Manchester United have overpaid the most on transfers in European football over the last ten years according to a new report.
The Old Trafford club have spent a total of £1.4 billion on 33 players between July 2012 and September 2022 in their attempt to return to the summit of English football.
However, a study by CIES Football Observatory, who devised an exclusive statistical model to analyze the value of each player prior to their transfer, found the true worth of the United signed players was actually £1.18 million.
This means United have overpaid on transfers by £208 million in the last decade, the most of the 86 clubs analyzed across Europe’s five biggest leagues in France, England, Spain, Italy and Germany.
The rest of the top five in this study consisted of Juventus, who overpaid by £204 million, Paris Saint-Germain (£141 million), Aston Villa (£130 million) and Real Madrid (£129 million).
The study did not include deals that were concluded by triggering a buy-out or option-to-buy clause, and only included clubs where CIES Football Observatory could assess at least 10 fee-paying transfers.
Half of the top 20 clubs were from the Premier League, highlighting the major role they have played in inflating transfer prices across Europe.
In fact only three Premier League sides, Wolves, Tottenham and Brighton, were shown to have paid less in transfer fees than expected.
United have long suspected there is something in the industry known as a “United tax” where they are charged more than their rivals for players.
This is applied by selling clubs because they are aware of United’s wealth and also their increasingly eagerness to reclaim their place as one of the leading teams in Europe.
However, United have also exposed themselves to criticism in the transfer market, with a belief that a lack of basic knowledge and research has seen them pay inflated prices.
In the summer of 2019, United made it known they wanted to sign Harry Maguire from Leicester City, who demanded £80 million. United spent months trying to get them to accept a lower amount before relenting and paying the full asking price.
This made Maguire the most expensive defender in the history of football with a transfer fee that has possibly been a burden. At the time, Maguire was an in-demand player after an impressive World Cup the year before, but his value was probably nearer £60 million.
His inconsistent form for United over the last three seasons, and he currently finds himself out of their starting line-up, has made his fee appear even more extraordinary.
In the same summer United paid £50 million for Crystal Palace right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who was then a promising player, but with limited experience. His true value at the time would have been around £25 million, and like Maguire he has ultimately been a disappointment and is currently out of the side.
In August 2016 United broke the world transfer record when they paid Juventus £89 million for Paul Pogba. This was another example of United overpaying for a high-value player, who would give a poor return over the following six seasons.
This summer it could be argued United overpaid for three of their new signings, Casemiro from Real Madrid for £60 million, Antony from Ajax for £85 million, and his Ajax team-mate Lisandro Martinez for £56 million.
In all three instances United knew they were probably overpaying, but believed it was worth it to refresh their squad.
United signed Jadon Sancho for £73 million from Borussia Dortmund in 2021, but showed more patience and intelligence in this deal, having resisted paying the German club’s asking price of £110 million the previous summer.