The new EPL TV deal has led to increased spending by English clubs and Manchester United even set a new world record transfer fee when they brought Paul Pogba back to Old Trafford. The ever rising transfer fees have been a constant theme for discussions. “Is an 18-year-old really worth 35M Euros?” One has to remember that transfer fees are just effects of the demand and supply constellation, incorporating aspects like age, remaining contract duration and a potential scarcity for players on certain positions.
The media discussion often leaves out the fact of the immense revenue increases of the top clubs in the last years. Thus the underlying question arises whether transfer fees really have increased when seen as a share of the revenue. To answer this question, we will have a look at the 45 players which Bayern spent the most money on since the summer of 1999.
The transfer fee numbers come from transfermarkt. Bayern’s revenue numbers were taken from wikipedia. Since the final revenue number for 15/16 has not been published yet, the 14/15 was used as a forecast.
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4 things we noticed
1. Surprising winner
It cost Bayern 40M Euros to get Javi Martinez, their current record transfer, but the Spaniard is only the second most expensive player in terms of revenue share (10.7%). In 2003, Bayern opened their wallet to acquire Roy Makaay from Deportivo La Coruna for 20M Euros – 12.1% of their revenue in the previous season. Makaay had scored four goals in two Champions League games against Bayern in 02/03 to spark their interest. The bronze medal goes to another attacker, Mario Gomez, who cost 9.9% of Bayern’s turnover.
2. Increased investments
The transfer fee for Roy Makaay was an exception to the rule for Bayern. Between 99/00 and 07/08, Bayern always limited their investment on a single player to a maximum for 6.0% of their revenue, with Lucio (7.2%) being the only additional exception to the rule in 2004. The strategy was changed, however, when heavy investments in international top class players became the standard. It started with Franck Ribery (9.3%) in 2007 and was followed by Mario Gomez (9.9%) and Arjen Robben (7.9%), both in 2009. Another two years later, Manuel Neuer (9.1%) was brought in, before the release clause for the final puzzle piece of the Champions League victory, Javi Martinez (10.7%), was activated a year later. The rest is history.
In the following years, no new transfer records were set, but each year the revenue was increased significantly. Thus additional players in the 30M to 40M Euro section were bought with decreasing revenue shares. Spending 37M Euros in 2013 on Mario Götze was equivalent to 8.5%. Only three years later, the 35M Euros spend on Renato Sanches or Mats Hummels only make up 6.7% of the revenue.
3. Bang for the buck
Since no transfer fee was needed to bring in Robert Lewandoski from Borussia Dortmund, his name is not in the list. Considering the necessary signing bonus and wages, it is probably still difficult to label him as a bargain overall. On the other hand, there have been some relatively cheap transfers since 2011, bringing in players like Rafinha (1.7%), Dante (1.3%), Juan Bernat (1.9%), Xabi Alonso (1.7%) or Joshua Kimmich (1.6%).
4. Not all positions are equal
As mentioned above, transfer fees (and revenue shares) often strongly depend on the players’ positions. Bayern’s most expensive midfielder (Martinez, 10.7%) and attacker (Makaay, 12.1%) were significantly more costly than their most expensive defender (Lucio, 7.2%). When combining the total revenue share of the top three transfers per position, the attackers clearly lead the way with 31.4%, followed by the midfielders (26.3%), and the defenders (19.2%). Manuel Neuer is the only keeper in the list, having cost a revenue share of 9.1%.
Final remark: Based on today’s Bayern revenue, the potential maximum transfer fee for Renato Sanches (80M) would amount to 15.3% revenue share, which is still well below the 18% Manchester United is putting on the table for Pogba.