9 Sept 2013

LFC vs. Man Utd: 22 year Gross/Net transfer spend comparison (1990-2012) - Shock?

In comparison with bitter rivals Manchester United, how much money have Liverpool FC spent on transfers during the Premier League era?

Here are the club's gross/net transfer figures from 1990 until 2012. Be warned: it 'aint pretty!


* The figures include all transfers up to and including 31 May 2012.

* The accounts for the last year are not yet available, and I didn't want to include estimates in these factual tables.

* The figures come directly from Liverpool and Manchester United's official financial accounts, i.e. the only factual, irrefutable source.

* Adjustment for inflation is not necessary here. I am merely presenting the facts, not making a comparison between managers, or with today's monetary values.

Inflation does not change the totals spent by each manager, or the amount paid out by the club for transfers at any given time.

LFC vs. MUFC: Transfer Spending 1990-2012 - Main Table

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LFC vs. MUFC: Transfer Spending 1990-2012 - Grand Totals

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There are multiple many ways to read these stats, but some key figures that stand out include:

* Since 1990, Man United spent 11% less than Liverpool on transfers but won 60% more trophies.

* United's gross spending in the 00s is slightly higher than Liverpool's, but the Reds have overtaken United again in the '10s.

* United's net spend over 22 years is higher overall, but only by an average of £1.3m per year. Does such a miniscule amount of money per year account for the disparity in league success?

* Gerard Houllier (£79m) had a higher net spend over 6 years than Rafa Benitez (£63m). According to the Net Spend Cult, this means that Houllier actually had more money to spend that Benitez (!). Clearly, such an argument has no credibility at all. (Benitez Gross spend = £289m. Houllier Gross spend = £147.2m. On what deluded plane must someone exist to argue that £147m is greater than £289m?!)

* Rafa Benitez recouped the most money in players sales of all LFC's managers in the last 22 years.

* Benitez also spent 45% of LFC's available transfer funds between 1990 and 2012.

* Despite only 18 months in charge (second spell) Kenny Dalglish spent close to 20% of LFC's available transfer funds between 1990 and 2012.

* Luckily, Graeme Souness only got his hands on approx 3% of the total transfer money provided to managers over the last 22 years :-)

Ultimately, Man United won 12 Premier League titles in 22 years with a lower overall gross spend than Liverpool, and a net spend of only £1.3m more per year (!)

Jaimie Kanwar


  1. ManU had the golden generation; Scholes, Giggs, Beckham, Nevilles etc, so they hadn't spent so much...

  2. Super Bren will sort it all out with his lucrative transfer business

  3. excellent point.
    Ferguson was the other factor; didn't like him but he was a brilliant manager. Wasn't able to repeat the feat with many young players since then, so as you say, he was very fortunate to have such a large group of really top clas players.

  4. Liverpool had Fowler, Redknapp, McManaman, Jones, Owen etc. What's the difference?

  5. you also missed Gerrard :/ or are we talking mainly 90's?

  6. I was referring mainly to mid-90s, but you're right - Gerrard too. And Carra!

  7. I think ed was saying the difference was Scholes, Giggs, Beckham, Nevilles etc. They obviously helped made the difference between finishing top and not finishing top.

  8. What it highlights is that spending money does not necessarily bring success, If spent wisely it helps but we saw how it can be a disaster in the summer of 2011. Now we generally scout better and stick to a value set by the committee?, that has to be a good thing!!!!

  9. A testament to Ferguson. He didn't need to spend as much as the others because he was just that good of a manager.

  10. What's the difference? Sir Alex Ferguson.

  11. Yes, I agree, and I state that in the article. My point is that LFC had superb young players too at the same time as Man Utd.

  12. Utd could afford to add quality players and tweak a championship winning team. Liverpool just wasted alot of money on numerous average players. with a few gems here and there. Utd were managed better, from top to bottom and they took full advantage, by maximising their possible revenue by improving the stadium capacity and gaining big sponsorship deals, way before any other English club. Utd set themselves up for the future, while Liverpool stood still.

  13. Utd were run better from top to bottom.Its that Simple. Transfers, maximising revenue etc.

  14. Longeivity for one. Redknapp and Jones din't play that many games due to injury. All the players you mentioned left the club giggs is still here and scholes only left last year. Also there were more of the youth team making the 1st team squad, and all at the same time.

  15. You make a good point.MAN U got lucky with the batch of 5 or 6 youngsters that came through at the same time and that made a big difference because they had a foundation of quality British talent that SAF added to with signings like CANTONA etc.
    LIVERPOOL of course had players come through too like some are saying but not at the same time apart from FOWLER and McMANAMAN maybe if another 3 or 4 came through with them it would be a different story.
    The bottom line is we've wasted a large amount of money on average players.While MAN UTD have had FERGIE factor but football changes and dominance and we very well know comes to a end eventually.Although i think MOYES is a good manager i don't think he'll continue the prolonged success MAN U have had.

  16. the point i was making is that those top players stayed at the top for far longer than is usual, and stayed mainly with UTD so they didn't have to be replaced. How much would a replacement for giggs or Scholes cost/ they had ver 1350 appearances between them, more than all the LFC players you mention put together.
    i'm not saying it's the ONLY reason,just a point not previously made. And no, I don't agree that it lacks credibility.

  17. Anthony Classic Awkar5:55 pm, September 09, 2013

    i don't believe players or money spent had much to.do with finishing top and not...i'm a die hard LFC fan but MUFC were probably one of the best run clubs with sir alex in.charge he was the x factor for them, MUFC have always had a few good players but never a team of superstars but sir alex would make whatever team he had play like superstars and that's going to really show with moyes in charge and i believe Brendan can be just as good and finally get the full potential of a strong LFC side

  18. So your point is that our managers wasted a hatful of money and didn't get satisfactory results? That's what I've been saying for just as many decades. And the only reason this is the case is because we keep making the same mistake. We keep buying players "for the squad" whereas Man United buy players to improve their first team or to replace like for like. There is little to improve on someone like Peter Schmeichel but they eventually got it right when they got Van der Sar. They didn't go out and buy fourteen keepers at 3 million. They brought in Barthez, that didn't work out so they got in Van der Sar. Neither cost 20 million either and that's great but the point is that they tried to replace a top class keeper with a top class keeper. Of the money we've spent this summer, on 8 players, only three can be qualified as straight into the first team. Touré, Sakho and Mignolet. I'd accept Aspas if it didn't look like he'd be out asap as soon as Suarez comes back. And in fairness, Rodgers is a breath of fresh air compared to other managers in that respect. Houllier and Benitez kept fiddling about rebuilding their squad, making it bigger and bigger. I am convinced that had we replaced Roy Evans with a manager worth his salt, Benitez would never have managed this club or at least not when he did and the money spent by Houllier would not have been largely wasted. It all snowballed from there. From now on, our transfer windows should only see one or two senior arrivals. Big players that will improve our first team. Squad additions should cost no more than two million and should mostly come out of the reserves anyway. If you have the right manager that will work. Look at Wellbeck and Cleverly - useless players not even half as talented as the ones we have. Yet Ferguson made them work, knew how to motivate them and use them for what he needed them for. Exactly why Moyes will struggle and an opportunity for Rodgers to show he is not like the ones that went before him.

  19. One difference is that Jones, Redknapp and Fowler had their careers effectively wrecked by injuries.

  20. Now we know why Tom Werner is trying to replicate the manure model? It's because they have guaranteed success despite the money of city and Chelsea. I think liverpool is going the right way trying to learn from the champions in how they got there - a good manager (very hard for me to admit) and good youth academy plus good scouting (buying potential world class players like Ronaldo) without spending obscene amounts of money. I believe in FSG and BR we can get there one day!

  21. That is what I was going to say and you said it.

  22. They weren't as good at football as their contemporaries at Man Utd.

  23. At the start of 90s MU entered the EPL era with an outstanding young squad. I agree that LFC also had some of the best talents, but player for player, Scholes - Redknap, Giggs-Fowler, Beckham-Macmanaman, NevilIe S.-Jones, I know whom I 'll choose.

    Another factor was, due to exile from Europe in early part of 90s, we were a sort of depleting squad - top talents were not interested to come.

    But the biggest difference was Sir Alex Ferguson & the continuity of Management. Sir Alex had the solo authority of football team & had his vision implemented properly, which LFC failed to do.

    Another issue was the player purchase - till 90s British Isles are just not the talent mines of 60s or 70s & world class talents coming from these islands were reducing day by day. SAF had the vision to see that & he started to acquire top quality non Brits to form his squad (along with most of the few quality local players). Before Hullier, LFC was almost entirely a British based (Or English mother tongue) club & this strategy didn't work in 90s then, neither in 2011-12 when KK tried to revive the "British Based" strategy.

    Also, oblate LFC's spending was a bit inflated for the dross purchases of KK, Woy & to a certain extent Rafa (however, he normalized that when it comes to net spend).

    I am really happy to see BR trying to change things the right way - No (or hardly any) British purchase, no overpaying, building from junior ranks & a continental style of play. Even in our academy non Brits are out numbering the opposite easily.

  24. Excellent post Eric. This was a major loophole in our set up - the academy wasn't functioning. For me, a club of the size of LFC should never buy players for 3-4 mn to fill the squad. The backup & squad player should entirely come from junior ranks. Either LFC 'll buy 1-2 top quality player every window/season for straight in to first team (albeit for 20-30m, but it has to improve the starting XI) or U19 boys full of potential.

    Since 90s I think we had only 4-5 players from Melwood, all of them are top class, but spent good (may not be very high) money for the squad players. In a team you don't need 11 superstars - 3/4 in the ranks of Suarez, Gerard, Hypia 'll do around whom good to very good players can build a super squad & SAF exactly did that. Those "Good to very good" players shouldn't cost a single transfer penny; academy has to provide that or it has to be on free transfer.

    It was criminal either to pay big of investors money on Koncheskey, Paulsen, Downing, Adam or to keep such a robust & costly youth set up. True, every year you can't get the Owens, the Gerards from academy, but the equivalent of Adams or Downings has to come & the Manager has to know how to maximize their capability to squeeze out the last million for the De Marias, Matas, Ozils or Lamelas. Only then we 'll be able to compete financially (as long as we are not finding an Arab or Russian step father).

  25. Transfer spend is one thing but it also needs to be put alongside wage spend to make a real comparison. Its ok if both clubs want to pay 20m for a player but if one if offering 200k per week compared to 100k per week, its obvious they will be able to attract the better player.

  26. Liverpool didn't invest in the future and they have fallen behind man utd and arsenal in terms of revenues and infrastructure and its going to be hard to catch up........ liverpool were just wasting all their money instead of saving some and looking towards the future

  27. You are missing one key part of this equation Jamie.
    It's far easier to keep a title winning team at the top, by adding 1 maybe 2 players a season.

    Where as to get a team from 3rd 4th, 5th , 6th and 7th requires for more players and therefore much more expense, as we're about to find out with this United team.

  28. Any chance you could do a more up to date comparison, including 2013 and indeed this January transfer window?