Manchester United have the most expensive squad in the world, Premier League dominates list

With the summer transfer window now formally closed, the CIES Football Observatory in Switzerland has crunched the numbers and produced a list of the top 100 most expensively assembled first-team squads in world football.

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According to the data, four clubs have managed to break the €1 billion barrier while piecing together their 2023-24 squads, having invested truly vast amounts in transfer fees in order to recruit their players.

It should come as no surprise that the Premier League occupies an awful lot of real estate at the top of the list, with almost every single club in the English top flight finding their way into the top 100.

Overall there are clubs from 19 different leagues around the globe included in CIES’ list. European football is represented by teams from Spain’s LaLiga, the Italian Serie A, France’s Ligue 1 and the German Bundesliga, among others, while clubs from the Saudi Pro League, Mexico’s Liga MX and Brazil’s Serie A hail from further afield.

As stated by CIES, all transfer fees committed are presented in euros and include any contractual add-ons (regardless of whether or not they have yet been triggered) and the payment of loan fees.

Here’s what we noticed while assessing the data on show.

Manchester United have the most expensively assembled squad in world football heading into the 2023-24 season, having spent €1.15 billion on their first-team roster.

This includes three of the club’s top five record signings in Antony, Harry Maguire and Jadon Sancho, as well as other notably expensive arrivals such as Rasmus Hojlund, Casemiro, Bruno Fernandes, Mason Mount, Anthony Martial, Lisandro Martínez, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and André Onana — all of whom cost more than €50m.

It’s perhaps also worth noting that United topped CIES’ recent breakdown of clubs that have amassed the largest negative transfer spends over the past decade (i.e., the Red Devils have lost more money on players signed and then moved at a loss than any other club in the world.)

Including Man United in pole position, nine of the top 11 clubs in CIES’ list hail from the Premier League.

The only non-Premier League clubs to appear in the top 11 are Paris Saint-Germain (fourth) and Real Madrid (eighth). PSG are also one of four clubs to have breached the €1 billion mark behind United, Chelsea (second) and Manchester City (third).

With a squad cost of €708m, Real Madrid are comparable to the likes of Newcastle United (ninth) who are nestled just in behind Los Blancos having spent €661m.

Other Premier League teams in the top 11 are Arsenal (fifth), Tottenham Hotspur (sixth), Liverpool (seventh), West Ham United (10th) and Aston Villa (11th). Indeed, there are 19 Premier League clubs included in the overall top 100 with the only team missing being newly promoted Luton Town.

Meanwhile, Leicester City (26th), Southampton (34th) and Norwich City (81st) are still bobbing around in the top 100 despite playing in the Championship — one of only two second-tier divisions to be represented on the CIES’ list alongside Italy’s Serie B (Parma).

Thanks to a squad packed with academy products and free transfers, Barcelona are lower on the list in 19th place, just one place above Premier League side Nottingham Forest (20th) who spent just €10m less than Barca to fit out their 2023-24 squad.

With only five members of their senior squad having cost €50m or more (Frenkie de Jong, Raphinha, Ferran Torres, Jules Koundé and Robert Lewandowski), the Catalans find themselves behind the likes of Al Hilal and RB Leipzig in the top 100.

Saudi side Al Hilal are the only club from outside the so-called big five European leagues to find themselves in the top 20 having spent €382m on their squad, which includes star names such as Neymar, Kalidou Koulibaly, Rúben Neves, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.

Al Hilal are joined in the top 100 by three of their Saudi Pro League rivals in Al Ahli (44th), Al Nassr (46th) and Al Ittihad (50th) — all of whom have spent large sums to speckle their respective squads with exciting foreign talent in recent months,

CIES have allowed their total transfer sum data to be broken down by position in order to illustrate which type of player each of the 100 clubs have been spending their money on.

Liverpool have spent the most on goalkeepers (€73m) with their record deal for Alisson Becker accounting for most of that.

Manchester United have spent the most on defenders (€383m) with hefty deals struck for Maguire, Martinez, Wan-Bissaka, Raphaël Varane and Luke Shaw.

Real Madrid have spent the most to pad out their midfield (€447m) with Jude Bellingham, Aurélien Tchouaméni, Rodrygo, Eduardo Camavinga and even veteran pair Toni Kroos and Luka Modric all commanding sizeable fees upon arrival.

Paris Saint-Germain have spent the most on their forward line (€557m) though the lion’s share of that sum can definitely be attributed to the eye-watering amount of money it took to land Kylian Mbappé from Monaco in 2017-18.

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