By Toby Davis
There was the usual frenzy of last-minute deals as the Premier League brought the curtain down on another bumper European transfer window in which Manchester City again flexed their financial muscle as the continent’s top spenders.
With Europe’s other major countries closing for transfer business on Monday, the English top flight hogged the limelight for an extra day, with City’s rivals Manchester United completing the biggest and most eyebrow-raising late deal.
The capture of Anthony Martial from Monaco for £36 million, labelled a panic-buy by sections of the British media, ensured Premier League clubs racked up a record spend of more than £860 million.
That comfortably surpassed last season’s record by more than £25 million and reinforced the competition’s status as the leading league in terms of transfer spending in the window.
City, who have won their first four league games this season, led the way with an outlay of £150 million, including the £50 million capture of midfielder Kevin De Bruyne from Wolfsburg, and forward Raheem Sterling from Liverpool in a deal that could reach £49 million.
City were followed in the spending stakes by United who took their outlay past £100 million with Tuesday’s deal for 19-year-old French striker Martial, who followed Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger into Old Trafford.
Liverpool were not far behind in the spending stakes, splashing out almost £80 million, mainly on Christian Benteke from Aston Villa for £32.5 million and Hoffenheim’s Roberto Firmino for £28.5, offset by Sterling’s move to City.
Fuelled by the money from the Premier League’s increasingly lucrative broadcast deals, English clubs made six of the biggest seven signings in the window.
Only Qatari-backed Paris St Germain punctuated the list of the biggest deals with the €63 million signing of Argentina winger Angel Di Maria from Manchester United.
Some of Europe’s traditional powerhouses had quieter windows than many might have expected.
Arturo Vidal’s €37 million move to Bayern Munich from Juventus was the high point of the Bundesliga champions’ spending while there was no ‘galactico’ signing for Real Madrid, seeking to wrestle the La Liga crown back from Barcelona.
Madrid, under new coach Rafa Benitez, brought in Croatia midfielder Mateo Kovacic from Inter Milan for €30 million in their biggest deal but failed to sign Manchester United’s Spain goalkeeper David De Gea before the window slammed shut.
That failure, with the two clubs blaming each other for the administrative snarl up, will have likely handed a psychological fillip to Real’s bitter rivals Barcelona.
The catalan club managed to pull off deals for attacking Turkey midfielder Arda Turan from Atletico Madrid and winger Spaniard Aleix Vidal from Sevilla despite being prevented from registering new players until January, meaning the pair will have to kick their heels for some months.
In Italy, champions Juventus replaced the outgoing Carlos Tevez with another Argentine following the capture of forward Paulo Dybala from Palermo for €32 million.
Yet as cash flowed freely between clubs there was also some restraint shown by some of Europe’s biggest teams.
Chelsea, traditionally among the game’s biggest spenders, tightened the purse strings with their biggest outlay being on Spanish forward Pedro from Barcelona for €30 million.
Having missed out on defensive target John Stones from Everton, the English champions recouped the vast majority of their transfer outlay through sales and loan fees.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is renowned for keeping his powder dry but, after spending big on Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez in the last two summer windows, his only spending was the £10 million he paid for Chelsea keeper Petr Cech.