The European championship that has just finished has seen some of the best display of football talent that the planet has to offer. So now attention turns to who will own this talent in the season to come. Of the clubs that have the cash to splash, which are the best at targeting talent?

Getting hold of data on football transfer fees is not easy, as clubs sometimes do not disclose the total spends, however enough data is available to produce some interesting analysis. The graph below shows all of the teams that have been in the Premier League over the last five years. The transfer data has been compiled by transfer league.

Money makes points make prizes

So what does the data show? Well if we plot average spend against average points scored, then as could be easily predicted, we get a chart that indicates that as you spend more you get more points.

Figure 1: Premier League team spend per point

However the chart also shows something else that is interesting. The rising gradient of the graph indicates that not only do you have to spend more money to get more points, but you also have to spend more money per point to get more points.

This is shown in Figure 2 which shows the top and bottom of the £m per point of each of the teams being considered: –

Figure 2: Premier teams of the last 5 seasons and their £m per point

As you can see, the top of the table includes the top clubs like City, Chelsea and Liverpool, whilst the bottom of the table includes those who have either been relegated or who are perennial relegation fodder like Wolves, Bolton and Blackburn.

So whilst Blackpool are perhaps the most efficient team in terms of £s per point – i.e. the best at targeting talent – this does not do them any favours when it comes to even staying in the Premier League, let alone winning trophies.

So who is the best (spender)?

To determine the best team for ‘targeting talent’, then we may need to look at the teams that are achieving better than their peers in terms of efficiency. In the graph these teams are shown as the ones that are well above the average line such as Everton, Arsenal and Manchester United.

However the question remains, what is the purpose of efficiency? Everton may be very efficient at £220,000 per point, but they have only achieved an average of sixth in the Premier League. Similarly Arsenal at £338,000 per point looks good, and they have qualified for the Champions league in each of the last five seasons, however what have the actually won?

So ultimately the acid test may well be not the £s per point, but the £s per trophy. Of the major trophies available to English clubs, four teams have won 12 major trophies over the last five years. Their £s per trophy is shown in the following table: –

Figure 3: Major trophy winners and the £m per trophy

From this table, and from the graph above, it does indeed look as if Manchester United are the best spenders in the Premier League.

… and the worst?

If United are the best, who are the worst? There is absolutely no doubt about that. It is Derby County who spent £14.3 million in 2007/8 and ended up with only 11 points!