The most extravagant summer of spending in football’s history is about to unfold — because it’s the last one before Uefa’s Financial Fair Play rules kick in.
The big clubs are gearing up for a shopping spree like no other, with last summer’s net spend of £190m expected to be easily eclipsed.
Under the new rules — which, technically, came into force last week — clubs will instead have to live within their means by ensuring that their expenditure is not more than the revenue they generate.
And they will be only allowed to enter European competition if their generated revenue is equal to or greater than their expenditure.
At present, around 50 per cent of the top European outfits are losing money — and 20 per cent are producing serious deficits.
None of this will stop them having a final fling in the transfer market. In the Premier League, Manchester United and Liverpool, for instance, are determined to rebuild their squads.
Manchester City want to attact even bigger names now that they’re a Champions League team while Chelsea’s new manager, presumably Guus Hiddink, will want to make an instant impression with quality signings.
And it’s no secret that Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is ready to spend big this time, while Spurs will do the same just to keep in the race for a top-four place next season.
Last year’s spending was boosted by a new television deal which was worth more than £1 billion per season.
It made a mockery of the so-called recession but the net spend was still less than the pre-financial crash summer of 2007 — when net spending reached £241.9 million.
Three England internationals — Ashley Young, Gary Cahill and Leighton Baines — are among the top transfer targets this time.
Aston Villa forward Young appears to have made up his mind about a move to Manchester United, with the two clubs likely to settle on a fee of around £20m.
Bolton’s Cahill and Everton’s Baines, meanwhile, are targets for Manchester City, although Arsenal are also in the market for Cahill.
The most expensive English-based player, should he move, is likely to be Tottenham midfielder Luka Modric.
United are very keen on the Croatian player and Chelsea are also known to be big admirers — but whoever wants him will have to shell out something like £30m.
Spurs manager Harry Redknapp, who last night insisted once again that Modric was not for sale, knows the player is on a long-term deal at White Hart Lane so it would take a big fee to test the north London club’s resolve.
The two four English clubs are all hopeful of signing Alexis Sánchez, the Chile and Udinese winger, but European champions Barcelona are also in the market so that auction could reach stratospheric levels.
It’s virtually certain that goalkeeper David de Gea will replace Edwin van der Sar at Old Trafford once the Atlético Madrid man has changed agents. The fee will be around £18m.
Should United fail to get Modric, they may turn to Inter Milan’s Dutch playmaker Wesley Sneijder.
In general, however, the weak exchange rate and higher UK tax rate makes overseas signings expensive; Sneijder is likely to demand £200,000 a week to make up for what he would lose out on paying British tax.
Liverpool’s first big signing is likely to be Sunderland star Jordan Henderson who will sting the Anfield club something like £20m.
It’s Premier League newcomers Swansea, however ,who have set the ball rolling by signing striker Danny Graham from Watford for a club-record fee.
The Welsh outfit have splashed £3.5million on the 25-year-old hitman, who is set to sign a four-year contract.
Graham was the top scorer in the npower Championship last season with 24 goals.
The less well-off clubs in the Premier League are not expected to make too many big-money signings this summer.
Some managers will wait to take advantage of the Premier League’s 25-man squad rules to try to sign unwanted players on loan.
Clubs can play any player in the August fixtures before having to name a 25-man squad, with eight home-grown players, on September 1.
By then, the record spend will have been completed.