FC Copenhagen spent €25 million on players recruiting over the last two years, PSV Eindhoven, €64 million, Real Sociedad, €70 million. They are playing the round of 16 in lieu of Manchester United, New Castle or AC Milan. Chelsea F.C., Tottenham Hotspurs, West Ham United, Nottingham Forest and Liverpool FC, five of the ten top spenders were not even qualified for the current edition.

By Guamacice Delice

With the UEFA Champions League observing a break and the knockout stage coming in February (13th and 14th), football observers can now have a look back over the group stage unfolding while making some prediction depending on their favorite teams. One thing to note is that only seven of the 20 Europeans club spending the most on players recruiting over the two last seasons are being part of the knockout stage.

Those teams are, in expenditure descending order according to the website transfermarkt.com, Paris-Saint-Germain (2th, €497.5m), Arsenal (4th, €426.84m), Manchester City (6th, 396.10m), Bayern Munich (11th, €296.50m), Leipzig (14, €212m), Real Madrid (16, €209.50m) and FC Barcelona (17th, €201.40m).

A bigger abnormally comes from Manchester United, which holds the third rank in terms of expenditure, €446.68m. To get eliminated from the group stage occurred only six times in thirty years to the legendary Red Devils. Captain Bruno Fernandes’ teammates finished last in the Group A’s table behind Bayern Munich, Copenhagen and Galatasaray.

New Castle United, which spent €338.55 in seventh position, did not survive from the so-called “group of death” with Borussia Dortmund, Paris-Saint-Germain and AC Milan. The group remained opened until the last matchday, but a defeat to Milan at home push them to the last spot.

Contrariwise, nine clubs with relatively low budget or little investment on player recruitment complete the table of the round of 16. Some of them have no history in the world of football. A perfect example is the FC Copenhagen.

This Danish club, with a market value of €65 million, spent the lowest amount, €24.78m, but grabbed the Group A’s second ticket ahead of Galatasaray (€76.48m) and Manchester United, two former and recent champions of the tournament.  

Some low spenders like the two Spanish teams Real Sociedad (58th, €70.40m) and Atletico Madrid (63th, €63.3m) finished at the top of their respective groups (D and E) standing. The former won the Group D over the last edition’s runner-up, Inter Milan (32th) that paid out €134.83m over the last two years on new players.

Borussia Dortmund led the Group F at the expense of the second bigger spender Paris-Saint-Germain, the seventh New Castle and the 26th AC Milan (173.07m), one of the most successful teams in the competition history with seven trophies. Dortmund brought in players for €169.10 million, in 27th rank. However, there is no doubt that the club residing in Signal Iduna Park is one of the greater players sellers in Europe for years. As a proof, its sale over 2022-24 period exceeds its purchase to over €25 million.

Undefeated leader of the first part of the Dutch championship, PSV Eindhoven(62th) came logically second in the Group B behind Arsenal, but it recruited for just €64 million, €16 million less than Lazio Roma (52th, €80.01m), second in the Group E, and €20 million less than FC Porto (49th, €83.80m) that trailed Barcelona in Group H.

Ten of the twenty team spending the most in player recruiting over the last two years were not qualified to the 2023/24 edition, including Shelsea, the number one with €1.08bn, Tottenham, the number five with €450m and Liverpool, the number 10 with 309.03m.

Clubs as West Ham United, 8th (€324.06m), Nottingham Forest, 9th (€317.30m), Wolverhampton Wanderers, 12th (€271.11m), Ajax Amsterdam, 13th (€222.4m), AFC Bournemouth, 15th (210.79m) were also not qualified to this edition. The case was similar for Aston Villa (18th), Olympique Marseille (19th) and Juventus Turin (20th) that spent respectively €193.14m, €192.40m and €188.01m.

What about the eliminated clubs?

The loss is both sportive and economic for those that failed to play the group stage as well as for those eliminated along the way, especially those with a negative balance. Each new step taken in the competition brings in money. For instance, a team receives a bonus of 9.6 million for reaching the group stage and €15.64 million for being a participant.

In addition to broadcasting rights, which depend on club’s UEFA coefficient, each win is paid off €2.8 million. Thus, Chelsea and Tottenham and their non-eligible counterparts missed the possibility to get some income through the UEFA Champion’s Leagues. Their cases are even more alarming that their sale/purchase of players shows a loss of respectively €742 million and €269 million in just two years.

At least, the groups’ third ranking teams are relegated to the Europa League, the second tier of the UEFA competitions, where they can still earn some money. This is the case for Galatasaray, Lens, Braga, Benfica, Feyenoord, AC Milan, Young Boys and Shakhtar Donetsk.

The UEFA Champions’ Leagues’ knockout stage begins on Feb. 13-14, 2024 with Leipzig vs Real Madrid and Copenhagen vs Manchester City (on 13th), and Lazio Roma vs Bayern Munich and Paris-Saint-Germain vs Real Sociedad (on 14th).