The 2022 summer transfer window has seen big money spent by Premier League clubs, surpassing the £2 billion mark for the first time.


The increase in spending has been stark over the past decade, with 19 of the top 20 transfer fees this summer eclipsing the most expensive move of 2012, the £42 million paid by PSG for Thiago Silva to AC Milan.


Even the relatively untested youngster, Morgan Gibbs-White, cost more than Silva a decade ago when he moved from Wolves to Nottingham Forest. Alongside Chelsea’s £60 million pursuit of Everton’s Antony Gordon, one wonders what some of the best English midfielders of the Premier League era, such as Beckham, Scholes and Gascoigne, would fetch in today’s market.


What is behind the massive increase in transfer fees over the past decade?


The pursuit of success

Success these days is relative. For some, nothing more than silverware will do, while finishing outside the Champions League places is a disaster for others. Indeed, for most in the Premier League, European football is no more than a complete pipedream.


The truth is that with the emergence of Newcastle United, thirteen Premier League clubs are playing for little more than survival each season. And that pursuit is becoming increasingly expensive.


With the riches of the Champions League beyond reach, clubs increasingly have to spend big money to finish mid-table in the Premier League. Ten clubs spent £100 million or more in the summer of 2022, with only Manchester City turning over a net profit.


With West Ham (£163.8 million), Nottingham Forest (£145.76 million), Wolves (£122.94 million) and Leeds (£99.13 million) going big, the price of survival has never been greater.


Increases in TV money

Manchester United earned £60.8 million from Premier League TV and prize money when they won the title during the 2012/13 season. A shade under £32 million came from domestic and overseas TV rights.


Last season, Norwich City, the club that finished bottom of the Premier League, earned £98.6 million from TV and prize money, with £79 million coming from their equal share of TV rights.


With these figures likely to rise again this season, it’s easy to see why the likes of Nottingham Forest can afford to pay the best part of £150 million on incoming transfers this season in the pursuit of survival. With at least £100 million coming from the Premier League and more to follow next season if they survive, it’s a high-risk, high-reward strategy.


Europe trying to keep pace with England

A further significant element that helped to spark that eye-watering level of spending has been the amounts spent by the biggest clubs in the world on transfer fees.


Chelsea has spent more than £250 million in England and Manchester United more than £215 million to challenge for Champions League places this season. Meanwhile, although an English club failed to win the Champions League in 2022, Europe’s biggest clubs have had to spend big trying to keep pace with their English rivals.


Barcelona’s net spend of £106.2 million is eye-watering, considering their financial vulnerability. At the same time, PSG’s middle eastern owners have seen fit to spend more than £132 million on incoming transfers in their increasingly vain pursuit of continental success.


With instant success more crucial than ever to owners of clubs, they’re prepared to go to increasingly extensive lengths to achieve their aims, often only to be disappointed.