Over the past half-a-decade or so, transfer fees have been creeping up to the extraordinary numbers that are a common sight these days. With the rise of sponsorship and television rights fees, and multi-billionaires taking over football clubs, billions upon billions are spent in the sport every year.
Still, the main focus for teams is their fans, as they are the ones who pay the ticket prices, buy and don the merchandise, and pay for the television packages to watch their teams. To please the fans of the biggest teams, clubs need to not only be competitive on the pitch but also in the transfer market.
Real Madrid used to appease their fans with their Galacticos policy, in which they would buy the best players in the world each season. However, that didn’t always result in success, so the focus under manager Zinedine Zidane has altered slightly more towards keeping the team intact and improving where necessary, rather than building around a new star each season.
Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired at the end of the 2012/13 season, the club has been in a downward spiral on the pitch, but their revenues have been hitting all-time highs. With managers like David Moyes and Louis van Gaal failing to impress, the club has been spending huge sums to bring in great talents to get the fans excited and to try and jump-start themselves into becoming Premier League contenders once more.
With many other clubs, if their team were in a bad spell and were bringing in huge stacks of cash each season, they would be ecstatic that the club was reinvesting the money in talented players.
However, when Manchester United set a new world record with the transfer fee paid to bring back Paul Pogba (£89 million), the signing was met with a bit of disdain from the fans. While fans were, of course, excited to get such a talented player, the fee was seen as too much by some.
This is understandable as the fan base is accustomed to the Sir Alex Ferguson era. His biggest spend in one season was £88 million to bring in stars, necessities, or those considered to be great talents at the time (Owen Hargreaves, Carlos Tevez, Nani, Anderson, Tomas Kuszczak, Rodrigo Possebon, Manucho). The spend was backed up by the club winning both the Premier League and Champions League in that season.
The recent signing of Everton striker Romelu Lukaku for a stated fee of £75 million plus add-ons has helped the club as he’s a proven striker in the division – likely Ed Woodward’s best buy since taking over from David Gill.
Lukaku’s arrival has evoked praise and excitement from the fans as the team needed a striker and he is certainly a top-class one.
Teams other than Manchester United seemingly playing catch-up have their fans screaming at them to spend more money to get competitive.
In such a competitive league – until they establish a core unit that can play together under Mourinho successfully – the Red Devils will need to continue to spend to attempt to achieve their goals; their fans are lucky that the club is willing to do so.