Argentinian Cup and the Argentinian Primera Division with River Plate and the Copa America with Argentina.

Across the 2021 season, Alvarez finished as the Primera Division’s second-highest goalscorer and the joint-leading assist provider with 20 goals and 12 assists in 35 games. These performances lead to the forward being voted as the South American Footballer of the Year by his peers.

Whilst predominantly deployed as a centre-forward, the diminutive Argentine is also capable of playing on the left or right of a front three. This versatility will prove a key attribute for Guardiola, with his forwards regularly interchanging and being deployed in different prongs of his attacking trident on a weekly basis. The move also returned a positive variance of £1.21m, representing good value for now although if the forward’s development continues as expected, the £15.30m purchase could prove to be a steal.

In terms of Manchester City’s remaining transfers, only the sale of Angelino generated a positive variance, with the sales of Harrison and Nmecha and the purchase of Kayky returning negative variances. In total, these transfers generated a variance of -£15.69m although with have no impact on the first-team squad for now. Angelino, Harrison and Nmecha have all been away from the Club for long periods and at just 18 years old, Kayky will join up with the Citizens U23 squad to continue his development.


PositionLeagueTotal Transfer Value (m)Transfer Variance (m)Percentage of Variance
1La Liga£554.54£211.0338.06%
3Ligue 1£811.11£41.385.10%
4Serie A£1,179.04-£22.42-1.90%
5Premier League£2,147.53-£267.32-12.45%
6Liga NOS£253.73-£54.86-21.62%
7Russian League£275.78-£86.95-31.53%

As seen in the table above, Spanish top-flight clubs retain their place as the most efficient throughout the 21/22 season. In total, they conducted £554.54m worth of business, returning a transfer variance of £211.03m (38.06%). This is the first season in which La Liga has returned a positive transfer variance.

The Bundesliga continues its trend of improving its transfer variances by percentage in each of the last three seasons, now rising to 5.90% whilst Ligue 1 remains the only assessed league that has not returned a negative transfer variance to date.

Serie A has not returned a positive transfer variance in the past three seasons, although its -1.90% variance this season is 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 and the Bundesliga, 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 -12.45% 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 -31.53% 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.

La Liga:

PositionClubVariance (m)
1FC Barcelona£93.45
8Real Betis£8.20
11Real Sociedad£2.55
12Celta Vigo£2.54
14Deportivo Alaves£2.04
15Rayo Vallecano£0.71
16Athletic Bilbao*£0.00
17Atletico Madrid-£2.59
18RCD Mallorca-£14.46
20Real Madrid-£40.14
*= club completed no assessed transfers


PositionClubVariance (m)
1Hertha BSC£32.46
3Bayern Munich£8.62
4Arminia Bielefeld£6.72
5VfL Wolfsburg£5.57
6Greuther Furth£4.61
8Borussia Dortmund£3.66
9SC Freiburg£3.16
10RB Leipzig£1.77
11Union Berlin£1.31
13FC Koln-£2.14
14VfL Bochum-£2.69
15FC Augsburg-£2.75
16Borussia Monchengladbach-£2.77
17VfB Stuttgart-£10.48
18Eintracht Frankfurt-£19.26

Ligue 1:

PositionClubVariance (m)
1Olympique Lyon£37.65
2Stade Brestois 29£17.66
4RC Lens£15.35
5FC Metz£8.81
6FC Girondins Bordeaux£5.55
7OGC Nice£5.41
8SCO Angers£5.20
10Strasbourg Alsace£4.03
11FC Lorient£2.66
12AS Saint-Etienne*£0.00
13FC Nantes-£0.88
14Olympique Marseille-£0.88
15Montpellier HSC-£4.78
16Stade Reims-£12.51
17AS Monaco-£18.77
18Stade Rennais FC-£21.61
19LOSC Lille-£22.51
20Olympique Lyon£37.65
*= club completed no assessed transfers

Serie A:

PositionClubVariance (m)
1Inter Milan£45.08
6Hellas Verona£9.45
9AC Milan£5.35
17AS Roma-£13.70

Premier League

PositionClubVariance (m)
5West Ham£10.73
8Manchester United£3.87
9Aston Villa£2.00
16Crystal Palace-£36.81
20Manchester City-£143.73

Liga NOS:

PositionClubVariance (m)
1SL Benfica£24.24
2Vitoria Guimaraes£6.67
3FC Famalicao£2.21
5SC Braga£0.36
6FC Arouca*£0.00
7CS Martimo*£0.00
8FC Pacos de Ferreira*£0.00
9FC Vizela*£0.00
10Gil Vicente-£0.10
11Sporting CP-£0.19
12Estoril Praia-£0.19
13CD Tondela-£2.86
14CD Santa Clara-£7.99
15Moreirense FC-£10.05
18FC Porto-£37.15
*= club completed no assessed transfers

Russian League:

PositionClubVariance (m)
1Rubin Kazan£6.30
2FC Sochi£5.00
3Akhmat Grozny£3.78
4FK Rostov£3.76
5Arsenal Tula£2.88
7Dynamo Moscow£0.25
8Nizhny Novgorod-£0.12
9FK Ufa-£0.44
10Krylya Sovetov-£0.92
11FK Khimki-£4.83
12CSKA Moscow-£10.37
13FK Krasnodar-£10.72
14Spartak Moscow-£10.93
16Lokomotiv Moscow-£43.75


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