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The signing of Nick Powell from Crewe Alexandra secured a much sought after young talent for the club. Having only recently turned 18, Powell’s already racked up an impressive 64 competitive appearances and stands at over 6ft tall. In what’s a very global market, United are still looking close to home when it comes to signing players. The capture of Powell confirms United’s commitment to trying to buy English.
I decided to look at the transfers of the top seven teams of the last 10 years and see how many English players they’ve bought and how much they’re prepared to spend on English talent. Buying domestic players does of course have its pitfalls – inflated prices not just because of the nationality but because it invariably involves sides in the same league selling to one another.
Having English players is important. Fans are able to relate somewhat to the individuals and they’re more likely to settle into new clubs quicker whilst staying for the long-haul. Of course it’s equally vital today to have a mix of footballing cultures in a side, particularly one competing in European competitions.
Having done the research, here’s what I found:
(Red = highest; yellow = lowest. Click to enlarge.)
The first thing to note is that since the summer of 2002, United have bought the fewest number of players whilst Spurs have bought the most (by some margin). Quite incredibly, Arsenal have only made four English signings in that spell – Wenger’s always preferred foreign footballers but that’s not even an English signing every two years!
I was quite surprised to that over a quarter of the players Man City have signed were English. However, 10 years ago they were competing for the likes of Trevor Sinclair and Darius Vassell who at the time, were probably easier to sell Man City to than foreign players. Similarly, Everton with 28% of signings being English have always been keen to snap up bargains under Moyes – Jagielka, Lescott and Baines to name a few.
What’s most intriguing is that United have bought the highest percentage of English players. A club forever fighting at the top and making reasonable progress in Europe, and yet still valuing English talent, more so than any of their rivals. This has been obvious in the past few years as the club have fought hard to secure Smalling, Young, Jones and now Powell having been in competition for their various signatures with rivals.
Unsurprisingly, Chelsea have spent the most whilst Everton have spent the least. Once again it’s United willing to commit the most to English talent having spent £146.35m on them. Granted, this is skewed by purchasing the likes of Rooney, Carrick and Ferdinand but to buy the best you have to pay the most. Similarly, Liverpool, paid on average the most for their English signed players largely due to the expenditure on Jordan Henderson and Any Carroll – prime examples of inflated prices for buying domestic players.
The biggest sign of that inflation though is that whilst just over a quarter of United’s signings have been English, of the money spent on all 49 signings, over 40% has gone on those English players. Clearly, United are prepared to spend more on English and it’s probably paid off too. United have probably had less inconsistency and fluctuations than other sides and that may well have something to do with choosing to buy fewer players from abroad who might need longer to settle, acclimatise and get used to the pace and style of the Premier League. Unsurprisingly, mega-spenders Chelsea and Man City have committed less than 15% to English players, favouring to pay for foreign imports.
In a league with an increasing percentage of non-English players the fact that four of the seven top sides over the past 10 years have been willing to spent 25% of their transfer funds on English players is a positive sign. Chelsea and City’s figures show no surprises whilst Wenger’s attempts to make Arsenal play in a continental style have seen him almost completely neglect the domestic market.
From a United point of view, I think it’s fair to feel proud that the club are keen to add English players on top of the ones who come through from the Academy. Certainly, that the club are willing to pay inflated prices for those English players rather than paying big money for foreign players goes to show where their values lie. As it becomes harder and more unrealistic to hope for teams made up of local footballers, the next best is to have domestic players and at least United are still one of the best at ensuring that happens.