The price of success: Did Manchester City buy the Premier League?

Can spending astronomical sums of money in transfer windows really make a club successful in terms of winning silverware?

Arsenal won the FA Cup on Saturday, overturning a two-goal deficit to win the final 3-2 at Wembley and securing the final trophy up for grabs for English clubs this season.

Earlier this month, Manchester City lifted their second Premier League trophy in three years. Yet their success was blighted by a fine of £49 million from UEFA for breaching the Financial Fair Play rules.

It brought back the murmurs that the Citizens had ‘bought’ their way to the league title and it begs the question: can you really ‘buy’ success?

Well, yes. Any club who has ever won the title has ‘bought’ it; they have all paid transfer fees to get the players who have won the trophies. So the real question is: what is the price of success? Who wins the trophies with the least amount of money spent and therefore gets the best value?

Looking at the top five (historically, apologies to Everton) City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal have won a combined 55 trophies and have spent over £1.8 billion on transfers since 1993-94. On an average, a trophy has ‘cost’ a staggering £44m.

This does not mean that spending this amount will guarantee you a trophy; in fact transfer spending shares no significant relationship with success. Wages, however, go hand in hand with success. The question is now a matter of which club gets the best value.

United, Arsenal and Liverpool have all spent below this average for their trophies, while Chelsea just £3m above; however, City have spent over double the average. The 2013-14 Premier League champions spent £114m for each of their five trophies compared to the lowest, Arsenal, who spent £8.3m for their eight. Yet the best value has to be United, who spent £14m each for their 21 trophies.

The answer to the previous question is simple: the price of success varies greatly from club to club.

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