Tottenham Hotspur, Ajax, Barcelona and Liverpool contest the first legs of two of the most intriguing Champions League Semi Final match ups in recent memory this week.
In terms of their respective footballing abilities, any of the four competing clubs are capable of beating the other, however, buried within the thick diving line that separates the two sides of the same Champions League Semi Final draw, there are significant differences between each club.
As well matched as the quartet of antagonists seem on the pitch, the disparity between them off it is stark.
Financially, there is a considerable contrast between the haves and have nots – a fiscal inequality that makes Ajax’s and to a lesser extent Tottenham’s appearance at this stage of the competition a minor miracle.
To try to get a better grasp of the economies of scale at play, we’ve calculated the total cost of each of the Semi Finalist’s 25-man Champions League squads, listing them from cheapest to most expensive.
Check out the results below:
4. Ajax – £82m (€95m)
Thanks to their exceptional youth academy and one of the most prolific in-house production lines in world football, Ajax have been able to assemble their 25-man Champions League squad for a pittance in relative terms.
Current first-team stars Matthijs de Ligt, Donny van de Beek and Noussair Mazraoui came through the ranks at the club, while some shrewd transfer market moves brought Frenkie de Jong, David Neres, Hakim Ziyech and André Onana to Amsterdam for nominal fees.
Last summer, Ajax spent £14m and £10m respectively on Premier League imports Daley Blind and Dusan Tadic, adding experience and quality to the spine of their youthful team – though paying fees of that size for players generally falls outside of the club’s philosophy.
Remarkably, one of the Champions League’s other semi-finalists Liverpool, paid close to the entire value of the Ajax squad on their own Dutchman, Virgil van Dijk. The imperious centre half moved north from Southampton for approximately £75m in January last year.
Now both clubs operating at either end of football’s financial pyramid are within touching distance of the competition’s Final in Madrid.
3. Tottenham Hotspur – £270m (€313m)
The £270m splurged by Tottenham Hotspur on their current 25-man Champions League squad seems extremely high for a team often billed as one of the Premier League’s most tight-fisted clubs, though it’s worth nothing that almost all of that outlay has been offset by player sales.
Since Mauricio Pochettino’s arrival at the club in 2014, Tottenham’s net spend on transfers sits at around the £30m mark, and a protracted move to their stunning new North London home has eaten away at large chunks of their cash reserves.
Interestingly, £59.35m or approximately 22% of the money Tottenham paid to assemble their Champions League squad went directly to their Semi Final opponents Ajax.
Spurs signed Jan Vertonghen, Christian Eriksen and Davison Sanchez from the Dutch club, while £14.4m was also paid by Tottenham to Atletico Madrid for Ajax academy product Toby Alderweireld.
Colombian defender Sanchez is Tottenham’s current record signing – the 22-year old cost Spurs £36m when he moved to London from Amsterdam in 2017.
2. Barcelona – £494m (€573m)
Champions League favourites Barcelona are no strangers to wheeling and dealing with astronomical transfer fees and figures, and it won’t be a surprise to learn that they have one of the most expensively assembled squads in world football.
Barcelona have two players in their ranks that cost more individually than the entire Ajax squad put together. It took a fee of around £106m to prise Brazilian midfielder Phillipe Coutinho from their Semi Final opponents Liverpool back in 2018, and Barca paid £97m to land winger Ousmane Dembele from Borussia Dortmund a year before that.
The 2019 summer transfer window is still a couple of months away from opening, though Barcelona have already confirmed deals worth approximately £80m ahead of the commencement of business.
Ajax’s Frenkie de Jong accounts for a major chunk of that expenditure, and his teammate Matthijs de Ligt has been tipped to follow the midfielder to the Camp Nou.
Of course, Barcelona’s most prized asset and most valuable commodity Lionel Messi came through the club’s fabled La Masia academy, though Barca will be hoping that the major investment to strengthen the positions around the Argentine will pay dividends in the Champions League this season.
1. Liverpool – £513m (€594m)
Having spent over £100m in 3 of the last 4 years on incoming transfers, Liverpool have been relentless in their attempts to improve the quality of their team.
The club shelled out close to £130m alone on a new goalkeeper and central defender in the past year alone, smashing world transfer records in the process to bring Alisson and Virgil van Dijk to Merseyside.
The positive results of the club’s unprecedented spending levels are there for all to see however. Liverpool are still in the race for this season’s Premier League title having amassed a record 90+ points total, and the club are on course to reach their second Champions League Final in a row.
With their incredible transfer spending comes heightened expectations however, and the squad that cost over half a billion pounds to build will have to deliver trophies soon.