Statistical Analysis

Top Premier League Transfers: Rio Ferdinand tops adjusted price list

Thu, 29 June 2017, 9:45

We may still be closer to the end of the last Premier League season than the first day of the new one – but that doesn’t mean clubs haven’t been busy on their summer holidays.

Around £250 million has been spent by the 20 Premier League clubs so far, with a full two months still to go until the transfer window closes at the start of September.

The total amount spent in the top flight broke the £1 billion mark for the first time in 2015, and went even higher last year, with the figure set to increase once again as clubs’ finances and transfer fees continue to grow.

But that hasn’t always been the way of it since the inception of the Premier League. In the summer before the first edition of the new competition in 1992, just £42m was spent in total by all 22 clubs – less than half of a Paul Pogba in 2016.

80 players were transferred in 1992, at an average cost of £530,000 per player, and an average spend of £1.9m per club. Compare that to the 117 players who changed hands last year, at £9.9m for each signing, and £58.1m per club.

The influx of TV money over the 25 years of the Premier League has seen the amount spent skyrocket – and things are only going one way. After a slight dip from 2007 to 2010 (which clocked in at £362m), spending has gone through the roof, with transfer expenditure trebling over the past six summers.

With plenty of big names linked with moves for exorbitant fees, expect last year’s record to be smashed in what could be a mammoth summer this time around.

Of course, while inflated transfer fees mean players like Paul Pogba have gone for megabucks, nobody believes this makes him the best player in Premier League history. By tracking the most expensive players from each transfer window against the average fee paid for a player that year, we’ve been able to draw up a table of the most valuable players in Premier League history, and what they’d be worth in the current market.

Heading that table is Rio Ferdinand, whose £29.1m move from Leeds to Manchester United in 2002 would be worth a whopping £113.9m today. Ferdinand’s valuation then, almost 10 times higher than the average player (£2.5m) proved excellent value for money, leading United to six Premier League titles and a Champions League win in the heart of Sir Alex Ferguson’s defence.

Coming in second is Alan Shearer, whose £15m move to Newcastle in 1996 broke the world transfer record. If the then 25-year-old was available in today’s market, he’d break it again, coming in just behind Ferdinand at £106.3m – money well spent for the Premier League’s top ever scorer.

Year Highest PL Transfer of the Summer Cost at Time Worth Today
2002 Rio Ferdinand - Leeds to Man United 29,100,000 113,910,017.84
1996 Alan Shearer - Blackburn to Newcastle 15,000,000 106,381,568.38
2006 Andriy Shevchenko - AC Milan to Chelsea 30,800,000 97,349,399.86
2014 Angel Di Maria - Real Madrid to Man United 59,700,000 94,523,738.27
2005 Michael Essien - Lyon to Chelsea 24,400,000 93,828,582.60
2004 Didier Drogba - Marseille to Chelsea 24,000,000 90,419,198.48
2016 Paul Pogba - Juventus to Man United 89,250,000 89,250,000.00
2013 Mesut Ozil - Real Madrid to Arsenal 42,500,000 85,830,609.63
2011 Sergio Aguero - Atletico Madrid to Man City 31,500,000 81,397,471.29
2008 Robinho - Real Madrid to Man City 36,500,000 79,791,402.17
2001 Juan Sebastian Veron - Lazio to Man United 28,100,000 79,681,880.85
2012 Eden Hazard - Lille to Chelsea 32,000,000 79,454,686.67
2003 Damien Duff - Blackburn to Chelsea 17,000,000 73,072,762.73
2015 Kevin De Bruyne - Wolfsburg to Man City 55,000,000 72,757,004.79
2010 Yaya Toure - Barcelona to Man City 24,000,000 68,341,590.54
2007 Fernando Torres - Atletico Madrid to Liverpool 26,500,000 67,384,606.14
2009 Carlos Tevez - Man United to Man City 25,500,000 66,985,609.22
1992 Alan Shearer - Southampton to Blackburn 3,500,000 65,147,145.47
1999 Thierry Henry - Juventus to Arsenal 11,000,000 64,983,868.64
1998 Dwight Yorke - Aston Villa to Man United 12,600,000 64,745,672.08
1993 Roy Keane - Nottm Forest to Man United 3,750,000 63,598,192.06
2000 Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink - Atletico Madrid to Chelsea 15,000,000 56,744,040.30
1995 Stan Collymore - Nottm Forest to Liverpool 8,500,000 52,920,310.09
1994 Chris Sutton - Norwich to Blackburn 5,000,000 51,608,767.13
1997 Graeme Le Saux - Blackburn to Chelsea 5,000,000 41,080,896.08


There are some interesting figures throughout the table – even going down to least expensive signing Graeme Le Saux – the left back signed for Chelsea for £5m in 1997, but would be worth just over £40m at today’s rate.

Despite being the world’s most expensive ever player, Pogba would only weigh in at seventh in Premier League history, behind flops Andriy Shevchenko and Angel Di Maria, and the more successful Didier Drogba and Michael Essien.

The case of Shearer shows just how far transfer fees have skyrocketed over the past 20 years.

The England forward returned to hometown club Newcastle having just won the Euro 96 Golden Boot, as well as the Premier League Golden Boot in each of the previous two seasons, and the league title itself with Blackburn in 1995.

Shearer has gone down in history as one of the greatest strikers England has ever produced, with 260 goals in the Premier League, and the £15m forked out by Newcastle to bring him to St James’ Park smashed the world transfer record – apt for a player of his quality but it was still a huge figure for a club to pay for any footballer.

Fast forward 20 years to 2016, and that £15m wouldn’t have even been enough to sign Borja Baston. The Spanish striker signed for Swansea last summer for £500,000 more than Shearer, on the back of 0 international caps or goals, having finished in 14th in La Liga with Eibar the season previous.

Borja failed to set the world alight in his debut season with the Swans, netting just once in 16 appearances – a far cry from the 28 goals netted by Shearer in his first season at Newcastle.

With £15m becoming the norm rather than the exception, how many players will go for that much this summer without batting an eye – compared to the shock when Shearer returned to Tyneside?

Team & Season No. of Players Signed in Summer Money Spent Position Points   Positions Gained from Previous Season Points Gained from Previous Season
Chelsea 2016/17 5 62,480,000 1 93   9 43
Leicester 2015/16 5 32,470,000 1 81   13 40
Liverpool 2013/14 5 47,520,000 2 84   5 23
Spurs 2016/17 4 70,130,000 2 86   1 16
Liverpool 2016/17 4 67,920,000 4 76   4 16


So what makes the perfect transfer window for clubs to aim for? Too many new signings and they run the risk of the squad being unsettled, but not enough could see the club standing still.

Having looked at the most successful Premier League seasons over the past five years (based on points gained from one season to the next), it looks like managers should aim for five new faces, at a cost just a shade under £50m.

Of the top eight most improved clubs, all either bought four or five new men in, with both Chelsea and Leicester climbing from bottom half finishes to league winners by signing five new players immediately before the seasons began.

For managers hoping to make an impact this summer, they’d do worse than to look at the blueprints of these successes, in what looks set to be another busy transfer window for all Premier League clubs.

Statistical Analysis discovers hidden trends and values in major gambling events by deciphering both contemporary stats and historical data. We derive our probabilities from history, not just betting odds, so you don't have to.


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