According to financial services giant Deloitte, gross spending by Premier League clubs totalled around £630 million, a whopping £130m higher than the previous record of £0.5 billion, set in 2008.
On deadline day alone approximately £140m was spent, around half of which was splashed by Manchester United and Arsenal, with the latter one of the clubs to set a new high by signing Mesut Ozil for £38m plus around £5m in add-ons.
While there is no doubt that the spending is a touch top-heavy – around 37% of all the money was spent by the four clubs playing in this season’s Champions League, with another 15% or so coming from Tottenham’s coffers – the mid-table and even promoted clubs have been spending to unprecedented levels.
And what really stands out is the level of spending compared to other leagues. While the biggest transfers in world football were executed by Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco, their respective leagues – and that of big-spending Napoli – could not total much more than half of the English clubs’ outlay.
Spain’s Liga and Italy’s Serie A managed £335m apiece, with France’s Ligue 1 £315m. The Bundesliga was back with £230m, although that is a special case as it has operated under its own 'financial fair play' rules for some time.
The spread of Premier League spending is also quite remarkable. Yes, the big clubs spent by far the most money, but the likes of Cardiff, Crystal Palace and Norwich also smashed their own transfer records.
Indeed, Cardiff managed to set a new bar on no less than three occasions, as Andreas Cornelius (£7.5m), Steven Caulker (£8m) and Gary Medel (£9.5m) all joined the promoted Welsh club. Spurs did the same with Erik Lamela, Roberto Soldado and Paulinho, although their outlay was expected.
Given how much money Real Madrid, PSG and Monaco spent on marquee signings Gareth Bale (£85m), Edinson Cavani (£55m) and Radamel Falcao (£51m), the comfortable gap with the Premier League total is perhaps surprising.
Some of England’s boost can be attributed to the sale of Bale, which allowed Spurs to spend over £100m, and freed up Ozil for a record-breaking move to Arsenal.
But scratch under the surface and a pattern emerges. For all of the Premier League’s harsh, capitalist practises, it is by far the most egalitarian of the above leagues. Television rights – the most consistent provider of revenue – is split equally between Premier League teams, and has been divvied up this way from the start.
Even the rich clubs like Manchester United and Arsenal support his model, which ensures a level of competitiveness that does not exist when one looks down the Liga or Serie A standings.
Spain is particularly unevenly balanced. Even Barcelona and Real Madrid have huge debts, which are conveniently offset by their profitability abroad, particularly in Asia. Other clubs struggle to make ends meet, with the likes of Atletico Madrid and Valencia only one poor season away from the brink. Malaga’s brief flirtation with the big-time ground to a halt as their owner lost interest, making the empty claim that UEFA's version of ‘Financial Fair Play’ was tying his hands, just as his Middle Eastern pals broke new ground in France and Manchester. Over half of Spain’s professional clubs are either in administration or operating under cost-cutting measures.
Why is the league with the world’s most successful clubs and national teams in such a state? Because its TV revenue is unevenly distributed, with clubs able to sell individual rights to the highest bidder. The Asian and American markets do not care for a competitive Liga, and even domestic TV rights are woefully lop-sided.
England’s even-handed approach to TV deals has always been a factor, but this time it’s even more pronounced, with a new global rights package and the entry of new players and media formats into the broadcast market seeing that stream of revenue double overnight.
And all this during a recession which - while analysts will have us believe is global - is less pronounced in parts of Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and even Africa. It is a combination of that shrewdness in global rights management, and cultural nuances (such as being the only major English-speaking division) which makes the Premier League the strongest overall draw for players and fans, even if the biggest individual players in the market are offshore.
Obviously that does not tell the full story. The biggest and best players will still be attracted by the prestige of Real and Barca, or the petro-dollars and lifestyle offered by PSG and Monaco. The Bundesliga doesn’t spend all that much, but it arguably develops the best players and teams, thanks to fantastic youth systems, a federation that actually has control over the national game, and a club culture based almost entirely around supporter experience.
But, only two seasons after English clubs were roundly mocked for poor performances in European competition, it appears that the death of the Premier League was greatly exaggerated.
Reda Maher / On Twitter @Reda_Eurosport