The January transfer window came and went without the usual flurry of activity from Premier League clubs as spending by the English top-flight collapsed to its lowest level in a non-pandemic season since 2012.
English clubs spent just £100 million last month, down from a record £815 million 12 months ago, as for the first time since 2011, the Premier League was not the highest spending division in Europe for a transfer window.
According to figures from financial experts Deloitte, France’s Ligue 1 led the way with a 190 million euro spend ($206 million, £162 million).
AFP Sports looks at the reasons why Premier League clubs’ spending power dried up in January.
– Financial rules finally have teeth –
The Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules (PSR) have been in place since the 2013/14 campaign but had not resulted in a sporting sanction for any club until this season.
English top-flight clubs are allowed to lose a maximum of £105 million across a three-year assessment period.
Everton have been plunged into relegation danger by a 10-point deduction for exceeding those limits at the end of the 2021/22 season.
The Toffees and Nottingham Forest face further sanctions as they were in breach again at the end of last season.
A restrained January followed a record summer as Premier League clubs spent £2.3 billion.
That left a number of clubs treading a fine line on PSR, most notably Saudi-backed Newcastle.
Despite an injury crisis that saw the Magpies tumble down the table, Eddie Howe was unable to add to his squad last month and admitted Newcastle may have to sell before they can buy again.
However, the impact of PSR should ease again come a new financial year for football clubs in the summer transfer window.
Those at the top of the division can also look forward to greater revenues next season thanks to an expanded Champions League format.
“As we move towards this summer’s window, and a new financial year, we expect to see spending return to similar levels we have seen in the last two record-breaking summer transfer windows,” said Calum Ross, assistant director in Deloitte’s Sports Business Group.
– Saudi sales dry up –
Another factor was the lack of a market to move players on to free up cash reserves and headway for the PSR.
Last summer Premier League clubs were able to cash in on the influx of money from the Saudi Pro League to offload some ageing stars on big contracts for inflated transfer fees.
Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City were among those to benefit the most, but there was no such release valve from the Gulf last month.
According to Deloitte, the Brazilian Serie A was the second highest spending league globally as Saudi Pro League clubs combined for only $27 million of transfer fees, compared to $1.1 billion in the summer window.
– No panic buying –
January has often been the market of the panic buyers, desperate to secure their Premier League status rather than those battling at the top of the table.
Last season’s three relegated clubs — Leicester, Southampton and Leeds — combined to spend £115 million last January.
This year there was barely any money spent to avoid the drop.
The battle to avoid finishing in the bottom three looks set to come down to the three promoted clubs from last season — Sheffield United, Burnley and Luton — plus Forest and Everton.
The promoted trio are not flush with cash and have hedged their bets on at least having parachute payments to rely on should they drop back into the Championship.
Forest and Everton, meanwhile, were extremely limited by their ongoing PSR problems.