Pep Guardiola can't admit truth about Man City spending as real figures compared to Liverpool emerge

Pep Guardiola before the Premier League match between <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Manchester City;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Manchester City</a> and <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:West Ham United;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">West Ham United</a> at Etihad Stadium on May 19, 2024 -Credit:Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

No sooner had Pep Guardiola held aloft the Premier League trophy for the sixth time, the fourth time in a row, that the conversation predictably shifted to money.

On the day when Jurgen Klopp had his fond Anfield farewell, the curtain coming down on a remarkable nine-year spell as manager of Liverpool, it was really the departure of the popular German boss that took the headlines. Liverpool had been in the hunt for the Premier League crown until their bid came off the rails somewhat in the final weeks.

Klopp was denied the ultimate fairytale ending to his time on Merseyside. But the outpouring of emotion on Sunday (including from Guardiola himself), in light of both his contribution on and off the field with the Reds, was testament to a job well done and his name belonging alongside the all-time Liverpool greats.

READ MORE: Inside Klopp's final week at Liverpool as manager almost in tears after players' tribute

READ MORE: Inside painstaking process that led FSG to Arne Slot as Liverpool's first head coach

Klopp and Guardiola’s rivalry has been an enduring one, with Klopp the only manager to break the stranglehold of Manchester City on the Premier League since 2017/18, with Liverpool’s 2019/20 title win rather cruelly occurring during a time when fans weren’t allowed in stadiums due to the pandemic.

Man City’s dominance has been a recurring theme. Last year Guardiola finally delivered the Champions League success that the club and owners, the Abu Dhabi-based City Football Group (CFG), had craved ever since Sheikh Mansour’s firm acquired City back in 2008.

City’s dominance hasn’t come cheap, nor has it been without its controversies, with the club having been charged with 115 breaches of Premier League financial rules over a 10-year period; charges which City continue to robustly deny, with an independent commission later this year to determine what, if any, punishment should be handed down if the charges are upheld.

Speaking to the assembled media last week, when Guardiola was asked about whether or not the continued pursuit of Premier League glory had becoming boring, the Catalan returned to the issues of money, something often levelled at the club.

"It’s not boring," said Guardiola. "It’s difficult. Before it was the money: for that reason, Manchester United should have won all the titles; Chelsea, all the titles; Arsenal, all the titles.

"They spend as much money in the last five years as us. They should be there. They are not there. For that reason Girona shouldn’t be in the Champions League [next season] and Leicester should win the Premier League."

When talking about transfers, the phrase ‘net spend’ is often thrown around. It is the transfer spend over a period of time less the player sales over that period of time. For Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG), the term has long been one used as evidence of a lack of transfer spend when compared to their rivals.

In referencing that net spend over the past five years, Guardiola tells no lies.

Indeed, City’s net spend over the past five years is £433m: the seventh highest in the Premier League; behind Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea - who lead the way by some distance with the £831m outlay largely down to the huge sums of money spent by the new owners in the transfer market over the last two years or so. Liverpool are ninth on the list with a net spend of £335m. Look at the last six years and Liverpool leapfrog City on the net spend list with £498m, according to figures presented by football finance expert Swiss Ramble.

But the data looks deeper and shows the foundations laid thanks to the heavy spending over time that have allowed City to put together such a world-beating squad. Up to 2020/21, the first five years of Guardiola’s reign saw a net spend of £656m, the highest in the Premier League.

Klopp, who joined Liverpool in October 2015, had a net spend of £318m over the same period as Guardiola’s first five years at City. That placed Liverpool fifth on the list.

To look at the bigger picture, and how the CFG money has transformed Manchester City, a club that now has revenues of £713m, the biggest in the Premier League, shows that Guardiola’s short-term look at spending doesn’t really tell the full story, and it is the earlier years that is the subject of major focus for the Premier League with regards to the 115 charges.

Since CFG acquired City back in 2008, the net spend of the Premier League champions has stood at £1.66bn: £100m more than Manchester United in second; £140m more than Chelsea in third. Arsenal are in fourth with £1.16bn, while Liverpool over the same period has a transfer net spend of £847m to put them fifth on the list.

For City it underscores the level of investment that they have made to be where they are, but it is also important to note that strategy has to be executed by competent people, and Guardiola has been able to do that during a time when Manchester United and Chelsea have failed to really do the same. It also highlights what an impressive job Klopp really did.

Then there is the issue of wages, somewhere that Liverpool have invested. Over the past five years though, City have committed £1.8bn to payroll; the highest in the Premier League. Liverpool were second highest during that period with £1.69bn; a difference of £110m. Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal made up the rest of the top five, predictably.

City, who have the world’s most valuable squad based upon current market values, according to analysts at Football Benchmark, have also spent the most money on intermediary fees over the last five years, spending £206m. Liverpool have spent £67m less at £139m over the same period.

What Guardiola has done at City in terms of getting the squad to such a level requires respect: he is one of the world’s best coaches and his CV is testament to that. But it hasn’t been without outgunning the rest when it comes to spending, whether he chooses to admit that or not. The foundations were laid some time before, the machine able to be well oiled enough that it didn’t need major surgery year after year and was able to add the best when it needed the best, as it did with Erling Haaland.

Klopp leaves Liverpool a legend, but there can be no denying that his reign would have had even more silverware along the way had the playing field been a little more even. The Premier League as a global product probably would’ve benefited from that happening as well.