The 2021 summer transfer window heads into the autumn period of its existence. The top five European leagues, namely the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A, and Ligue 1, are getting ready to finalize their roster of players for the upcoming season. Having spent over €1.65b in transfers, business seems to be booming, even in this pandemic-affected economy for the European elites.
In an interesting turn of events, La Liga teams have contributed the lowest amount to this tally so far. The Spanish top-flight has seen deals totaling up to €240.32m, come to fruition, labeling them as the thriftiest merchants of this transfer window. In contrast, Premier League clubs have already completed deals worth €803.58m to date.
La Liga and transfers
However, the low spending of La Liga clubs becomes fairly self-explanatory if the dire financial crisis of multiple Spanish heavyweights is taken into consideration. Therefore, the ratio of paid signings versus free transfers has taken quite a hit in Spain this year.
Keeping this chain of thoughts in mind, let's take a look at how the five most successful clubs in La Liga rank, according to the number of signings made by them, over the past decade. All incoming transfers since the 11/12 season are taken into account, except for any kind of loan deals. Interestingly, Sevilla, with a colossal 90 signings, just missed out due to an austere past.
#5 Athletic Bilbao - 35 titles | 28 incoming transfers
Athletic Bilbao, along with Barcelona and Real Madrid, are the only club to have never been relegated from La Liga since its inception in 1929. Even though they have flirted with the idea of demotion in recent years, Bilbao have always managed to stay afloat.
Furthermore, they possess the bragging rights for the second most Copa del Rey titles, trailing Barcelona's 31 wins by a margin of eight. However, the Spanish giants have always practiced penny-pinching when it comes to transfers, despite their relative success and pedigree.
Formed in 1898, Bilbao adopted an unusual and unspoken policy of only recruiting players that were either born in Spain’s Basque Country or have been graduates at another Basque club. Although some signings have toyed with the peripheries of this 'rule', like the addition of Aymeric Laporte to their ranks, the La Liga mainstays have always taken pride in their roots. At the time of writing, every player contracted to Los Leones has ties to the Basque region.
With just 28 signings in the last decade, the San Mamés has witnessed the least number of arrivals for a club with such rich history. To put things in perspective, their record transfer of €12m, set in the 1997-98 season, was only broken with the signing of Iñigo Martínez, for a fee of €32m in 2017. Yet they manage to stay competitive, year in, year out.
#4 Real Madrid - 95 titles | 41 incoming transfers
In steep contrast to Athletic Bilbao, Real Madrid have always believed in the policy of 'Galácticos' under their long-term president Florentino Perez. The 34-time La Liga champions have always garnered a knack for buying the best talent in the world. They have splashed out sumptuous amounts of money from time to time to land their desired signature.
Nevertheless, financial mismanagement has seen Los Blancos put a leash on their spending in recent years, a first for a very long time. The last player to land at the Santiago Bernabeu, in exchange for cash, was Reinier Jesus in January 2020. Following a €350m spending spree in 2019, Madrid found themselves in huge debts with the COVID-19 outbreak inflating their losses.
With two €100m+ signings, in the form of Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard, in the last eight years, Madrid have been responsible for some of the biggest transfers in La Liga's history. Their current predicament has restricted them from pursuing the likes of Erling Haaland and their long-term target, Kylian Mbappe. However, with Perez at the helm, no signing is too farfetched for the Spanish side.