PARIS: The cashed-up English Premier League led a record-breaking raid by Europe’s top clubs before the transfer window slams shut Wednesday, with Arsenal alone paying more than 60 million euros for German defender Shkodran Mustafi and Spanish striker Lucas Perez.
The Premier League’s TV riches have fuelled transfer inflation across the continent, with Inter Milan and Barcelona paying top dollar for Brazil’s exciting Olympic gold medal-winning striker Gabriel ‘Gabigol’ Barbosa and Valencia goal-scorer Paco Alcacer respectively.
About 50 million euros were spent on the pair and most analysts predict European spending will easily be the highest yet when the two-month transfer window closes — between 1600 GMT for the Bundesliga to 2200 GMT for the Premier League.
Spending by England’s 20-club Premier League alone was expected to bust the one billion pounds (1.17 billion euros/$1.3 billion) barrier after Manchester United set a new world record with the 89 million pound purchase this month of French midfielder Paul Pogba.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was one of the late big-spenders. The Gunners, eighth in the early standings, spent an estimated 35 million pounds (42 million euros) to bring German international defender Mustafi from Valencia.
“He is at the right age,” Wenger said of the 24-year-old, who was in Germany’s 2014 World Cup-winning squad. “And he has good experience,” Wenger added of the big defender who was in the German team that reached the semifinals at Euro 2016.
Arsenal paid another 17 million pounds for Deportivo La Coruna striker Perez, according to media reports, while they have also bought Switzerland midfielder Granit Xhaka, Japanese forward Takuma Asano and young English center-back Rob Holding.
“He’s not only a goalscorer, he’s a guy who combines well with partners, who can give a final ball and makes good runs,” said Wenger of Perez.
Arsenal defender Serge Gnabry returned to Germany with Werder Bremen.
Inter Milan confirmed the signing of Barbosa on his 20th birthday late Tuesday.
“Gabigol is an Inter player,” the Serie A giants said in a statement, announcing a five-year contract.
Inter did not release financial details but Gazzetta dello Sport website reported Inter paid the Brazilian club 27.5m euros for ‘Gabigol’, who has drawn comparisons with Neymar.
Spain international Alcacer joined Barcelona from Valencia in a 30 million euro, five-year deal, the Catalan side announced.
The 20-year-old, who scored 13 goals in 34 appearances for Valencia last season, will heighten competition in the Barcelona frontline already led by Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.
Other big-name deals are likely as top players seek a regular game in increasingly competitive squads. Chelsea let French international striker Loic Remy go on loan to Crystal Palace for one season. Palace are also among contenders to take Arsenal’s England midfielder Jack Wilshere on loan.
Manchester City’s out-of-favor England goalkeeper Joe Hart was set to complete a move to Torino in Italy. In France, just six months after signing for Monaco, Brazilian Vagner Love has moved to Alanyaspor in Turkey, another country where clubs have become big spenders.
But the English Premier League’s £5.14bn (6.9 billion euro), three-season television deal has set a pace that few other championships can keep up with.
Christian Heidel, sporting director for German club Schalke said the Premier League has forced up prices everywhere.
“If English managers are on the phone, then the (transfer) sums are automatically higher,” Heidel said on a talk show for Kicker magazine.
“If the negotiations are within Germany, then it is often difficult to exclude the higher sums from England.”
Schalke this month sold Germany winger Leroy Sane, 20, to Manchester City for a reported 43m euros. With additional fees, the figure could rise to 50 million for a player who had made just 47 Bundesliga appearances before City signed him.