Success begets money, and money clearly buys success. It is a seemingly unbreakable cycle, making it no coincidence that the most successful clubs of the 2010s were the ones that spent the greatest sums.
Together, Chelsea, Arsenal and the two Manchester clubs won more trophies combined than any other group of four over the past ten years.
The question, however, is which of the ‘big four’ from the 2010s made the most of their financial splurges in terms of silverware.
Manchester City: £1.1bn
There are absolutely no surprises here, with City ending the 2010s as Europe’s biggest spenders of the decade, not just the Premier League’s.
The trajectory towards such indulgence began back in ADUG’s very first season with City, as Robinho arrived at the Etihad Stadium for an eye-watering 38.7m euros in 2008. This transfer set a precedent for the decade to come, but the real heroes that delivered City’s trophies since are not necessarily the most expensive.
When it comes to hero status, Sergio Aguero is the first name that comes to mind, having shown the composure to score a title-winning goal with a mere 100 seconds of the 2011/12 campaign remaining. He arrived for a whole 2.7m euros less than Robinho, but has since become the Premier League’s highest-scoring foreigner, beating Thierry Henry’s long-standing record.
Going into the summer transfer window of 2020, Rodri, Riyad Mahrez and Kevin De Bruyne stood as City’s three most expensive signings, and the only ones to breach the 60m euro mark. However, many fans would argue that only the latter man has truly repaid the money invested in his services.
£M spent per 2010s trophy: £100m
Manchester United: £847m
Sir Alex Ferguson was always going to be a hard act to follow for his various successors, but there are no excuses for the way the title wins have dried up since 2013. Alarmingly, this drought stands in in direct correlation to the club’s transfer sums becoming more extravagant. Paul Pogba’s arrival tops the bill, with his 105m euro deal in 2016 smashing all English records.
Pogba has always split opinion amongst the Old Trafford faithful, but the arrival of Bruno Fernandes this year – for just over half of Pogba’s fee – has given him a new lease of life. A third-place finish in 2019/20 represented a three-place improvement on the disaster that was the campaign prior, and the Red Devils are currently closer to Liverpool and Man City in the Sporting Index title odds market than they have been for a long time.
Behind Pogba, Harry Maguire and Romelu Lukaku make up United’s three most expensive acquisitions. Lukaku endured a torrid second season at Old Trafford, eventually moving to Inter as United sought to cut their losses. Maguire, meanwhile, lost some of his prior form in the final ten games of 2019/20, and has to prove his worth more than ever in the looming campaign.
£M spent per 2010s trophy: £141.17m (WORST)
Chelsea may have featured higher without a transfer embargo and the loss of Eden Hazard, though the £72m spent on Kepa Arrizabalaga is a world record sum for a goalkeeper. However, the Spanish stopper has yet to be uttered in the same sentence as a man like Petr Cech, who set the standard early on in Roman Abramovich’s tenure as Chelsea owner.
While the Blues did not want for trophies in the 2010s, the sharp undulations therein – which saw Chelsea finish between 1st and 10th – are all the more inexplicable in the context of their expenditure.
Two strikers, Alvaro Morata and Fernando Torres, have both since gone down as the biggest Chelsea flops of the 2010s. The two Spaniards arrived for more than 50m euros, but delivered precious little in return. Their respective failures undeniably set Chelsea back, in their quest to battle the two Manchester clubs for Premier League supremacy.
They make up two of the remaining three men in Chelsea’s top four most expensive signings behind Kepa. However, the presence of Chrsitian Pulisic between Torres and Morata is an assuring one, and on the evidence of 2019/20, he is well worth his own 50m+ tag.
£M spent per 2010s trophy: £42.2m (BEST)
The Gunners fell away sharply from their invincible pinnacle, and never recovered in the 2010s. That is, despite Arsenal racking up a greater net spend than Real Madrid, who won four Champions League titles to their meagre trio of FA Cups over the same period.
Their most expensive asset to date is £72m winger Nicolas Pepe, but he has never truly risen to the big occasion. The £57m spent on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and the £47m on Alexandre Lacazette, further adds to the sense of underachievement against expenditure.
There are hopes of brighter days now that Aubameyang will play free of distraction and hearsay in 2020/21, after signing a new three-year deal in North London. With Willian also arriving for free this summer, Arsenal are once again primed to try and finish on the podium for the first time since 2015/16.
£M spent per 2010s trophy: £137.67m
*Does not include FA Community Shield wins.