Almost two years have passed since Paul Pogba’s £90m return to Manchester United smashed the Premier League’s transfer record, but since then the world’s richest league has been a bystander as a succession of nine-figure deals have made the headlines overseas.
Surely it’s only a matter of time before the £100m barrier is broken in English football and our detailed analysis of the biggest signings over the last decade has produced a 10-man shortlist of the players likeliest to make it happen.
We’ve identified eight key factors need to fall into place for such a huge sum to be invested in a single player – four of which affect the transfer fee and four which influence how likely a deal is to be done. Those affecting the fee include the player’s age, position and the length of their current contract, while those affecting the likelihood include the relative stature of their current club and the number of credible reports about their willingness to move and the level of interest in their services.
Each factor has been applied to over 100 of the world’s top footballers via an algorithm which ranks their probability of being the Premier League’s first £100m signing. Our model predicts that Paulo Dybala of Juventus is the leading candidate: a top-class forward with most of his career still ahead of him and his ability to play alongside another striker widens the pool of potential suitors. Cristiano Ronaldo’s arrival in Turin makes him more likely to leave and his club potentially more amenable to selling, but the impressive combination of goals and assists he offers would command a high price.
Attackers – both central and wide – dominate our top 10 due to the premium that goalscorers attract in the transfer market, with Gareth Bale and Harry Kane completing our top three. However, prodigious midfielders such as Sergej Milinković-Savić, Dele Alli and Marco Verratti also feature in our list, thanks to the trail blazed by Pogba.
The ability of the Premier League to compete for Europe’s top talent has been undermined by an additional factor that’s completely outside their control: Brexit. Even though the United Kingdom hasn’t left the European Union, the pound’s post-referendum plunge against the Euro means that signings made from clubs on the continent have been on average 14% more expensive to date.
Ironically, nine of the 10 English clubs most affected by the weakened pound are based in areas which voted to remain in the EU. These include Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal, who have collectively had to fork out over £100m more on signings, based on the difference in the exchange rate since the day of the referendum.
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