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How Spending Has Changed In The Premier League January Transfer Window

first january on calendar with invest day written in red january transfer windowPremier League clubs spent ‘just’ £100 million1 during the 2024 winter transfer window. Which is £715 million less than the £815 million they spent a year prior. A significant fall following transfer windows in which English sides broke record after record. Including last summer, when the clubs spent the highest amount (£2.36 billion) during one window so far.

The public and other leagues have raised questions to the Premier League’s spending pattern. Which is not unfounded, as several clubs have been overspending compared to their means in a bid for on-field success. One of these clubs is Everton, who are the first side to be sanctioned with a 10-point deduction for breaching the Premier League’s Profitability and Sustainability Rules.

While the bulk of this (over)spending is done during the summer transfer window, clubs still spend significantly mid-season. So, how exactly has spending during the January transfer window changed over time? How do the summer and winter windows measure up? And has Premier League clubs’ spending reached a limit?

How has January spending evolved?

chart winter transfer spending by premier league clubs

Transfer windows were officially introduced by FIFA during the 2002-03 season to establish a balance between players’ right to free movement and contract stability on one hand and having integrity of the sport and league stability on the other. Since the 2003 January window, Premier League clubs have spent over £3.8 billion1 during winter transfer windows.

Between 2014-15 and 2023-24, the Premier League spent on average £264 million per winter window. A 155 percent increase compared to the £103.6 million spent on average between 2003-04 and 2013-14. COVID-19 limited spending during the 2020-21 winter market, when the clubs spent just £70 million. Excluding this window, the average January transfer spending of Premier League clubs during the last decade rises to £285.6 million.

Record-breaking windows

suitcase full of money bribeAlthough there are fluctuations in total amount spend, the general trend seems to be upward. The first time, the winter market broke the £200 million barrier was in 2010-11, with £225 million. 7.5 times the record-low £30 million spent by Premier League sides the year prior. It was more in line with the (trend of) amounts spent in 2007-08 (£175 million) and 2008-09 (£170 million) though.

Three top revenue-generating clubs invested significantly in forwards during the January window of 2011. Chelsea acquired Fernando Torres from Liverpool for £50 million2. With the money received Liverpool attracted two forwards: Andy Carroll (£35 million2) and Luis Suarez (£22 million2). The latter scored 82 goals in 133 matches for the Reds before being sold to Barcelona for £75 million in 2014. Manchester City also invested in their forward line by acquiring Edin Dzeko from Wolfsburg for £27 million.

Liverpool and Chelsea drive further records

liverpool fc 22-23 squad

During the 2017-18 winter market, Premier League clubs invested £430 million in players. Double the amount spent during January 2017 (£215 million). Several high value transfers were made, including Virgil van Dijk from Southampton to Liverpool (£75 million), Aymeric Laporte from Athletic to Manchester City (£57.2 million) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Dortmund to Arsenal (£56 million)3.

However, the 2023 January window broke all records with an estimated £815 million spent on transfer fees. A 176 percent increase compared to the £295 million spent the year prior and 90 percent more than the previous record (2017-18: £430 million).

The top six highest revenue-generating Premier League clubs accounted for more than half (54 percent) of the total 2023 winter transfer expenditure. With Chelsea accounting for 37 percent of total spend, spurred on by new owner Todd Boehly’s desire to have an immediate impact. Argentinian midfield Enzo Fernández came over from Benfica for a British record fee of £106.8 million4. While Mykhailo Mudryk (Shakhtar Donetsk) and Benoît Badiashile (Monaco) were bought for £62.1 million and £32.7 million respectively.

Liverpool paid PSV £35 million for Cody Gakpo. While non-top six side Newcastle United invested a further £40 million in English forward Anthony Gordon after earlier major investments under their new owners (since October 2021).

Top 5 biggest transfers during the 2023 January window

Player Club Bought from Transfer fee
Enzo Fernández Chelsea Benfica £106.8 million
Mykhailo Mudryk Chelsea Shakhtar Donetsk £62.1 million
Anthony Gordon Newcastle United Everton £40 million
Cody Gakpo Liverpool PSV £35 million
Benoît Badiashile Chelsea Monaco £32.7 million

Market inflation higher in Premier League

chart inflation in transfer prices

The increase in transfer expenditure is spurred on by increasing (broadcasting) revenue and market competition for players. Furthermore, transfer fees had an average annual inflation of 9.0 percent5 between 2013-14 and 2022-23.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic (between 2013-14 and 2019-20) annual inflation was even at 13.8 percent. Premier League clubs observed the highest inflation of transfer prices with 12.6 percent annually during the indicated decade. 4.1 percent points more than the 8.5 percent of the other Big Five leagues and 4.9 percent points more than other leagues (7.7 percent).

In the decade since 2013-14, transfer fees including add-ons have increased by 116 percent. Without add-ons inflation has been 90 percent, as more transfer fees include performance related amounts.

Number of winter transfers decreased

percentagesThe number of transfers made by Premier League sides during the January window has decreased. Between 2003-04 and 2013-14, the league had on average 154.8 transfers during the winter window. This dropped by 38 percent to an average of 95.8 transfers per winter window between 2014-15 and 2023-246.

Yet, while the number of transfers has decreased, aggregate transfer spending rose between those two periods. Thus, clubs paid on average more per player.

More transfers for higher amounts

chart number of premier league winter transfers with a fee over ten million

The number of winter transfers with a fee of at least €10 million has risen, from 3.8 (between 2003-04 to 2013-14) to 10.9 (between 2014-15 to 2023-24) transfers per window.

The 2023 window had the most £10 million-plus transfers (31) during one January window. 13 more than the previous record (18) set in 2017-18. With Chelsea setting the record for most such transfers by one club. The Blues acquired eight players for €10 million or more in the 2022-23 winter window (including one loan). Double the four acquisitions Newcastle made a year prior and had been the record up until then. In both instances, it was the first transfer window following the club’s takeover. The spending was thus likely stimulated by the new owners’ desire to have an impact.

Between 2003-04 and 2009-10, there had been only one €20 million-plus winter transfer (€20 million by Arsenal for José Antonio Reyes). Since then, there have been 57 such transfers (4.1 per season) during the January windows. Of those 57 transfers, 14 had a transfer fee of at least €40 million.

Winter vs summer distribution of transfers

large switch between summer and winter

Clubs tend to do more transfer business in the summer than in January. During 2023, FIFA recorded 21,801 international transfers7 (increase of 7.1 percent compared to 2022), of which 3,279 included a transfer fee. Most transfers took place during the winter and summer windows, with 33 percent of the transfers made in January and February (2023). While 53.6 percent took place during the summer market (July to September).

Between 2003-04 and 2023-24, Premier League clubs made on average 437 transfers per season6. Overall, 29 percent of the transfers were made during the winter transfer window, with the other 71 percent being summer signings. During the last decade, a slightly lower percentage of all transfers were made during the winter window (24 percent).

Distribution of Premier League transfers across winter and summer window

Period Winter Summer
2003-04 to 2023-24 29% 71%
2003-04 to 2013-14 33% 67%
2014-15 to 2023-24 24% 76%

Distribution of transfer expenses between summer and winter

chart premier league summer and winter transfer spending

Premier League clubs’ aggregate gross transfer spending since 2003-04 amounts to £21.785 billion1. 17 percent (£3.78 billion) of that has been spent during the January windows. The other 83 percent (£18.005) billion during the summer markets.

There are major fluctuations between seasons though. During the 2010-11 season, 38 percent of total transfer spending was done in the winter market. The highest percentage so far. While only four percent of the total spending in 2023-24 took place in January.

The 2023-24 summer window, which was a record-breaking window with £2.36 billion invested, could (partly) explain the slower winter market. Total transfer spending across the whole season was still the second highest gross spend recorded so far. Only second to the 2022-23 season (£2.78 billion).

More high-value transfers during the summer

valueClubs seem more inclined to invest higher amounts during the summer than in January. Between 2003-04 and 2023-24, the number of Premier League transfers with a fee of at least €10 million was 4.6 times higher during the summer than during the winter6. While this was 2.4 times for all transfers.

For transfers above €10 million, but below €30 million, there were 4.1 more transfers during the summer markets than during the January windows. While Premier League sides made 7.1 times more transfers with a fee of at least €30 million during the summer than the winter.

With the summer window three times longer (12 versus four weeks) than the winter one, clubs have of course more time to plan. Furthermore, other clubs are less willing to sell mid-season, just as players may be less willing to move.

Premier League summer vs winter window transfers based on fees between 2003-04 and 2023-24

What Number of summer transfers compared to winter
All transfers 2.4 times more
Fee > €10 million 4.6 times more
€10 million ≤ fee < €30 million 4.1 times more
Fee > €30 million 7.1 times more

Like during the winter transfer windows, Chelsea has the highest number of €10 million-plus transfers in one summer window. In 2023-24, the Blues acquired 11 players for at least €10 million. Four more than clubs had done during previous summer windows. Also, three more than their own record during a winter window (eight players).

Record fee per season

chart highest transfer fee during premier league summer and winter windows

The record fee per window has shown a positive trend as well, although it is clearer during the summer window than during the January one. Only on three occasions was the record fee during a winter transfer window as high or higher than during the summer window that season6. Exactly the three seasons in which winter transfer spending was far higher than previous years would have projected.

In 2010-11, Chelsea paid €58.5 million for Fernando Torres. While during the summer, Manchester City paid the highest fee (€30 million) to Barcelona for Yaya Touré. In 2017-18, Liverpool (winter) and Manchester United (summer) paid both around €84.7 million for Virgil van Dijk and Romelu Lukaku respectively. While Chelsea’s 2023 record fee for Enzo Fernández was far higher than what United paid for Brazilian winger Anthony in the summer.

Top six’s significant spending

chart percentage of premier league winter transfer spending by top 6

The bulk of the Premier League’s transfer expenditure and record signings are made by the so-called top six. Between 2014-15 and 2023-24, these six highest revenue-generating clubs accounted for 49 percent of all transfer expenditure.

For summer spending, the top six even accounted for 51 percent. While this was 43 percent of the league’s total winter transfer expenditure. However, there are major fluctuations across seasons. In the 2015-16 January window, the top six spent only €24.42 million. Which accounted for 10 percent of total transfer expenditure that January. In 2017-18, 65 percent of total investments were made by these six clubs. The most during the last decade.

During the 2023 January window, the top six accounted for 54 percent of total expenditures, while this was 33 percent in 2024.

Outspending in the winter market

chart percentage of top six transfer expenditure incurred in the winter window

Between 2014-15 and 2023-24, only on four occasions (out of a possible 60) did a top six club spend more during the season’s January window then they did during the summer transfer market. Arsenal in 2017-18, Liverpool in 2019-20 and 2021-22, and Chelsea during their 2023-24 spending spree.

Aggregate transfer expenditure by the top six clubs during the winter market as a percentage of their total seasonal transfer expenditure varies during the observed decade. During the 2023-24 season, only 2.5 percent of total expenditure by these clubs was in the winter window. Mostly due to little player investments during the January window, with four out of the six clubs not conducting business involving a fee.

In three seasons since 2014-15, did winter transfer spending by these six make up around four percent of their total seasonal transfers. During four seasons did it range between 11.6 and 16.9 percent of their total expenditure. While winter spending made up around 30 percent of the top six’s total spending in 2017-18 and 2022-23. Exactly the two seasons in which winter transfer spending by all Premier League clubs was far higher.

Winter spending by relegation candidates

chart top 5 biggest january spenders at risk of relegation

For relegation candidates it is tempting to invest (heavily) during the January window. As apart from the sporting perspective, dropping to the Championship is accompanied by a major drop in revenue. At the end of the 2024 January window, transfer spending among the bottom three clubs was £2 million (by one club)1. During the year prior, the bottom three clubs spent around £130 million.

Of all the clubs who were ranked in the bottom three after matchday 19 between 2013-14 and 2022-23, Newcastle United (in 2021-22) had the highest winter transfer expenditure with around €101 million. It contributed to improved performances during the second half of the season, in which they eventually finished 11th. Only Crystal Palace improved as much (eight spots to 10th) after spending €15.48 million during the 2014-15 winter window.

The second highest spending by a club ranked in the relegation zone after matchday 19, was by Southampton during the 2022-23. They spent €63.25 million, but they were not able to avoid relegation. Just as Newcastle could not during the 2015-16 season when they spent €38.7 million (the third most overall).

Has spending during the January window been successful?

football problemsOf the 30 Premier League clubs who found themselves amongst the bottom three after matchday 19 between 2013-14 and 2022-23, 60 percent were relegated at the end of the season.

For clubs (eight) who spent no money during the January window, 63 percent was relegated. While this was 59 percent (13 out of 22) for those who invested money in player acquisitions.

Although a small data group, the percentage drops to 54 percent when clubs spent at least €10 million. Indicating that spending could slightly increase a club’s chances of avoiding relegation.

Effect winter spending on relegation after ranked bottom three at matchday 19 between 2013-14 and 2022-23

Money spent in January window Relegated at the end of the season
Overall 60% (18 out of 30)
No money spent 63% (5 out of 8)
Money spent 59% (13 out of 22)
Spent at least €10 million 54% (7 out of 13)
Spent at least €20 million 50% (4 out of 8)
Spent at least €30 million 50% (2 out of 4)

Transfer spending relative to revenue

football increasing piles of moneyThe desire for on-field success, whether that is at the top or bottom of the table, is one of the reasons for a significant increase in transfer spending by Premier League clubs during the last two decades. Furthermore, high broadcasting revenue and market inflation has contributed to this upward trend.

Since 2003-04, Premier League clubs combined have spent on average 29 percent of their revenue on transfer fees. Between 2003-04 and 2013-14, this was on average 25 percent, while this has increased to 33 percent in the decade since 2014-15.

During the last two seasons, Premier League clubs spent even more than 40 percent of their revenue on transfer fees (2022-23: 48 percent and 2023-24: 41 percent). Which are, together with wages, clubs’ biggest cost.

Cost control regulations limiting spending

referee showing a red card footballTo limit clubs’ spending and create a football market that is financially sustainable, cost control measures have been implemented by UEFA and multiple leagues.

After the break-even requirement and football earnings rule, UEFA has now implemented squad cost regulations that limits spending on player and coach wages, transfers, and agent fees. From 2025-26 onwards, this rule will limit clubs’ squad spending to 70 percent of the revenue generated (2023-24: 90 percent and 2024-25: 70 percent).

The Premier League has their own Profitability and Sustainability Rules that state that a club’s adjusted earnings before tax over a three-year period cannot exceed £105 million. Everton breached this rule during the period ending in the 2021-22 season and were given a 10-point deduction. Together with Nottingham Forest, the club has also been referred to the Commission for breaching this rule for the period ending in the 2022-23 season. With both clubs confirming exceeding the permitted loss.

Has the market reached its limit?

football pyramid

Enforcement of the rules with sporting sanctions (and not just financial ones) could well have resulted in clubs being more prudent with spending this January window. Especially given the major spending spree that took place during the 2023-24 summer market.

Furthermore, market inflation and the so-called Premier League tax, makes it more difficult for Premier League sides to buy adequate replacements for an affordable and justified price. Possibly leading to a focus on retaining players, rather than buying new ones.

To not overpay for unpredictable future return of investment, more and more clubs agree on sell-on fees when negotiating. Of transfers that included a regular fee in 2023, 60 percent included a sell-on fee7. For transfers without a regular fee, only 28.3 percent did. To pay a justified price based on performances, clubs also pay conditional fees. In 2023, 83.7 percent of transfer fees was fixed, while a further 16.1 percent was condition based.

So, clubs are adjusting the way they conduct their transfer business. However, it is unlikely that the Premier League summer and winter transfer market has reached its limit or is correcting for crossing a limit. As there have been more drops and fluctuations in transfer spending during the last two decades. Overall, the trend has been upwards. And spurred on by high broadcasting revenue, market inflation, and a desire for on-field success, more transfer records are likely to be broken in the future.


  1. Deloitte. Premier League spending falls to £100m in slowest January transfer window since 2021
  2. The Guardian. Deadline day January 2011
  3. The Guardian. Transfer window January 2018
  4. The Guardian. Men’s transfer window January 2023
  5. CIES. Inflation in the football players’ transfer market
  6. Transfermarkt
  7. FIFA. Global Transfer Report 2023
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