Serie A transfers: How Italian clubs have redefined themselves in the modern market

Research shows that a clear change in transfer strategy has taken place in Serie A with clubs seeming to spend much less than they earn in the transfer market, which differs from the past decade.

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There was a time when Serie A led the way when it came to its clubs spending big transfer fees on the world’s very best players. Recently, though, Italian clubs have had to rethink their strategies around transfers, and not only when spending but when selling as well. 

Italian clubs would regularly spend fees that would have ranked in the top 10 sums splashed in any given season, but in the past 24 months, they have only appeared in rankings regarding outgoing players.

So, then, a question arises: have clubs actively decided to act differently in the transfer market?

Serie A clubs’ recent net spends

AS Roma’s Tammy Abraham celebrates scoring in the Derby della Capitale. (@ASRomaEN)

Looking at figures from the CIES Football Observatory Monthly Report from September 2022, Serie A ranked second for net transfer spending between 2013 and 2022. The league recorded an overall negative net spend of €1.39 billion over the 10 years, falling behind only the Premier League whose clubs recorded a negative spend of -€9.5bn over the same period. 

The majority of this net spending was done by Serie A’s heavy-hitters – JuventusAC MilanInter, and Napoli, who between them recorded a net loss of more than €1bn. However, the league’s overall net spend was lowered by UdineseAtalantaSampdoriaEmpoli, and Fiorentina, who all featured in the top 20 clubs for most positive net spending in Europe’s top five leagues during this time.

Why Serie A clubs have to rethink their spending 

Last season JuventusInter, AC Milan, and AS Roma all received sanctions from UEFA for not adhering to Financial Fair Play rules. This is something which all clubs will be keen to avoid again this season and going forward, whilst also trying to remain competitive domestically and in European competition. 

In the case of the Old Lady, they are at something of a breaking point due to their expulsion from European competitions this season, however, with their financial issues and lack of major sales over the 2023 summer transfer window, this is likely a benefit. 

The Nerazzurri, the Rossoneri, and the Giallorossi all made contributions to their FFP battles over the summer, with all receiving at least €70m in incoming transfer fees. 

How 2023’s spending changed in Serie A

In the September 2023 edition of the CIES Football Observatory Monthly Report, the report shows that instead of Serie A having one of the highest net transfer losses, the league instead recorded one of the highest net transfer profits. 

As a league, the Italian top flight made investments of €934m, whilst earning €1.2bn from player sales, a net profit of €227m. This put the league behind only the English Championship and the Portuguese Primeira Liga in the rankings. 

This is an even more impressive feat when taking into consideration the fact that both leagues that recorded a higher profit spent less than €300m each. 

What it means for the future of Serie A 

It bodes well that Serie A has begun to see changes in investment and sales strategy, not only domestically but also in European competitions. 

Looking first at the investment side of things, clubs are getting smarter with their signings and investing more shrewdly. Milan offers a great case study of how elite clubs can look to do their business. 

Whilst selling Sandro Tonali seemed to be a huge loss, he provided the finances for the Diavolo to rebuild large parts of their squad.

Milan‘s owners, RedBird Capital Group, sanctioned signings of around €115m, however, they have rebuilt their midfield and brought in needed cover across the frontline. In addition to this, most signings are young and have long-term planning in mind.

This process will then likely continue. In a few years, Milan could demand a high fee for one of those players, as they did for Tonali, and the cycle continues. 

Sandro Tonali poses after joining Newcastle. (@NUFC)

On the topic of departures, according to figures from Transfermarkt, 11 Serie A clubs made €45m+ from outgoing players during the 2023 summer transfer window. Three of those 11 generated sales of over €100m, showing the desire for Serie A players. 

It could therefore be argued that Italian-owned talent is in higher demand currently, but there is an ability to keep some great players in the league. The likes of Rafael LeaoVictor OsimhenDusan Vlahovic, and Nicolo Barella all remained in Italy after extensive interest from some of Europe’s top sides.

This also shows not only that the league has players who demand interest, but that clubs can afford to keep them in some scenarios, and the players are happy to stay, which as a whole makes Serie A a better league. 

In a really big-picture sense, fans won’t want to see any big players leave Serie A as they want to see Italian clubs be the best in the world. Realistically, that ship seems to have sailed with the Premier League operating in a different financial sphere to everyone else.

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