LONDON (AFP) – Fuelled by a historically lavish spending spree, the Premier League returns yesterday when Arsenal host Leicester in the opening game of the hotly-anticipated new season.
Taking advantage of astronomical broadcast contracts and lucrative sponsorship deals, England’s superpowers have been splashing the cash at an unprecedented rate.
Since the end of last season, transfer records have been shattered across the country as over one billion pounds has changed hands in a frenzy that could well set a new high for a single window.
While some fear the spending is unsustainable and will put clubs’ long-term stability at risk, the 25th year of the Premier League era should deliver a title race more fiercely contested than ever.
Desperate to dethrone champions Chelsea, club record fees have been paid by Manchester United, who splurged a British record £75 million for Everton striker Romelu Lukaku, Arsenal, who forked out £52 million on Lyon forward Alexandre Lacazette and Liverpool, who put down £37 million for Roma winger Mohamed Salah.
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola set the tone with a series of early deals that took his spending in this window to an eye-watering £218 million.
Frustrated by City’s failings in his trophyless first season in England, Guardiola has overhauled his squad with defenders Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy and Danilo, plus goalkeeper Ederson and playmaker Bernardo Silva.
Guardiola’s old rival Jose Mourinho hasn’t been shy about raiding the United coffers, with the Lukaku swoop headlining a £140 million spree that also brought Benfica defender Victor Lindelof and Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic to Old Trafford.
Mourinho won the league in his second seasons at Porto, Real Madrid and Inter Milan, as well as in both of his stints at Chelsea, but he expects this season’s title race to be an almighty scrap.
“Normally the second season should be better than the first, but again, this is modern football. The reality is totally different,” Mourinho said.
“It’s getting much harder for everyone, so we don’t know.”