Money is the name of the game but the huge sums spent on football transfers are jaw-dropping, coaching icon Sir Alex Ferguson said on Thursday.
Speaking two days after a wide-ranging study showed that transfer fee inflation in Europe's top leagues has hit 16 percent, and that his old club Manchester United paid tens of millions of euros above market rates for top purchase Angel di Maria, Ferguson said that was part and parcel of the sport.
“My personal opinion is that it's never going to change, the world is progressing, and transfer fees with it, and I don't know if there'll be an end to it,” Ferguson said after chairing two days of closed-door talks with top coaches at the base of European football governing body Uefa.
“Fortunately, I'm not at the hub of it nowadays. Certainly it's amazing, the amount of money spent nowadays,” said 72-year-old Ferguson, who retired in May 2013 after 26 years as United boss.
His successor David Moyes was axed after just 10 months in charge as the club's fortunes slumped.
Former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager Louis van Gaal took the helm after leading Holland to third place in the World Cup in Brazil.
The new United boss was given a green light to splash out on big name players for the 20-time English champions, who are looking to rebuild following a disappointing seventh-place finish last season.
The club set a British record last week by paying 59.7 million pounds (75.5 million euros) for Real Madrid midfielder di Maria.
As the transfer window closed on Monday, they made a sensational double swoop to sign Colombia striker Radamel Falcao on loan from Monaco and Holland international Daley Blind from Ajax.
Blind's arrival, in a 14-million-pound (17-million-euros) transfer, had been expected, but the signing of prolific frontman Falcao was a major coup for the ailing English giants.
United are reported to have agreed to pay Monaco a fee of around 10 million euros to secure Falcao's services for the season, with an option to make the deal permanent for 55 million euros.
All told, they have spent around 150 million pounds (114 million euros).
According to Swiss-based analysts the CIES Football Observatory, the di Maria deal was a case-study of the breakneck inflation on the transfer market, which far outstrips price rises in the overall economy.
CIES said that United paid 30 million euros over the right price for the Argentina international.
The story was similar at French club Paris St Germain, whose fee of 62 million euros to bring Brazilian David Luiz from Chelsea was 29 million euros too high, CIES said.
The sum was a world record for a defender.
Real Madrid, meanwhile, paid 25 million euros over the odds for World Cup Golden Boot James Rodriguez, CIES said.
The Colombian moved from Monaco for 80 million euros.
Those deals were emblematic of the role of wealthy clubs in stoking inflation, CIES said, noting that overall, European teams paid an average of 16 percent more than they invested in the five previous years for players with similar characteristics.
CIES examined football's “Big Five” - the English Premier League, Spain's La Liga, the Italian Serie A, Germany's Bundesliga and the French Ligue 1. – AFP