Saturday’s Manchester Derby, soccer match between Manchester United and Manchester City of the English Premier League, may have had the honor of being the richest sporting event in any sport, at any time, anywhere on the planet Earth.
According to analyst estimates, team statements and media reports, the players on the field and on the two benches in the Manchester Derby will have cost their teams roughly $850 million to acquire. Compare that to U.S. those numbers should prove comforting to baseball fans who are worried about the profligacy of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. When those teams meet, there’s only about $380 million in player investments on display. In pro football, the NFL record belongs to the free-spending Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins, who met twice this season. But the total only came to about $350 million.
But this isn’t even the most expensive of all possible matches. Next month’s match between Manchester City and Chelsea will shoot past it to set a new combined record of about $900 million.
These records reflect a wave of spending by English clubs this year during the recently completed transfer window. Unlike North American team sports, soccer clubs don’t just acquire players for the cost of their salaries. They’re also expected to pay the player’s current club an additional transfer fee. These payments, which are usually many multiples above what the player will earn, have increased dramatically at the high end in recent years. For instance, Chelsea spent $80 million during last month’s transfer window for Spanish striker Fernando Torres. On Saturday, Manchester City will show off Edin Dzeko, the Bosnian striker the team acquired last month for $44 million.