Hughes' shopping spree can hit new mark

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The Independent Online

They've only just begun. Spending by Premier League clubs since the end of last season has reached about £200m, but could well match last summer's record of £500m by the 31 August deadline. Like most football finance – including debt – the figure has risen virtually every year, from £215m in 2003 to last year's new high.

Significantly, this is the first full close-season that Manchester City have had to spread their new riches around, and they have already spent far more than anyone else. Acquiring Gareth Barry, Roque Santa Cruz, Carlos Tevez and Emmanuel Adebayor has cost about £80m, before they even start thinking about defenders. Even if Chelsea and Everton resist offers for John Terry and Joleon Lescott, huge sums are certain to be dangled in front of other clubs with a centre-half more reliable than Richard Dunne and Micah Richards.

It has been good work by Mark Hughes, especially in recruiting players who have proved themselves in the Premier League and, in Santa Cruz's case, one with whom he has worked extensively at Blackburn.

Sir Alex Ferguson has declared that no more shopping is required at Manchester United. So they will finish the summer with the biggest surplus, having pocketed the extravagant £80m from Real Madrid for Cristiano Ronaldo. Should their defence of the title start less than convincingly, of course, and Michael Owen not fit in with Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov, disgruntled fans will be quick to point out that transfer profit does not figure in the League table.

Antonio Valencia from Wigan is United's only significant signing to cost a fee, and the other members of the acknowledged big four have so far been equally restrained. But the going rate for any reasonably established international seems to have shot up to £16-18m, so like United with Valencia, Chelsea and Liverpool have been forced to pay that sort of fee for Yuri Zhirkov (pictured) and Glen Johnson respectively.

Arsène Wenger, typically, has treated Arsenal's money like his own and bought only centre-half Thomas Vermaelen.

After studying his staff on the tour of the United States, Carlo Ancelotti may want to bolster Chelsea's midfield further, although he could just as easily conclude that Zhirkov is an adequate replacement for the unlucky Joe Cole, hors de combat for three months.

Rafa Benitez has to decide whether to keep Xabi Alonso, who wants to join Real Madrid, or let the player have his way and find a replacement.

Other clubs chasing a place in the top six have been notably quiet so far; Aston Villa signing only Stewart Downing, who will not be fit for two months, and Everton losing out to Tottenham for Sheffield United's defensive Kyles, Naughton and Walker.

There has been worryingly little activity for the followers of Fulham, Hull, Portsmouth and Stoke, which leaves the newly promoted clubs, understandably, as the busiest of all. Wolves appear to have done best of the three, with Burnley cutting their coat carefully but hardly able to afford the best cloth.

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