English football clubs are spending hundreds of millions of pounds on new players ahead of the 2008/09 Premier League season but are also selling big stars to balance their books amid the credit crunch.
Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool are among the biggest spenders this close season as they seek to snatch the Premier League crown from Manchester United, but all three have also sold key players for large sums.
Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood warned in July that the ongoing credit crunch, which has caused banks around the world to substantially reduce their lending, should be a serious concern for England's biggest clubs.
“People need to be waking up to the realities of the world and that the days of easy money have come to a pretty sudden end,” Hill-Wood told Arsenal.com.
“There is an awful lot of talk about big transfers and major demands of players but you will find throughout the UK and Europe that money is not quite as easy to obtain as it used to be.”
Ahead of the new Premier League campaign that kicks-off on Saturday, Manchester United are expected to land Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov from Tottenham for about 25 million pounds.
United manager Alex Ferguson's priority this summer has been to fend off an attempt by Real Madrid to table a world record bid for Portuguese winger Cristiano Ronaldo.
Favourites to break into the top four of the Premier League by the end of the new campaign are Tottenham, who during the summer break have spent 46.2 million pounds on stars including Luka Modric, David Bentley and Heurelho Gomes.
The north London club have recouped more than 20 million pounds with the sale of Irish forward Robbie Keane to Liverpool. The sale of Berbatov would more than wipe out Tottenham's spending on new recruits, although they are expected to land a top striker should he depart.
“We're expecting the levels (of transfer fees) this summer to still to be quite high but probably not as high as the record that was set last summer,” Alex Byars, senior consultant at Deloitte & Touche sports business group, told AFP.
A year ago, England's top 20 football clubs spent a combined 450 million pounds on new players, including Fernando Torres, Florent Malouda and Owen Hargreaves.
This time around Portuguese internationals Jose Bosingwa and Deco have joined Chelsea, French midfielder Samir Nasri has signed for Arsenal and the Brazilian Jo for Manchester City in massive deals.
Byars cited three reasons why spending would be down this summer transfer window compared to a year ago — Euro 2008, the absence of a new television broadcasting deal for live matches and because clubs were not facing takeovers amid the global squeeze on credit.
“Euro 2008 happened towards the start of the summer transfer window” that ends on August 31, said Byars. “The level of transfer activity at the start of a window sometimes decreases when there is a major tournament taking place.
“Another factor is that the 2008/09 season is the second year of a three-year broadcast deal and the level of broadcasting revenues to clubs this year will be broadly similar to what they received last year.
“So we're not seeing a step change in the amount of revenues that clubs are getting year-on-year.
“Another point is we've not seen anything like the number of changes in club ownership in the last 12 months compared to the previous 12 months.
“There aren't several new owners of Premier League clubs for whom this window is their first opportunity to buy and sell players. So I think that's another factor,” added Byars.
Yet clubs are still spending heavily, including Bolton and Fulham, who both just avoided relegation from England's top division last term. Each have spent a club-record 10 million pounds on a striker as they seek a more comfortable ride in 2008/09.
Swedish hitman Johan Elmander has swapped Toulouse for Bolton's Reebok Stadium and Andrew Johnston has returned to London from Everton.
Among the three newly-promoted teams, West Brom have spent the most — more than 15 million pounds in total.
Last season's FA Cup winners Portsmouth have enticed Peter Crouch and Younes Kaboul for a total of 16 million pounds as the club looks for glory in Europe as well on the domestic front.
Crouch arrived at Fratton Park from Liverpool, who have also sold John Arne Riise and Scott Carson to help to finance the purchase of Keane.
More players may have to depart Anfield should the Reds decide to spend the 18 million pounds that Aston Villa are demanding for England midfielder Gareth Barry.
Chelsea, meanwhile, have offloaded Tal Ben Haim, Steve Sidwell and Khalid Boulahrouz for a total of 14 million pounds during the transfer window and London rivals Arsenal have said goodbye to Alex Hleb, the Belarus international midfielder who has joined Barcelona for 15 million pounds.
The Spanish giants have also bought defender Gerard Pique, who returns to the Nou Camp from Manchester United in a deal worth five million pounds.
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