Manchester United have overpaid the most in European football transfers

Manchester United have been the most overpaid in European football transfers in the past decade, according to a new report.

Old Trafford club spent a total of £1.4 billion on 33 players between July 2012 and September 2022 in their bid to return to the top of English football.

However, a study by CIES Football Observatory, which developed an exclusive statistical model to analyze the value of each player prior to their transfer, found that the true value of the players United signed was in fact £1.18 million.

This means United have overpaid £208m in transfers over the past ten years, the most of the 86 clubs analyzed in Europe’s five biggest leagues in France, England, Spain, Italy and Germany.

The rest of the top five in this survey were 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 made by activating a buy-out or option-to-buy clause, and only included clubs where CIES Football Observatory could assess at least 10 paying transfers.

Half of the top 20 clubs came from the Premier League, highlighting the huge role they have played in driving up transfer prices across Europe.

In fact, only three Premier League clubs, Wolves, Tottenham and Brighton, were found to have paid less transfer fees than expected.

United have long suspected that there is something in the industry known as a “United Tax” where they are charged more than their rivals for players.

This is being implemented by selling clubs because they are aware of United’s wealth and also their increasing eagerness to regain their place as one of the leading teams in Europe.

However, United have also exposed themselves to criticism in the transfer market, believing that they have overpaid due to a lack of basic knowledge and research.

In the summer of 2019, United announced that they wanted to take over Harry Maguire from Leicester City, who demanded £80 million. United spent months trying to get them to accept a lower amount before giving in and paying the full asking price.

This made Maguire the most expensive defender in football history with a transfer fee that may have been a burden. At the time, Maguire was a sought-after player after an impressive World Cup the year before, but his value was probably close to £60 million.

His inconsistent form for United over the past three seasons, and he is currently out of the starting lineup, has made his fee even more extraordinary.

In the same summer, United paid £50 million for Crystal Palace right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who at the time was a promising player but with limited experience. His real worth at the time would have been around £25 million, and like Maguire, he has ultimately been a disappointment and is not currently sidelined.

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 deliver poor returns for the next six seasons.

This summer it could be argued that United overpaid for three of their new signings, Real Madrid’s Casemiro for £60 million, Ajax’s Antony for £85 million and his Ajax team-mate Lisandro Martinez for £56 million.

In all three cases, United knew they were probably paying too much, but they felt it was worth refreshing their roster.

United signed Jadon Sancho for £73million from Borussia Dortmund in 2021, but showed more patience and intelligence in the deal after resisting paying the German club’s £110million asking price last summer.