Fronted by a $500-million splurge by Chelsea, Premier League clubs hurtled toward an unprecedented $3 billion outlay in European soccer's summer transfer window that closed on Friday with Mohamed Salah still a Liverpool player despite a mammoth offer from Saudi Arabia.
England's top clubs have flaunted their wealth over the last three months, dwarfing the outlay of their European rivals, but the Saudi Pro League emerged as a serious competitor in the market because of the backing of the kingdom's sovereign wealth Public Investment Fund which claims assets of about $700 billion.
The crowning signing, they hoped, would be Salah — the Egypt superstar who is the most high-profile Arabic player — but Liverpool is standing firm in the face a reported verbal offer totaling 150 million pounds ($188 million) by Al-Ittihad, insisting the 31-year-old forward is not for sale.
There's still a few days left in the Saudi window, which closes on Sept. 7, but the European one has now closed with many of England's biggest clubs active in the market right up to the deadline, spending the money generated from the Premier League's huge global broadcasting deals worth about 10 billion pounds ($11.8 billion) over three seasons.
Chelsea led the record spree, with the arrival of 21-year-old winger Cole Palmer from Manchester City for 40 million pounds ($50.7 million) taking the west London club's spending in this window to around half a billion dollars. That included Ecuador midfielder Moises Caicedo joining for $145 million, a record for a British club.
In the three transfer windows under its new American ownership fronted by Todd Boehly, Chelsea has spent about $1.15 billion on players mostly signed up on long contracts in an innovative way to spread “amortization” costs of transfer fees.
The $260 million outlay by Man City, the English and European champion, looks modest by comparison. City's fourth and final arrival in the window came on deadline day and was Portugal international Matheus Nunes from Wolverhampton, a ball-carrying central midfielder costing $67 million and providing extra depth that area.
Central midfielders were also the priorities on Friday for Liverpool, which bought Netherlands international Ryan Gravenberch from Bayern Munich in a deal worth 40 million euros ($43.1 million), and Manchester United, which signed Morocco anchorman Sofyan Amrabat from Fiorentina on a season-long loan deal in the final hours of the window.
It was a busy day for United, which also signed left back Sergio Reguilón on loan from Tottenham as cover for the injured Luke Shaw and goalkeeper Altay Bayindir on a transfer from Fenerbahce to back up Andre Onana. Center back Jonny Evans, 35, returned for a second stint at the club on a one-year deal.
Leaving United for Getafe in Spain on a season-long loan was Mason Greenwood, the striker who has not played for the team since January 2022 after becoming implicated in controlling and coercive behavior and assault relating to a woman after images and videos were posted online. A criminal investigation into a possible attempted rape was closed by prosecutors in February and United decided this month it would be letting Greenwood go.
Brighton completed one of the most exciting deals of the window to bring in 20-year-old Spain winger Ansu Fati on a season-long loan from Barcelona. Fati was once billed as Lionel Messi’s successor at Barca, even taking his No. 10 shirt after the Argentina star left for Paris Saint-Germain, but struggled to make an impact since an injury in 2020 and hasn’t been used as a regular starter under coach Xavi Hernandez. It's a sign of Brighton's progress that it could entice a player of Fati's status. The south-coast team will play in Europe for the first time this season, in the Europa League.
Tottenham has been looking to increase its options up front after selling Harry Kane to Bayern and it took until deadline day to find a striker. Wales international Brennan Johnson joined from Nottingham Forest for a reported fee of 45 million pounds ($57 million).
FOREST'S BUSY DAY
Nottingham Forest might have been the busiest club on Friday, with potentially seven players joining. Confirmed so far are left back Nuno Tavares from Arsenal, midfielders Nicolas Dominguez from Bologna and Ibrahim Sangare from PSV Eindhoven, winger Callum Hudson-Odoi from Chelsea, striker Divock Origi from AC Milan and goalkeeper Odysseas Vlachodimos from Benfica.
Clubs were also eager to get rid of fringe players to reduce the size of the squads Tottenham sent fullbacks Reguilon and Japhet Tanganga out on loan. Man City loaned out fullback Joao Cancelo to Barcelona as well as midfielders James McAtee and Tommy Doyle to Sheffield United and Wolves, respectively. Arsenal let center back Rob Holding go to Crystal Palace on loan and midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga leave for Luton. French striker Neal Maupay left Everton to return to Brentford.
AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer
Steve Douglas, The Associated Press