By Peter Hall
BIRMINGHAM, England (Reuters) – Aston Villa are back in the Premier League for the first time in four seasons and have far outspent their fellow promoted sides in the transfer market but, as Fulham know well, money does not always buy you success.
Last season, London side Fulham, having secured a return to the big time, signed 15 players for a combined total of over £100 million, breaking their transfer record three times in less than a month.
The overhaul of the squad failed to have the desired impact, though, as Fulham were relegated with a whimper, the majority of their signings having already left the club.
Unfazed by that spectacular failure, Villa have spent big in the close season, eclipsing Fulham’s spending with more time left in the transfer window.
They have broken their transfer record to bring in striker Wesley from Club Brugge in Belgium, with British media reporting they paid £22 million. The Brazilian scored 14 goals last season and four of Villa’s five club-record signings have come in during this transfer window.
Another of those big-money arrivals is Tyrone Mings, for a reported £26.5 million. He was on loan at Villa from January, and manager Dean Smith was keen to keep hold of a player who was so fundamental to their late climb into the playoffs.
“I think everybody could see the connection that he made with the club as a whole and it is excellent news that we can continue the relationship in the Premier League,” Smith said.
“He will be an integral part of the squad for the new season.”
Keeping hold of club captain Jack Grealish, who has long been linked with a move away from the club in the British media, is also vitally important.
Historically, large injections of cash have appeared to keep clubs up. In total, 21 teams have recorded a net spend of £20 million or more after promotion since the 1995/96 season, with only five relegated straight away, Fulham being one.
Fellow promoted side Norwich City have taken a different approach, sticking with the majority of the players who steered them to the second-tier title, with last season’s Championship top scorer Teemu Pukki signing a new three-year deal.
Some shrewd signings have bolstered the ranks, including the loan capture of Manchester City winger Patrick Roberts, who spent last season in Spain with Girona, and the free transfer of Switzerland striker Josip Drmic.
Sheffield United, back in the top flight for the first time in 12 years, have taken a few risks in the transfer market.
They have brought in former Manchester United midfielder Ravel Morrison, who has had a chequered career, and also Lys Mousset from Bournemouth, despite the forward having only scored three league goals in three seasons on the south coast.
They have broken their transfer record four times in this window, with the capture of striker Oliver McBurnie from Swansea City, in a deal that could be worth up to £20 million, the latest arrival.
Even with so many signings, however, their expenditure remains less than half that of Villa’s.
How the promoted clubs perform early on will provide a good indication of which approach to assembling a Premier League squad is more effective, but all three, regulars in the top flight in the past, will hope for more than a one-season stay.
(Reporting by Peter Hall; Editing Ken Ferris and Pritha Sarkar)